RIDGEFIELD — Brett West is going to have to do something about
parking if he expects to host the next Winter Olympics.
But for now, the 38-year-old entrepreneur and Cub Scout leader
will be satisfied with operating one of only four luge courses in
the United States, a distinction that places Ridgefield in an
elite group of communities along with Lake Placid, N.Y., Salt Lake
City, Utah, and "someplace in upper Michigan” whose name escaped
The luge track, complete with an automatic icing system and lights
for night-time riding, was erected on his West Mountain Road
property for Cub Scout Pack 124’s first Winter Carnival on
"This is just another one of his crazy ideas,” said West’s son,
8-year-old Tucker, shaking off the chill of another exhilarating
trip down the 363-foot run.
John P. Lawson
Tucker West, 8, speeds down the luge
track at his Ridgefield home.
Some 110 scouts and their families, altogether an estimated 350
people, will descend on the site for the day-long carnival.
Although teams from the various dens will compete in a number of
events, such as broomball and ice sculpting, it’s a safe bet that
a ride on the luge will be the highlight of the carnival for most
of the youngsters.
Joan Ruark, Pack 124’s publicity chairwoman, admitted she thought
the idea "very ambitious, but a bit crazy” when West raised it
some time ago.
In previous years, West, who was born near Lake Placid and moved
to Ridgefield in 1991, built sled runs through his property for
his family, including 6-year-old daughter Tatum and wife Pam, to
But after too many days of shoveling and packing the snow into
curves, banks and straightaways that were undone by sudden thaws,
he opted for something more durable.
He took a trip back to Lake Placid to study the design of the
course and brought those ideas back to Ridgefield.
With help from other parents and the Scouts, construction on the
run began Labor Day weekend and was completed by Thanksgiving.
Built from pressure-treated lumber, which West said should provide
four to five years of service, the course is basically a narrow
wooden trench, sheathed in ice, through which the competitors ride
on their backs on one-man plastic toboggans.
Tucker West was the first human to complete a trip through the
course, after extensive tests involving a bowling ball and
50-pound sandbag. He called it "the ride of my life.”
A skilled rider can complete the course in a shade more than 15
seconds. All the riders wear helmets, and so far, no one has
plunged off the course, largely because of the attention paid to
Non-skid carpet material attached to the front of the sleds serves
as a brake.
"You put your weight on the back if you want to go faster and put
your weight on the front if you want to slow down,” said Patrick
Maguire, 8, another member of the Cub Scout pack.
The icing system consists of misting sprinklers set atop 6-foot
wooden towers and fed by garden hoses. A blast of compressed air
clears the lines after each use, avoiding freeze-ups. The system
is unique among luge courses. Even the Olympic runs in New York
and Salt Lake City are watered by hand, and only Lake Placid’s
also has lights, West said.
The run also breaks down into 8-foot sections for storage during
warm weather months.
West is already considering some alterations to the course for
next year’s carnival.
He wants to make it even longer and improve the finish area, which
now consists of a stack of hay bales.
"You have to have some winter activities to make it through the
cold weather,” West said. "I was ready to move south before this.”