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High-Speed Happiness

First you feel scared, but 75 seconds later you feel a rush of happiness. It all happens on St. Moritz's legendary natural ice run.

Knowing that in a few minutes you will shoot down an ice canal at about 135 km/h, your knees may go soft. Or, to be completely honest, you may feel a surge of fear. In situations like these, it's always nice to see that others are feeling just as anxious. With a bit of relief you can watch how some of the others waiting their turn start rattling on while others become more and more quiet; some laugh nervously while others seem highly focussed.

"Most people have a bit of a hard time coping with what lies ahead of them," Reto Götschi laughs. The 50-year old Swiss is a world champion and Olympic silver medallist in bobsledding. Ever since he ended his professional sports career in 2002, he pilots the bobsleigh for guest rides at the St. Moritz Olympia bob run. Even if he hasn't competed professionally in quite some time, it's comforting to know that this man was once the best bobber in the world. He also reassures us that it's not at all dangerous. And unlike on a rollercoaster, usually nobody feels sick, because only positive centrifugal forces are at work. The forces we will be exposed to can reach up to +4.5 g – not bad, compared to a maximum of +1.5g in a passenger plane!

The last and the largest

Opened in 1904, the Olympia Bob Run St. Moritz – Celerina is the oldest bob run still in use. It is also the last official naturally refrigerated run in the world. Built with approximately 15.000 m3 snow it is also the world's largest snow sculpture. "All these facts make up the charm of the run," Reto says and continues, "and because it is re-built every year, it also changes a bit each year."

We learn all this while we are waiting for our start number to appear on the screen, meaning we will be next. Meanwhile people arrive from the landing area below. We are relieved to see that they all look quite healthy. And happy. Some even seem a bit over the top. "I've been on several roller coasters", Sharon from Singapore gushes, "but there's no comparison. It's really fast and you can feel the g-force! It's so much fun. I'd do it again in a heartbeat!"

Off we go

Slowly excitement takes over any feeling of unease. Reto gives us final instructions (basically, all we have to do is get into the sleigh) and we put on our helmets. We move towards the starting line, but unlike real athletes, we don't have to push. The two of us sit behind Reto as we wait for the pusher to get the bob going and jump in. For the first few moments we still have time to take in the impressive track and then off we go.

It is difficult to describe what going 135 km/h in a bobsled feels like to someone who hasn't tried it. Attempting to lean into curves is futile, so we decide to just go with the flow and enjoy the rush. We shoot down steep curves, learn where the Devil's Dive got it's name from and how sensitively the bob reacts to the slightest bumps. In the Horse Shoe, a tight curve of more than 180°, we suddenly feel a few inches shorter. In other words: the g-force here literally compresses our bodies. After about 75 seconds the fun is over. With shaking legs we climb out of the bob and feel exceptionally good – thanks to the adrenaline rushing through our blood. We're happy to take a sip of the champagne we're handed alongside a certificate of our "bobtism". We can wholeheartedly agree when Reto says: "In the end, all our guests are happy!"

Text: Matthias Köb //
Photos: Walter Oberbramberger //

Dec. 16, 2016

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