Bobsleigh Experience at the Whistler Sliding Centre
Published Date : 17 Dec 2013
Bobsleigh Experience at the Whistler Sliding Centre
By Lloyd Daser, General Manager, Pan Pacific Whistler
In 2010, the world came to Whistler when our hometown co-hosted with Vancouver the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. It was a very special time for Whistler, putting the resort in the spotlight as one of the premier winter sport destinations in the world, as well as rallying a true sense of national pride for Canadians everywhere.
As the world gets ready for the upcoming winter Olympics, the team at our two Pan Pacific Whistler properties wanted to relive and celebrate the experience and excitement of four years ago. We created a Bobsleigh Experience Package available to visitors during thethe time of the games. The package includes two nights of accommodation, a pair of Canadian Red Mittens, a Sochi Cocktail created for the package in our Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub, and a Bobsleigh Experience for two at the Whistler Sliding Centre.
The Whistler Sliding Centre is a Whistler Sport Legacies project created for the 2010 Olympic Games. It remains a popular training and competition venue for Bobsleigh, Skeleton and Luge events, not only for the Canadian Olympic Team, but also for nations around the world. What is special about this venue is that Whistler Sports Legacies have made the Olympic experience available to the general public. For a modest fee, anyone (some size, weight and health conditions apply) can experience a Bobsleigh or Skeleton ride, much the same as an Olympic athlete would.
Since the Pan Pacific Whistler is packaging and promoting this activity, and since I am a responsible and hospitality minded General Manager, it seemed appropriate that I test drive the track before suggesting it to our guests. It was with this in mind that my wife Kate and I set out for our first Bobsleigh Experience. I know, it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it!
Arrangements were made by Whistler Sliding Centre’s knowledgeable and capable team. As it turns out, it was snowing heavily in Whistler that day... which as we learned was a good thing as it slows down the speed of the bobsleigh. The week before saw an arctic cold front drop temperatures well below normal and the track was setting new speed records. It was already the fastest and most difficult track in the world with competitors reaching speeds in excess of 145 km per hour. I don’t even go that fast on my Harley!
After we entrusted our life and safety into the capable hands of the Sports Legacies staff, we were fitted for helmets and weighed. There is a 110 kilo weight restriction. Even with all of my winter gear and equipment, I am happy to report I qualified! The staff then took us through a very informative safety briefing (funny they had us sign the disclaimer forms before we knew what we were in for) and told us what to expect... Speeds in excess of 125 km per hour, what to do if the sleigh tipped over, and where the nearest hospital was... we were still not deterred.
Next, we were put into groups and transported up to the top of the sliding centre. We were with a group of about 30 people, all enjoying a corporate team building retreat together. Kate was the only lady, and we two were the only riders who were not part of the group. However, we felt like we belonged with the large party, right up until they told us we would have to ride FIRST! Really? Did they want to get rid of us that badly, or were they just a little afraid!? The latter I am sure.
After another safety review, three of us, plus the driver were packed into a four man bobsleigh. These bobsleighs are specially designed with higher sides for safety, and a little wider to accommodate those pushing the edge of the weight restrictions. Despite the bobsleigh modifications made for the public, I still got to know the guy’s knees sitting behind me very well.
After a few more checks, visors were put down and with a thumbs up from everyone, we were pushed over the edge onto the track. “Oh, this isn’t bad” I thought at first as we gradually (ok, not too gradually) picked up speed. It was amazing how much of the track and the sides we were able to see, but by the time we hit the first corner, it was all a white blur. In the last corner riders can reach 3 to 4 G forces (feels like 3 to 4 times your body weight). It is hard to even lift your head. My head hit the side of the bobsled in each corner.
Before I had a chance to change my mind, in 40 seconds, it is all over. WOW. Riders’ speed and times are posted on an electronic board. We learned later that times largely depend on how your ride starts and the weight in the sleigh. All racers’ times were within a second of each other that day. We came in last place thanks to my wife! She was the only lady rider. This is not a male chauvinist statement, it is just that she was the lightest participant (she will be happy to hear me say that).
A team photo was taken and was given to us as part of the certificate of achievement package. Videos of each ride are also available for sale. We bought our video which includes some great footage and history of the venue, Whistler and the Olympics. Now we can relive those 40 seconds over and over again.
Hats off to the team at the Whistler Sliding Centre for the hospitality and service they provided, and for giving us the chance to experience something that many people do not have the opportunity to try. It is fabulous that Whistler Sports Legacies preserves the Olympic spirit and makes this and other experiences available to us non-world-class athletes.
I can’t wait to try the Skeleton, but that is another story.
Book your Bobsleigh Experience Package here.