Skiing isn’t the only epic winter sport you could be participating in this winter. The mountains are a veritable playground filled with adventurous activities. In our series Beyond Skis we’ll throw the spotlight on a specially selected winter sport that you can try on your next ski holiday. This week: bobsleigh.
Bobsleigh is one of those sports that you might assume only professional athletes have the opportunity to participate in. To start with, the infrastructure available is remarkably scarce and the incredible speeds of travel would seem to rule out novices casually attempting bobsleigh in their spare time.
And yet… bobsleigh isn’t just for winter sport’s most elite athletes. The whole family can enjoy the bobsleigh experience on a winter holiday to La Plagne, in France. The Olympic Bobsleigh Track in La Plagne is open throughout the winter and provides a once in a lifetime opportunity to attempt this high-speed, high-adrenaline, sport.
Bobsleigh came to prominence at the end of the 19th Century when steering mechanisms were first added to toboggans. The first bobsleigh club was founded in 1897 in St Moritz, Switzerland and, since then, bobsleigh has grown in prominence. It’s one of the most recognisable winter sports outside of skiing and snowboarding, gaining considerable popularity from the box office smash-hit, bobsleigh film, Cool Runnings, which was released in 1993.
Professional bobsleigh teams, which typically consist of four people, can reach speeds up to 150km/h on the bobsleigh track. The fastest bobsleigh track in the world is the Whistler Sliding Centre in Whistler, Canada. At the Olympic Bobsleigh Track in La Plagne, you can reach speeds up to 130km/h in a bobsleigh session led by World Champion Bruno Mingeon. The unforgettable experience is not for the faint of heart, and participants are rewarded with a certificate and a video of their descent!
The bobsleigh track in La Plagne was built for the 1992 Winter Olympics and is one of just 14 tracks used for competitions by the IBSF (International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation). The track is an exhausting 1,500m long with a vertical drop of 125m. There are nineteen thrilling (or terrifying – depending on your perspective) bends along the route, and the track reaches a startling maximum gradient of 14.00%.
If you think 130km/h sounds far too fast – and we can’t blame you if you do – then you’ll be pleased to know that there is more than one speed for getting down the La Plagne bobsleigh track. The most genteel is the Bob raft, a self-driving and self-braking vehicle that can reach speeds of 80km/h. Speed luge is a solo affair. The custom-made vehicle allows you to recline in a half sitting/half lying position, offering a unique view of the track as you descend at 90km/h.
Our in-house intrepid explorer, Frankie Gibson from PR, recently tried the bobsleigh in La Plagne. “Nothing can prepare you for the Bobsleigh. “It’s like a rollercoaster” just isn’t enough. You plummet down the icy track, whooshing round the banked turns at speeds of up to 80km/h! It’s cold, it’s fast, it’s exhilarating. And it’s all over in just 90 seconds. But the adrenaline and feeling of accomplishment last for hours!”
Are you brave enough to give the bobsleigh track in La Plagne a go?
A bobsleigh experience in La Plagne begins at around €45 per person. You must meet minimum age and height requirements to participate. Further information on the Bobsleigh Experience are available on the La Plagne website.