Friday, February 10, 2012

Mortals can fly down the luge at Muskegon State Park

Anyone who loves Michigan's great outdoors usually looks forward to this time of year. However, the lack of snow and ice has melted most people's enthusiasm for winter. Still, if you are willing to make the drive, there's one very cool activity still going on.
The luge at Muskegon State Park.

It was designed by an Olympian but is open to mere mortals. That is its claim to fame. 

It was first constructed in 1984 but then redesigned by three-time Olympian Frank Masley in 1990. It features an 850-foot-long ice run, built into the side of a dune that drops about 70 feet and has eight curves. In the Olympics, sliders can reach speeds of 90 mph.
Not to worry. Mortals start on the luge run at 700 feet and the fastest they cruise is up to 30 mph. And just so you know, more injuries have occurred on the park's ice rink and ski trails than on the luge. 

"It's the most publicly accessible luge track in North America," said Jim Rudicil, executive director of the nonprofit Muskegon Sports Council. But folks who use the run sliders (as the sleds are called) must be at least 8 years old. This is because the sled weighs about 25 pounds and the sliders have to be able to carry it back up the hill, Rudicil said.

If you want to watch how it's really done, members of the Luge Club often are on hand to demonstrate what it's like to slide down from the top. What's nice is Muskegon State Park has developed a "learn to luge" program with reservations available through the Internet. During weekdays the luge run is open for school field trips. "We can teach you the sport in about 5 to 10 minutes, but we schedule sessions for two and half hours," Rudicil said. "The sessions do sell out quite often both Saturdays and Sundays, but there are still some spots available this season."

Michigan DNR luge photos by David Kenyon.
Groups also can attend on Monday and Wednesday. Tuesday and Thursday are league nights. For those who want a lesson beforehand, the fee is $40.

"We develop youths to move on to Lake Placid or Salt Lake City," Rudicil said. Among those who have gone on to luge fame is five-time Olympian Mark Grimmette. "He carried the flag into the stadium representing the U.S. Olympic team at the last Winter Games."
It is at least a two hour drive for Macomb and Oakland county residents, but it’s a unique experience and there are additional amenities and activities including a winter lodge with full concessions, 12 kilometers of groomed cross-country ski trails (five of which are lighted, making it the longest lighted such trail in America) and two acres of ice-skating surfaces.

For conditions and more information, call 1-877-879-5843, ext. 2, or visit Muskegon Winter Sports Complex or www.michigan.gov/muskegon.

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