I have done some crazy things on snow, mushing a dog sled, zip lining at over 60mph at Gunstock, no brakes on Okemo's Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster, riding in a snow cat at night, heli-skiing. Rodeling, riding a wooden sled down 7.5 kilometers at Quebec's Le Massif Ski Resort, certainly qualifies.
Le Massif's Luge, which opened last winter, is a 4.6 mile km sled trail, the only dedicated sled track in North America and the 3rd longest in the world. "Rodeling" comes from the authentic European style alpine wooden runner sled called a rodel. Rhymes with yodel, but you may be more apt to scream as you fly down Le Massif's resort vertical, 2,483,' reaching speeds of 50mph perched on your rickety runner sled.
This crazy Canadian adventure begins with a debriefing by your two Luge guides, one of which is a ski patrol, as you gear up with a helmet and heavy boots, plus your protective ski attire. You have a choice of feet or head first, I chose to sit up for the phenomenal view of the St Lawrence Seaway, and the hope that I'd get less snow in my face sitting versus the appropriately named hammerhead sled.
After a snowcat ride to the top of La Luge, a few safety tips and steering instructions are given. It's counterintuitive that you steer by leaning where you don't want to go, and use your feet to brake - carefully so you don't break an ankle, yikes. After practice passes on a small pitch, the guides release us like a 20 pack of crazy Canuks.
Within 100 yards, my husband flies off the side of the trail and lands in a snow bank. I surprise myself by not stopping for him when I see him smile. I barrel on, bumping along on my squirrely sled. Seeing sledders bob and weave and occasionally crash in front of me is exciting, scary, hilarious, as I grip my ride, speeding and skidding my way down the groomed track. Steering is tricky. It doesn't come naturally to lean into the fence or tree you don't want to hit.
Two tight turns, lined by bright red netting, prove too much for a few ahead of me and they get tangled up, but I manage to slip through the crashes. Halfway down, we stop at a log cabin for libation and a headcount, all are accounted for and laughing about our luge antics thus far. Speeding down the final and fastest section, we glimpse the scenic St Lawrence River as we approach sea level. More hairpin turns eject a few from their sleds like popcorn, but no one is hurt, they jump back on and hustle to get back into the race. Arriving at the trails end, it's fist pumps and laughter, as we head for the gondola, blending in with skiers for our ride back up Le Massif.
Eric Wilbur is a lifelong recreational skier who spends most of his winter and spring in the mountains of New England. He does not ski in jeans. You can read more of Eric's work here.
Heather Burke is an award winning ski journalist with over a decade of ski news coverage. As a former ski instructor and a ski parent, she knows the ski biz from the inside out. She and her family visit New England ski resorts, as well as the West and Canada, to report on the latest trends and their best family finds. Her husband Greg takes all the accompanying photos, and their work can be seen at www.familyskitrips.com and www.luxuryskitrips.com.