PARK CITY, Utah - Don't headbutt the driver.
This is probably good advice in any situation, but as I prepared to slip down the mile-plus length of an Olympic bobsled track in less than a minute at speeds of nearly 80 mph, it seemed particularly appropriate.
Even though headbutting is a common side effect thanks to the 5 Gs of force your body experiences on the ride, I had just signed my life away on a waiver during orientation. It seemed to me that the fewer distractions I could offer the driver, the better my odds of making it out alive.
Plus, our driver happened to be Olympic silver medalist Shauna Rohbock, who now spends at least part of her winters in Park City shepherding nervous tourists down the track like a mom taking her child out on a bike without training wheels for the first time. Headbutting an Olympian seemed, well, amateur.
Of course, my husband and I were amateurs, as are most of the people who fork over $200 for a bobsled ride at Utah Olympic Park.
During our December visit to Park City, we experienced a three-helmet tour, meaning we donned helmets three times over a 48-hour period in hopes of getting a sample of this town's mountain spirit. Forget the starlets, films and festivals. Come here for the adventure.
I had ridden zip-lines before, so when I heard about the new Zip Tour Adventure at the Canyons Resort, I had doubts it would offer anything particularly unique. Located at the top of the Red Pine Gondola, the ride includes three lines - a demo ride, an 800-foot Red Pine ride and the Lookout ride, which spans more than 2,000 feet across the canyon between Lookout Peak and Red Pine Lodge.
After putting on our helmets and receiving a safety briefing, we made our way across the first two lines. They were a piece of cake, offering the same fun, quick thrill I'd experienced in the past. It wasn't until we boarded a chair lift to make our way to the beginning of the Lookout zip that the nerves started to set in.
Clipped to the line looking out across the vast canyon, the thought briefly crossed my mind that were there a malfunction, I would most certainly not survive.
Thankfully, there wasn't much time to think. By the count of three, Patrick and I were releasing our brakes and soaring out over the wilderness. Because each ride has two lines, participants may ride simultaneously and even attempt to race if they're so inclined.
As for me, I was just trying to remember to breathe, the first half of the ride spent with my eyes closed tight in sheer terror.
Thankfully, the Lookout zip is so long that my heart stopped pounding about midway to let me to grab a peek at the scenery below. It was truly stunning, like something from a Bob Ross painting - happy little trees flanked by ribbons of snow, nary a cloud in the turquoise sky.
We had been having so much fun enjoying other attractions that skiing nearly escaped us. Still, you can't visit Park City, which is home to three major ski areas - Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley Resort and Canyons Resort - without hitting the slopes.
We were splurging at the Waldorf Astoria Park City, which offers direct gondola access to the more than 4,000 skiable acres at Canyons Resort, so that's where decided to spend our morning. Both novice skiers, we tend to enjoy an hour or two on the mountain before fatigue and hunger set in. More than once we've hit aprÈs-ski before it was probably appropriate to do so; we're OK with that.
After fastening my helmet I made my way down the run, the lessons of former ski instructors ("angle your skis like pizza to stop, like french fries to go") rushing through my head. A few more trips down the High Meadow run and I was in the groove, the feel of the snow beneath my skis and the wind against my cheeks completely invigorating.
Soon my stomach was starting to growl and the eager snowboarders who frequent the mountain seemed to be whirling around me like vultures. It was time to call it a day.
Food and fun
When you do decide to get off the slopes, you have no shortage of places to go. For our aprÈs-ski, we selected The Farm, which is located next to the Canyons "ski beach" and features locally sourced ingredients from farms within 200 miles of Park City. A couple of locally brewed IPAs and some chili-smothered thick-cut fries on the outside patio were the perfect rewards for our time on the slopes.
Another of my favorite adventures (of the culinary sort) occurred at High West Distillery and Saloon. Located in Old Town Park City, High West became the state's first distillery in the 1870s and has since transformed into a gastro-saloon as known for its food as it is its whiskey.
Start with a hand-crafted cocktail such as the Dead Man's Boots (High West Rendezvous Rye, tequila, fresh lime and ginger beer) before moving on to the menu that includes bacon-wrapped Delta Blue shrimp and whiskey-cider braised short ribs. For dessert: A Krispy Kreme and vanilla-whiskey ice cream concoction has to be one of the most delicious things I've ever tasted.
While you're in the area, take a walk down the charming Main Street, where boutiques such as Olive & Tweed and Prospect Youth and art-filled galleries such as Livin' Life and Lanny Barnard are sure to catch your eye.
The highlight of the trip, however, was most definitely the bobsled ride.
After we were fitted with helmets, we were seated in our bobsled and pushed out onto the ice. The next 50 seconds were both fast and brutally slow. With each passing curve - there are 15 - it became more difficult to keep my back straight, my neck bending forward as though I were an ostrich in search of sand at the bottom of the sled.
Eventually we jerked to a stop. I had concentrated so hard on staying in one position in the sled that it took me nearly a minute to get myself out. Patrick would discover eggplant-sized bruises on the sides of each of his arms, the result of bumping against the side of the sled at such speeds with such force.
In a post-ride picture the terror and relief are blended on my face into a look best described as bleary-eyed confusion. I probably won't be displaying that one on the mantel, but I wouldn't have missed the experience for anything. And, I didn't headbutt the driver.
IF YOU GO
Getting there: From Salt Lake City, Park City is about a 30-minute drive. Shuttles, taxis and rental cars are all available in Salt Lake City.
Stay: Waldorf Astoria Park City offers 174 luxury guest rooms and residences with direct access to Canyons Resort. Don't miss a signature treatment at the 16,000-square-foot Golden Door Spa. 435-647-5500; parkcitywaldorfastoria.com.
Equipment: Skis on the Run can provide all the gear you need to hit the slopes. 888-488-0744; skisontherun.com.
Utah Olympic Park: Enjoy a fascinating look at the 2002 Olympic Games and experience two free museums, facility tours, interactive displays and bobsled and skeleton rides. 435-658-4200; utaholympiclegacy.com.
Zip Tour Adventure at Canyons Resort: $50 for a three-line ride. 888-226-9667; canyonsresort.com.
General info: visitparkcity.com
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