Riding the skeleton at Lake Placid

Skeleton Composite

Head first.

By Liz Clancy Lerner

When I was in middle school I would watch my sister's high school Varsity soccer games with my cleats and shin guards in a bag nearby. I'd often fantasize that her team would be down a player and look to the crowd for help. I would be the one they chose, I'd play my heart out, and score the winning goal.

And then, of course, I'd be a starter for the high school team as a 7th grader and go on to the Olympics after that.

Flash forward to the 2006 Winter Olympics: I watch the track events religiously on TV. I proclaim to friends and family that I want to be a skeleton slider (it's the belly-down, head-first, single-person sled race).

But I never had the opportunity to try it -- until this past weekend when I went down the skeleton track in Lake Placid.

This was my chance to be discovered.

The combined track (where bobsled, skeleton and luge race) is located at Mt. Van Hoevenberg -- just a short drive from downtown Lake Placid.

We had reservations to try the skeleton at 9:30 am, so we got there a little early. Once we checked in, we headed upstairs to watch other people race the skeleton through two flat-screen TVs. There were at least 5 camera angles that follow you down the track, making every bump and slide potentially really embarrassing.

Skeleton TV Lounge

When your number is called, you head outside to a black Chevy Suburban and get a lift up to the track. Things move pretty quickly from there.

Skeleton Truck

You get a helmet, a photo with your sled and a very brief instructional. No safety talk and no discussion of what to do if you fall off the sled (and, alas, nothing about this being a recruiting event for Sochi 2014).

What I did learn from the friendly skeleton guy is that your body should be stream-lined -- but relaxed, with your feet down (but not touching the track), head also should be facing down, and you should look into turns. Got it.

Skeleton Red Sled

I got my game face on and and laid on the sled stomach first. I was ready for the push. (In Olympic skeleton races you take a running start to propel yourself. This way, I assume, is safer for beginners.)

The whole thing lasted 35.4 seconds and I don't remember much other than smiling hugely, hearing the metal of the sled loudly sliding along the ice, and thinking, stay stream-lined, but relaxed... stay stream-lined, but relaxed.

Apparently, at this length, you go about 30 miles per hour. It certainly felt faster than the 30 mph in my car.

Skeleton Tracks

At the finish line I got off the sled and was assisted down the track about ten feet to a side area. This is where they were going to tell me I was a natural and they want me to train full-time for the Olympics.

They told me I could get a good view from here to see my husband come down the track.

Sensing that we're competitive people, the skeleton wrangler -- as I affectionately refer to the guys at the finish line -- gave me a wink and a nod and told me what I was going to win. And I *miraculously* did, by .2 seconds.

Skeleton Souvenir Pic

I'm still waiting on my invite to the Olympic training camp.

If you plan on going: Tickets to try the skeleton are $65 and it's recommended that you call or email to get your tickets. Along with the skeleton ride, you get a t-shirt, a pin, a photo and a one-year membership with the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation.

There were people there of all ages, sizes and athletic abilities. If you are comfortable on a sled, I'd say you'd be fine for this.


I'm assuming they didn't bother with the safety talk because there's very little you can do to save yourself while pretending to be a face-down human Zamboni at 30mph.

..did you need to sign a waiver regarding liability?

... another awesome edition to my bucket list. I'm so beating your time!

My plan was to go into fetal position. Yes. We signed a waiver.

Pretty gutsy. How far away is it and does it only run in the winter months?

Totally a bucket list worthy event, Max. I'm working on my fast-twitch muscles in the gym... I dunno, my time could get better :)

Mr.G, it's was about a 2 1/2 drive from the Schenectady area. Apparently, the skeleton is only during the winter. The bobsled you can do in the summer and winter thought.

And just in case anyone takes this stuff as seriously as me; it looks like they are recruiting: http://bobsled.teamusa.org/recruitment

Looking for a Skeleton Rider to use a Sleboggan with their Skeleton Sled as a test. This new winter sport could get a big boost if Slebogganing could also work on a Skeleton Track. I live four hours from Lake Placid and have been in touch with Darrin Steele regarding this new winter sport. Slebogganing adds a new skill set that Bobsledding nor Skeleton offers. A Slebogganer steers the desired path down the track with the Sleboggan rather than weight shift etc. I would be willing to come to Lake Placid at anytime. Perhaps as the track is being tested this Fall. Thank you for commenting and any help in my quest. Bill Herrick

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