Saturday, 21 February 2009

Nicol Winter Olympics

Our family will never be able to watch the Winter Olympics again without an intense interest in a few of the sports.

Bobsleigh, Luge and Skeleton.......and ski jumping......
It's winter holiday here in Scotland and we went to Austria for a little adrenaline junkie fun and a little skiing. Last fall, I attended a charity luncheon when low and behold, an "Olympic Bobsleigh Weekend" was one of the live auction items. I really don't know what struck me that day, but it was going to be mine! The description sounded right up our alley....."the Formula One of winter sports......once in a lifetime experience....." And my cheerful friends were all in to boost the excitement to win the bid.

I bought the event and then gave it to Scott for Christmas. Boy was he surprised! I was feeling a little buyers remorse, wondering what I'd gotten myself into! Anyway, I managed to book the flights and extend the weekend to a week for a few days skiing too.
Graham Richardson is an ex-Great Britain Bobsleigh Driver and now Olympic Bobsleigh Coach. He currently coaches the Dutch team and a few years ago he started IceRush as a side business to give people the opportunity to experience the sport first hand. Graham and his brother Ian (the brake man) went out of their way to accommodate our family over the weekend and we all had a blast.

We stayed in a wonderful family run Austrian hotel where Graham and his team often stay when they are training. It was terrific and one that we never would have found on our own. There were 2 other pairs of charity auction bobsleighers in attendance and we enjoyed our meals together. The boys were very tolerant of all of the adult conversations and lingering meals and the adults were extremely tolerant and interactive with our 3 boys! 4 and 5 course meals in true European style are not really suited to 7 and 4 year olds; but they were total troopers.

We arrived on Friday, played outside in the snow and then enjoyed dinner with the group. Saturday morning after breakfast, we all loaded into the vans and headed to the track. Graham, his brother Ian and Ian's wife Dil, educated us all on the particulars of Bobsleighing. We learned about the sleighs, the track and the nuances of the sport. We walked the track from bottom to top all while Graham explained the sport. That morning, a local Austrian Luge and Skeleton Club was having an event so we were able to see these young athletes (Ethan's age) perform these exciting sports. It's crazy fast and Ethan asked multiple times if we could move to Austria!

Then our time came to get in the sleighs and give it a go. We of course did not manage the true running start but climbed in and were pushed off to start our one minute of fun! Each pair raced 2 times and tried each sleigh and driver/brakeman pair. (Graham had 2 other athletes come and help him for the day.) On the first run, I was sitting in the third position and I had a hard time seeing around Scott. When you can't see the track, it's hard to anticipate the turns and therefore your head bumps the side of the sleigh. Also, in the biggest turn the G-Force is so strong that it was impossible for me to hold my head up in that position. Strangest feeling. Then on the second run, Scott traded places with me and I was able to manage the head thing a little more. It's one minute. ONE MINUTE. It was crazy, fun and terrifying, all at the same time!

One of our fellow participants, Mark, held his video camera during one of his runs and it will give you a little more insight....his description...."utter maddness!!"
(wish I knew how to embed the link...)

After everyone was finished, we went back to the hotel for lunch and then most of us went tobogganing. Graham and Ian took turns driving us up to the start of the run and we raced and raced all afternoon. The boys had an absolute blast! and the grown-ups too! One of the other participants challenged Ethan to multiple races and you should have heard the banter! Hilarious! It's like we were all 10.

Saturday night, Graham arranged a terrific dinner at the hotel with t-shirts and awards for all of the participants and we stayed up super late chatting with the other guys. Everyone went their separate ways Sunday morning.
Graham had arranged for us to move to another hotel closer to the ski mountain that morning so Ian and Dil, picked us up and transported us to our new digs. He'd arranged the family apartment in this hotel which was so fantastic. I think is was originally the owner or manager's apartment on property because it was three rooms of retro wonderfulness! No standard hotel furniture but all mid 50's and 60's style furniture and light fixtures in this great little spot away from all of the other hotel residents! We all loved it! Charlie asked to move there!

Sunday afternoon, we took the tram from Igls to Innsbruck through the mountains to check out the Olympic Ski Jump. Amazing. Can't believe people really do this. We walked the stadium and jump area and gained perspective on the size and scale of this event. We enjoyed lunch at the restaurant there looking over the town of Innsbruck and then headed back to our hotel. Ian and Dil were still there so we had dinner with them Sunday night.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we skied and tobogganed to our hearts content. We had 2 sunny days and one day of a foot of snowfall. It was beautiful and we all loved this holiday! Scott and I said multiple times that having Graham's connections made all of the difference for us to explore this part of Austria and made our time that much more enjoyable! Thanks to Graham. Check out his website if you are in need for some speed!

Guess what these guys are doing? Cracking a whip everytime someone passes them by to ward off the evil spirits. Just something they do in Igls on a Sunday morning??? What?? You could hear the whip blocks away.......Just a little bonus picture for you!

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