I went skiing in Orlando!
No, they have not opened the latest indoor snow skiing venue in Florida. And no, it is not the newest ride at Disney. Instead it’s skiing of the unfrozen kind. The Orlando Watersports Complex (OWC) just down the road from the Orlando International Airport offers water skiing, wake boarding, slalom skiing, and knee boarding in a unique format. How is this related to snow skiing? Well more than you would think.
OWC is not your traditional water ski venue; there are no ski boats here. The attraction is an aerial cable -; a kind of very fast surface ski lift over water. Here is how it works: a cable is suspended above a small lake in a circular track. From the cable come tow lines down to the water. Through something technically similar to a high speed quad, the tow lines are able to be hooked and unhooked from the cable. Boarders or skiers wait on a dock at a launch point for the certain spaces of the cable to come around like a chair lift line, then are launched at intervals around the course in pairs or singles. It is pretty cool!
There are over 100 of these parks worldwide but only five in the US. There are several in the warmer climates of Florida and Texas, but there is one as far north as Kansas City. The cable towing systems are made by Rixen, who started out involved in the snow skiing industry. The technical challenges of the cable water ski system are a bit more complex than a ski lift. Their web site has some interesting background (www.rixen-seilbahnen.de) but the basic idea is the same.
OWC has two cables hanging over two courses -; a “green” beginner course with a “slower” cable speed with a few jumps, and a “black diamond” expert course with a faster cable and more jumps and hits. The expert course’s cable can run at speeds of close to 36 mph. The expert course most resembles a snow park with jumps and hits abounding. There are rails and jumps that a park rat would be very familiar with.
The pricing is similar to a ski resort. $22 for an hour, $28 for 2 hours or $40 for the day. OWC offers extremely cheap rentals for all the gear needed (board, vest, and helmet) -; just $4! At these prices it is easy to get hooked on this sport. There also is a large viewing area at the dock and even a beach to hang out on while watching the action. OWC also has lights for night skiing. It is open 10 am until 9 pm daily.
I was able to sneak out of my conference to spend a couple of hours at OWC. Much like snowboarding without a lesson I don’t recommend wake boarding without a lesson. Getting launched off the dock is the hardest part. It took several tries and a couple of hard belly flops to actually get up on the board. Once up I don’t know if my snowboarding skills where in play, but I did mange to get a bit of the hang of it. My triumph was making a complete circuit of the track! After that, though, I bit it and was launched into the water having to swim ashore and do the walk of shame back to the launch point. Still lots of fun!
So next time you are in Orlando visiting the “mouse” save a little time to ski, even if it is the warmer and wetter variety.
Robbie Allen is an avid small hill skier. He has written several articles on the many small hills he has sought out.