With only days remaining before the flame is lit at the Olympic Games in Vancouver, Blue Mountain Ski Area and USA Luge challenged winter sports fans last weekend to experience the thrill of luge and take a shot at glory during the Blue Mountain Luge Challenge at Blue Mountain Ski Area.
The event was part of a weekend-long Winter Festival at Blue Mountain.
Blue Mountain was transformed into a luge training and racing site for those who wanted to experience the fastest sport on ice in a safe, slope-side setting, with help from USA Luge Olympians.
The Luge Challenge has visited ski areas across the country since 1995.
Participation in the Luge Challenge and the Winter Festival was free, and no experience was required to take part.
Once the morning registration was completed, the pace picked up for the youngsters who tried out the sleds. After learning the basics of steering and stopping, along with a few practice runs, racers slid down the snow-covered track, complete with timing equipment to compete for prizes.
To add to the excitement for the youngsters, there was scouts in attendance to watch for athletes who showed luge potential. Those athletes who showed no fear and sped down the track with no mishaps may be invited to participate in screening camps at a USA Luge training facility in Lake Placid, N.Y. or Park City, Utah.
The lightweight molded plastic sleds used by the Olympic hopefuls are far different than the ones used by the Olympic teams, but the youngsters who slid still went fast. Some speeds clocked in at 45 miles per hour or more, while the Olympic riders exceed 90 mph.
Luge takes its name from the French word for sled. It is one of the fastest Olympic sports.
In addition to the Luge Challenge, there was dog sledding, snow shoeing and ice carving, which were all part of the Winter Festival.
State Sen. David Argall (District 29) helped kick off the event.