• Nick Zacharias

Don’t be afraid to be called a luger


PHOTO BY NICK ZACHARIAS

A helmet and a sense of adventure, along with a thin coating of ice, are all that’s needed to help your kids get into the Olympic spirit.

This winter has had some wild temperature fluctuations, but what hasn’t changed is that here in Quebec, snow and ice still weave their influence on the landscape for about half the year. Since finding ways to have fun outside when the mercury drops is key to actually enjoying the winter months, many of us do just that - whether it’s cross-country skiing on a groomed trail or snowshoeing through the back woods, skating outdoors with the kids, downhill skiing or just taking the dog for a walk. But for those inspired by Team Canada’s recent glories in PyeongChang on the Bobsleigh and Luge front, why not build your own backyard luge track?

It isn’t as hard as many might think. Backyard ice rinks are as Canadian as, well, winter, and that’s a time-honoured tradition going back as far as the invention of the ice skate. So what’s so different about a track? It requires no more than the most basic of equipment, really a shovel and a hose is all you need to get started, and even the slightest of inclines in the yard can be transformed into a mini-Olympic playground.

So how do you do it? First of all, start small. Think like the kids sliding down a snow pile and see where it leads you. A strategically placed pile of snow at the highest point of the yard will give you a good launch pad.

The next thing is to plan, plan, plan. The layout of the yard will dictate which course you take, so take some time to figure out where you want your turns to be, where and how you want the run to end (keeping in mind to avoid running the track straight towards that big old tree in the corner of the lot) and how steep your launch ramp needs to be. A couple of kids with a rope can be enlisted to make a giant human compass to trace out the curves (one stands still holding the rope at a central point, while another walks with the other end in hand and stamps out a path).

Once the path is traced out, it’s just a matter of shovelling snow along the lines to build up some walls, smoothing them out with the back of the shovel, and then spraying the whole thing down with the hose to build up some ice (tip: an old hair dryer will come in handy if you need to thaw out a frozen tap on the side of the house). It doesn’t take much water; several short passes with the sprayer on a “mist” setting on a cold day will build up a thick layer of ice much faster than a heavy soaking. And with a winter like this year’s, freezing rain actually does a lot of the work.

Once the track is iced up and you’ve done a few test runs for safety, all the kids have to do is slap on a helmet (really, do not skip the helmet), grab a sled and let the Olympic dreams begin!

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