LAKE PLACID - In a blur, a four-manned, old-fashioned wooden sled whizzes past, continuing its descent along the Lake Placid Toboggan Chute before gliding across the frozen surface of Mirror Lake.
"And they are still going and going," the announcer's voice echoed. "It's a pretty good looking run here."
Seventy-four teams battled it out, trying to travel the farthest across Mirror Lake on Saturday, Jan. 28 in an effort to claim glory and prizes in the third annual Adirondack International Toboggan Championships. While not everyone could be dubbed a winner, a consolation prize for those competing was the fun of the event.
Margaret Moran/Lake Placid News
A team zips down the chute during the toboggan championship event held Jan. 28 along Mirror Lake.
"It's really exciting," said Tom Lehman, a St. Lawrence University student, after his first run down the toboggan chute. "It got the nerves pumping a little bit going down. The speed was really exhilarating."
With speeds topping 35 mph, the sleds raced down the 30-foot high chute, sometimes with screams issuing from its passengers.
"It was a little scary," said Lourine Weller, a St. Lawrence University student, who was on Team Frostbite. "It was a lot higher than I thought it would be; it doesn't look that high from far away, and it's really fast, too."
Toboggan chute may open
The Lake Placid Toboggan Chute located on Parkside Drive at the town beach was not open as of Tuesday, Jan. 31. The North Elba Park District, which runs the town-owned facility, hopes to have it open for Saturday, Feb. 4 and Sunday, Feb. 5, weather permitting. To check the status of the chute, call 518-523-2591 or visit www.northelba.org. Regular hours for the toboggan chute are: Wednesdays 7 to 9 p.m., Fridays 7 to 9:30 p.m., Saturdays noon to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9:30 p.m. and Sundays noon to 3 p.m. with extended hours during holiday periods. It costs $5 for adults, $3 for students with $5 charge for a sled.
The speed combined with the height and the screams of those going down the chute, made me a little apprehensive going down the toboggan chute myself, but I promised that I would be on a team.
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That was the name of the team I was on. Long, I know. Even the announcer made a crack about it saying that she felt like she was being told a story.
My teammates were my editor, Rich Rosentreter, Bob Lizzol, of Copiague, Long Island, and Shannon Knapp, a junior member of the USA Luge team.
Several junior members of the USA Luge team were present, helping out with the event, since all proceeds benefited USA Luge.
I thought Knapp wouldn't be worried about going down the toboggan chute, since luge involves going down a track on a small one- or two-person sled, reaching speeds up to 87 mph - but I was wrong.
"I'm nervous about it," she said before our first run. "Luge is faster, but I'm scared of heights."
Knowing that I wasn't alone in my anxiety gave me some comfort. Maybe we can sit in the middle of the sled, so we don't have to see how far we're dropping.
"You're sitting up front," Rich said.
"What?!" I exclaimed. "No, I'm not."
"Yes, you are, so you can get the full experience," he said.
"Can't I just sit in the middle?" I asked.
"No," he said. "You've done rock climbing and skiing, so this should be nothing for you."
This debate went on while we inched closer to the top of the toboggan chute, while sled after sled went down along side us - and an occasional scream.
When we reached the top, I found myself in front - surprise, surprise - with Rich behind me, next Knapp and Lizzol pulling up the rear. I made sure that I was sitting on a flat portion of the sled, not on a rung because I heard the ride can get bumpy, and that my feet and legs were tucked in.
Peering over the curved front of the wooden sled, I could see the drop in front of me. Gulp.
One of the attendants at the top of the chute asked what our sled number was.
"Sixty-three," Rich said.
The attendant relayed that message into his walkie-talkie, which I guess went to the event announcer, so that she could tell the crowd who would be coming down next.
With a shove from the attendants, we were off. As the sled dipped down and started to pick up speed, I let out a scream before closing my mouth immediately. It wasn't scary. It was fun.
Before I knew it we had reached the bottom of the chute and were gliding across the frozen surface of Mirror Lake. We went straight for a bit before we started to spin in a large, graceful circle and then came to a halt.
"You had nice spinning form," said one of the guys on the ice.
That's great and all, but if we had gone straight, we would have gone farther.
Excited to go again, since each team gets two runs, I made my way off the ice and back to the ramp of the toboggan chute along with my fellow teammates.
"It was fun," Knapp said. "It was great just gliding on the ice and spinning around."
On our second run, we went faster, which just added to the exhilaration, and we did end up going farther, but we still spun.
Asking what's the distance to beat, one of the guys on the ice pointed to a red laser dot in the snow that was many feet in front of where our sled stopped.
He said four people had landed in that vicinity in the three or so hours of the event.
Team BABEraham Lincoln and the Ex Presidents, which was comprised of Ambrose Serrano, the strength and conditioning intern at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid; USA Skeleton Development Team athlete Gracie Clapp; and USA Luge National Team athletes Zac Clark and Taylor Morris, won first place at the Adirondack International Toboggan Championships. They won a $200 cash prize along with four hotel rooms in Lake Placid, four Whiteface Mountain ski passes, four medals and their team name on the perpetual Gerald Cassidy Memorial Trophy.
"It always feels good to win." Morris said. "It always feels good to come out here and do your best and know that everybody brought their A Game, and that your best is what won it."
He said that the team had a strategy coming into the competition. They had the lightest and shortest people in the front with the taller and heavier people in the back.
"Airflow was the key today I think," Morris said.
The team said they had a good time at the toboggan championships.
"It was a lot of fun," Clark said. "Adrenaline rushing through your veins, hearing people screaming while you go down the ramp. It was just a good time."
"We'd most definitely come back and do it again," Morris said. "Just for the atmosphere let alone winning."
The second place winners were Dave, Mike and Ryan Boshart with Christine Lavoie of the Hash Tag Swag team from Fayetteville. They won a $100 cash prize, four Whiteface Mountain ski passes, four Olympic Passports and four medals.
In third place was John, Alexandra, Tyler and Sarah Pieper, of Bridgewater, N.J., also known as Team Pieper Family. They won $100 cash prize, four Olympic Passports and four medals.
The Adirondack International Toboggan Championships also featured the Mayor's Cup, where local mayors, supervisors and other elected officials compete in teams of four for the Jeff and Janine Abbott Memorial Mayor's Cup Award.
This year's winner was Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall by default.
Randall described the performance of his team The Speedy Sliders in the competition.
"We made it down," he said. "We had a little crash on the first run and then on the second run we had really great speed, but we blew off course. It's all for a great cause, to support the USA Luge."
Dmitry Feld, organizer of the event and USA Luge marketing manager, said that more than $5,000 was raised for USA Luge through the event.
"It was exactly what we needed," he said. "People who came into town walked by, saw it in the newspaper, heard on the radio, and they came. They had fun, met US Luge athletes. It was great. It was a perfect kind of wintery day that we needed."
"All around I think they do a great job," said Debbie Erenstone, of Lake Placid. "It's lots of fun, and I'd recommend it (toboggan ride) to anyone who's visiting."
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Contact Margaret Moran at 518-523-4401 or at firstname.lastname@example.org