by Evan Wildey
Is there any upside to this ridiculous weather? How about all the exercise from shoveling? I have to admit I was yearning for a snow blower on Saturday. The only upside, as far as I can tell, is the chance to partake in my favorite winter sports. For me and my wife, that means cross-country skiing. Now, it may seem boring and cold, but remember, that is what you thought when you tried it out as a kid. Trust me, give it another try.
A few tips to start off: Don’t wear that heavy jacket and snow pants. Cross-country skiing might be the best workout around, so you’re going to sweat. Wear layers of athletic clothes. You’ll be much happier than in your down parka. Go on groomed trails. Cross-country skiing is hard enough; don’t make it harder by plowing your own trail. A number of Michigan parks groom their trails for you. I can recommend Pigeon Creek Park in the Holland area and Huron Meadows Metropark in the Brighton/Ann Arbor area. With groomed trails, you go faster, which makes it more enjoyable. Both of those locations rent skis for a small fee, so you can give it a try to see if you like it.
Another winter sport I’ve been wanting to try for a while is the luge. It’s one of those sports that we only think about every four years, and we’ll see a lot of it at the upcoming Olympic Games starting on February 6. In luge, competitors lay back on a souped-up sled and are timed going down an ice-covered track. Well, wouldn’t you know it, in Michigan, there is a track were average Joe’s like you and me can try out the luge for ourselves. Recently, my wife and I were able to head out to the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex to ski and to try the luge.
The luge track was designed by a former Olympian, but it’s smaller than a professional track. It hosts leagues, has a youth program, and is open to the public. For us “normal” folk, the start is about 3/4 of the way up the track, so you don’t travel quite as fast as the professionals, but it’s still quick — up to 30 mph in about 18 seconds.
The first time down, all the instructions from the training session about leaning left and right were forgotten, and I just hung on for dear life. But I made it down safely on my first run (thank goodness for the elbow pads they give you to wear), and decided I had to go again. This time, with the initial fear gone, I was able to steer a little more and had a better run, shaving a half of a second off my time. It was a thrill. I see how you can get hooked on the sport. If you’re ever out in Muskegon or you want to make a special trip to try something new, give the luge a try. You won’t be disappointed.