This past weekend (January 28-29, 2006) I had a chance to revisit one of my favorite activities - the Verizon Luge Challenge at Liberty. This event rotates each year among a variety of areas, and we are fortunate that Liberty is one of them.
Verizon is one of the prime sponsors of the U.S. Olympic Sledding and Luge teams. In these traveling events, the participants learn a lot about the sport, the competitors, and the Olympics in general. The timing could not be better. You can check more on their website, usaluge.org.
As for me, I am still a kid at heart when it comes to sledding. I carry a cheap plastic sled in my car when it snows (do we remember natural snow?), and take a few runs down neighborhood hills. The kids tease me, but I tell them I am trying out for the Olympic Team. Because I love sleds, I am also a great enthusiast of tubing, and encourage people to try it whenever they can. So, the chance to do a luge is one I never miss.
These exhibit luges are not exactly the real thing. They are a lighter, plastic version. But you lie down on your back, feet first. Liberty has built a pretty professional luge track, and you can pick up quite a bit of speed. The winners whizzed down in about 12 or 13 seconds; I stayed in the 22 second range. I knew I had no chance of winning; I just wanted to make certain I did not flip the luge over and lose seconds.
If you sled a lot, this exhibition luge is not very hard. You are given some instructions, a few test runs, goggles, and helmets. You are told how to sway your body to stay in the course and not hit the snow banks. The surprise is the amount of loose snow. It blows back and cuts into your face. I was pleased the course was not much longer.
Since this course is temporary, there are no lifts to pull you up, as there are in the snow tubing area. So you get to the top the old fashioned way: you walk up the hill. Then you stand in line for quite awhile until your turn comes. After a few runs, I was tired of this, and pleased to return to the chairlifts and the slopes!
Some of the nice touches in the Luge Challenge include the music and the presents. The ski slopes rock to the sounds of the Olympic Theme song. Lively music is piped out the entire time, and the event ends with a patriotic version of “God Bless America.” Chilling and nice. Liberty has a terrific music system, and many of us find we ski looser and better when we can dance to the music at the same time. I am not a big fan of iPods on the slopes - you can’t hear what is around you. But piped in music is terrific.
The Verizon folks and Panasonic (another sponsor) gave out a variety of very generous gifts to the luge competitors; some worth several hundred dollars or more. The winners were generally in their early teens, so the presents were really special for them. The entire event was free, and you did not even have to buy a lift ticket. But, many of the competitors did go skiing or tubing after the Luge event. So, it was good for the sponsors, and good for Liberty. It really whet my appetite - maybe I will try a real luge or bobsled run if I am near one in New York State, Utah, or wherever. They are billed as some of the fastest sports on ice, and they probably are!
As for the skiing itself, I had a wonderful time as always. Liberty has excellent snowmaking and skilled grooming equipment. The snow was soft (my favorite) and the moguls on the double diamonds - Ultra and Eastwind, were excellent. January has been a cruel month for natural snow, as we all know. It is hard to compete with rain and warm temperatures. But the local areas do their best. I have had superb skiing this season in the areas I visited. It is remarkable there is any skiing at all. It is disheartening to see the green golf course next to the runs, and all the uncovered trails and forests. But what can you do? Take what you can get, be grateful for it, and have a blast. Let’s pray for snow the rest of the season!
When she wasn't skiing, Connie Lawn covered the White House as a reporter since 1968.
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