Utah’s Olympic Park

June 13, 2014

This weekend we had a family reunion in Park City, Utah. My aunt and uncle, Risa and Sterling, purchased a summer place last year, and invited our small family to visit. I had the easiest flight in from Denver. My cousin Cate and my Uncle Casey took a long, but uneventful flight from Houston. And my mom drew the short straw coming in from Dallas. She she faced mechanical delays, aircraft swaps, etc., but finally made it to SLC where Sterling picked us up and drove us to 35 miles or so to Upper Deer Valley.

Our dinner was as about as eventful as my mom’s trip. The grill along with the lamb chops looked like a Texas A&M bonfire, not once, but twice. Miraculously, after Sterling singed all the hair off his hands and burned his fingers on the knobs that were too hot to touch without a cloth, the chops were cooked to perfection! We enjoyed lovely dinner in their new summer home!

Friday, in order to stretch our legs, we walked up the road to the ski village and wandered around a bit. It was a short stroll, but nice to get out in the cool breeze. I opted for another hike by the house while the family rested. Probably within a tenth of a mile from their unit is a trailhead where hikers and bikers can follow switchbacks up and down the mountain to the road below. There was not a trailhead sign, so I have no idea of the name or the distance of the trail. I probably only walked 2 miles tops and didn’t finish the trail but enjoyed all the wildflowers that lined the path. Colorado has had so much snow, I’ve hardly been on a hike, much less gotten to enjoy many wildflowers.

I returned to the house just in time to go to the Olympic Park which offers a variety of activities. Skiers practice aerial jumps on the trampolines and in the pools. They offer aerial shows every Sunday in the summer. Tourists can visit the museums or be more active and choose from ropes courses, zip lines, a drop tower, or a bobsled ride.

Each individual activity costs $15-20 or there is a day pass available for $65, I think. The only activity that was more than $20 was the bobsled which was $75 and worth every penny for the 60 second ride. The bobsled ride required watching an instructional video and signing a waiver before we took a bus ride to the start. Cate and I tried on helmets and decided on our positions in the sled. The farther back the rider, the rougher the ride. She took slot 3, I took slot 2, and an experienced driver steered us down the course.

She jumped in first and slid back to her position. The driver got in next and I was last to slip in between the two. We fastened our seat belts, shrugged our shoulders upward to protect our neck, arched our backs, braced our forearms on the extra padded sides, and stuck our wrists through the hand straps, twisted and grabbed hold.

We started off slowly but worked up to 66 mphs and endured 5 G forces. WOW! I recommend keeping your head up and straight and enjoying the view of the helmet in front of you. I turned to look once and was stuck in that position through at least one turn. I had to use all my strength to keep myself in position and was thankful the we finished the course in 1 minute, six seconds. I can’t imagine lasting much longer, and I have a new-found respect for bobsledders who go close to 90 mph and have less padding and no seat belt!

We questioned the driver a bit. He was in his sixth year of driving and said it takes at least a summer to learn. The sled goes faster in the winter and with more weight, so he has to adjust his turns accordingly. It’s all by feel. We certainly put our lives in his hands. He sometimes drives 30 times a day! YIKES!! I’m not sure I could take that. He said the four man track record was 88 mph. We were well below, but there were only three of us and that was plenty fast. The bobsled ride made the rest of the activities feel like games.

Next, Cate and I went to the drop tower to free fall, only twenty feet. I would not recommend this for anyone who has bungee jumped or sky dived. It was such a short drop, our stomachs didn’t even make it to our throats, and it was over as soon as it started.

Finally, Cate went on the extreme zipline which was above the ski jump. That looked pretty cool, but I have zip lined a few times and while it is sort of fun, there is not a rush for me, so I passed. She had fun, but said the same thing. The conclusion was, for thrill seekers, do the bobsled! It was a blast, and how often does a bobsled opportunity come along?

After 3 hours at the park, we made it home just in time to clean up and go for Mexican food at Tarahumara in Midway. We took Guardsman Pass over the Wasatch Mountain Range through the densest aspen grove I’ve ever seen (I will have to come back in the fall) for a 30 minute winding drive to town. It was lovely. The dinner and live music was too, and by 10:30 I was beat with the lights out!  ETB

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