Feb. 20, 2013 - Issue #905: DOA No more - Trading in punk for politics
Get your adrenaline pumping learn to luge
But then, before you even have a chance to say, "Screw this," you'll watch as a four-year-old slider effortlessly takes the corners, stretching his arm out and shifting his upper body as he goes, and you'll think, "Well, if he can do it, then I can definitely do it."
Plus, by this point, you've already had two hours of instruction on the Hinton Luge Association's 150-metre track, so you know how to do the Flintstone brake by planting your feet flat on the ground. You know how to turn by tipping your upper body like a teapot, shifting your weight onto your downhill runner—the same way you would with your downhill ski on the mountain. You know to keep your steering elbow up. And, you know to listen when Cathy Jones, the association's program co-ordinator, yells for you to brake.
"It looks so easy and then people get up and they try it and realize the two-hour lesson is needed," says Jones. "We work on braking first and then we work on the turning basics. Most people tend to lean into the upside of the hill and you can't do that because what that does is put the weight on the inside runner, so you go the opposite way. You'll either go straight, into the boards or into the snowbank."
Hinton's facility has a natural luge track, meaning the track follows an existing mountain path. "Natural goes with the terrain, the lumps and bumps and everything," explains Jones. "It's not a cement built track."
An artificial track, on the other hand, is a completely designed and constructed track, like the ones you would see athletes competing on in the Olympics.
Natural luge, although not an Olympic sport, is popular in Europe, where there are World Cup and World Championship competitions each winter. Jones's three children—now all grown adults—have competed across Canada, the United States and Europe.
Greg Jones, 25, says he can remember one season where he competed in seven different countries. His best-ever showing was in Russia, where he placed 19th overall in a World Cup. He says, considering the top 15 sliders from each country are invited to compete, placing 19th was a big victory.
Jones put her children on sleds when they were two years old, and by the time they were four they were already competing.
Greg, who no longer competes because he's focusing on being a new dad, says he'll definitely get his daughter on a sled when she's old enough.
"It's just a lot of fun. It's one of the funnest things I've ever done in my life."
And, he says, it's not as scary or dangerous as people make it out to be.
"Lots of people hear it's crazy, but it's really not that crazy because you control your speed," he says, pointing out that you can put your feet down to brake at anytime.
Greg's not one to overuse the brakes, though. He's all about the excitement of flying down the track at high speeds.
"It's a minute or a minute and a half of not knowing what exactly is going to happen. It's a very good adrenaline rush," he says with a laugh.
He admits, though, that you can't just learn to luge like that overnight. You need practice and patience.
"It's not an easy sport to learn. It's kind of like patting your head and rubbing your tummy."
He says it's best to start young because when you're three or four, you're adventurous and ready to learn. "Adults aren't in the learning mode anymore," he says. Although, they are encouraged to try as well, and often when they do, they really enjoy themselves.
It's hard not to, says Jones.
"The feeling is ... 'Wahoo!' It's awesome," she says with a laugh. And, it's even exciting to watch, especially when the experts hit the track. They can get up to speeds of 40 to 80 km/h
"It's so much fun to watch those sliders," says Jones. "Your mouth drops open. It's really very beautiful to watch. It looks like a snow ballet. I don't think the guys would like to think that, but it's just so graceful and beautiful."
The Hinton track is located below the Athabasca Lookout Tower, about 20 minutes north of Hinton on Nordic Centre Road. It's one of four tracks in Alberta. The others are in Grande Prairie, Fort McMurray and Camrose.
To book a day of sliding at the Hinton facility, contact Jones at email@example.com or by phone at 780.865.2922.
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