Skeleton School - Lake Placid

Skeleton School
Olympic Development Center
Lake Placid, NY
Type: Adventure
Category: Thrills
Company: Crazy, crazy friends
Cost: $1000, plus transportation

Getting off the couch and doing anything, be it as simple as enjoying a new restaurant (try Umami Burger ), or stepping it up a notch and jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, is always a positive.  But sometimes there is a stronger pull to commit to something more extreme (or suicidal, depending on who you ask).  Not content with enjoying the warm weather sports that LA has to offer, I stepped up and flew across the country, took a train and a shuttle and ended up in freezing Lake Placid, NY.  Why?  To throw myself headfirst down an ice track at 60 MPH, wearing nothing but a helmet and spandex.  Most call it crazy, but the technical term is Skeleton, and it is fucking awesome.

Look at all the protection I'm wearing
When talking about what has been deemed “one of, if not THE craziest Olympic sport”, most people have no clue what it is.  Most conversations start with mentioning Bobsled (“Yes, like that movie from the 90’s”), and then progressing to Luge (feet first), and finally to Skeleton.  Then the next question is “Why?”  But I view it as Why not?  Skeleton is basically the worlds best slip n slide/roller coaster, only you have (limited) control.  Our Olympic Training Center allows idiots like myself to sign up for a week long development program for $900 (+ track membership fees).  

OTC Tip: When doing something that may be deemed "insane and a waste of money", wait to tell your loved ones til AFTER you pay the non-refundable deposit.

I assumed there would be a decent mix of other like-minded athletes, there to enjoy a week of heart-stopping thrills.  Yet again, my assumptions couldn't have been more off; aside from my buddy who joined me, everyone there was in one stage or another of actually trying to make the US team.  Or to put it another way: we were the only assholes there screwing around.  Luckily, everyone else thought we were even crazier than them, for using our yearly vacation time on Skeleton.  Although definite outsiders, we were nonetheless treated very well by everyone we came across. 

To start, the coach put us halfway down the track, had us assume the correct position (neck and head hanging over the edge of the sled, legs straight, thumbs hooked on the narrow saddle) and got us started with a push.  Hitting speeds around 35mph, I was somewhat disappointed.  Where was the blur of speed?  The panic of not being able to think?  Was this all for naught?

Boy, was I friggin wrong.  On day two we moved up higher off the track, and the speeds practically doubled (we reached a max of about 60 mph).  The first few runs were a complete blur of just trying to pinpoint which turns were coming up next.  But over the course of the week, I was able to anticipate turns, and set up the correct lines in and out of the major turns.
Skeleton at night is actually beautiful
In terms of danger, Skeleton isn't THAT bad (luge is actually much worse, for the record).  Our entire group walked away with some decent ice burns (right through the spandex), but nothing serious happened.  Like all sports, there is always the risk of major injury, but that's half the fun.

OTC Fun Fact: Sliders are limited to 2 or 3 runs max each day, because the human neck can't handle that much G-Force (forces can reach 5 Gs)

Will I make the Olympic Team?  Not a chance (plus I would have to move to Lake Placid, and "Off The Couch LP" wouldn't attract much attention).  But this was more about the overall experience of finding a unique adventure and finding a way to make it happen.  I know not everyone has the time nor means to take a week off of work and fly across the country, but sometimes you just need to toss yourself outside your normal element and conquer something new.  And crazy. 

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