Sixty miles per hour feels a heckuva lot faster in a bobsled than in a car. As in, wicked, crazy fast. You’ll be tempted to close your eyes as icy bits fly at your face (note to self: wear ski goggles next time) but don’t you dare: you’ll need to be able to see in order to duck, as your sled banks around those turns. (That weird high-pitched squeal you hear? It isn’t the sled. It’s you, squealing.)
Only slightly terrifying, it’s all over in a couple of minutes. And then you’ll want to do it again. The Lake Placid Bobsled Experience takes place at the half-mile point on the same track used by Olympic racers at the Olympic Sports Complex in Lake Placid, N.Y. Happily, you don’t have to decide which of you will be the Brian Shimer or the Lolo Jones — a professional driver and brakeman do all the real work. This sport is famous for its explosive pushes at the start, and acrobatic maneuvering into the sled, but grace isn’t expected of you; your job will be to get into the thing, perhaps sandwiched between a buddy or two, and hang on for dear life.
And if that sounds like your cup of cocoa, you will love the Lake Placid Skeleton Experience, in which you lie on your stomach and rocket down a chute of ice. This, too, is the real deal.
These are some of the activities that await intrepid outdoorsy types at Lake Placid, home of two past Winter Olympic Games, in 1932 and 1980. (Remember the “Miracle on Ice”? It happened here.) Although many Olympic venues around the world sit idle, or fall into disrepair after the Games, “Lake Placid continues to attract top-level international competition in alpine and Nordic skiing, luge, bobsled, skeleton, figure skating and hockey,” says Jon Lundin, communications director for New York State’s Olympic Regional Development Authority. Elite athletes continue to train here, and 140-plus are competing for gold at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games. Besides hosting two Winter Olympics, the region has sent athletes to every Olympic Winter Games since their inception in 1924.
The best way to experience Olympic fever, Lake Placid-style, is with an Olympic Sites Passport. This gives you access to the Cloudsplitter Gondola Ride at Whiteface Mountain, the Olympic Sports Complex (bobsled, luge, and skeleton track; rides are an extra fee), the Olympic Jumping Complex (the sky deck atop a 120-meter ski jump, where you might see skiers launch themselves and soar over the length of a football field). The Olympic Center is home to the Lake Placid Olympic Museum, the second-largest Olympic museum in the world, and Herb Brooks Arena, the “Miracle on Ice” rink named in honor of the coach of the 1980 US men’s hockey team that defeated the Soviet squad and went on to win the gold medal. Then there’s the Olympic Speed Skating Oval, where Eric Heiden won five gold medals in speed skating in 1980. (To date, no other athlete has won five gold medals at the Winter Games.) Rent some skates and have a go around the oval yourself; nobody judges. (Well, except the actual judges. And they’re not looking at you.)
If you go . . .
Lake Placid, N.Y., is about 254 miles northwest of Boston; driving time is between 5 and 5½ hours. Cape Air (www.capeair.com) offers flights from Boston to Adirondack Regional Airport in nearby Saranac Lake.
Olympic Sites Passport, $35. Lake Placid Bobsled Experience, Wed.-Sun., $95; teen, $90; ages 12 and under, $85; minimum height 48 inches. Lake Placid Skeleton Experience, Sat., $75 per person; minimum age 13. Combo experience (bobsled and skeleton), $136 per person. www.WhitefaceLakePlacid.com