Ready to shriek, rattle and roll

7th February 1997 at 00:00
David Henderson takes a ride in a thrilling high speed bob-raft and is justly rewarded with a certificate for bravery.

Music and sport are graceful companions. Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean sought the magic of the Bolero to strike Olympic gold and the odd symphony is essential to make any splash of synchronised swimming.

But bobsleigh is different. If there is any associated musical theme it is nothing less than an old-fashioned Jerry Lee Lewis "shake, rattle and roll". It is wild, exciting, bumpy and speedy when you are hurtling down the ice at 80kmph.

You bank off a turn, almost vertical, are thrown into the next, reversing your vertical posture as the whish of the raft's runners gives a clue to your speed off the ice walls.

Involuntary shrieking adds to the experience which flashes by before you know it. The upper-crust British chaps who invented the sport way back in glitzy St Moritz were definitely not rockers and rollers though they might just welcome the chance their compatriots now have to enjoy the thrills they experienced.

The legacy of the 1992 Olympics in the Savoie region of France is a bobsleigh track at La Plagne, regularly used for competition and now for British skiers looking for another piece of winter action. Any school group in the area might want to give it a try. It is, after all, a very British thing to do.

Dangerous? Not any more, it appears, than other winter activities or a day at Alton Towers in the fun fair. Thrilling? Yip. A once in a lifetime thing to do? Yip.

Andre Broche, director of the La Plagne 1,500-metre track, has devised the self-drive "bob-rafts" for public use, replicating the excitement of bobsleigh, but at reduced speeds and greater safety. The heavily cushioned rafts begin at the top of the official cours - without the usual push off and jump in - and steer themselves down the frozen walls before running out safely one minute and 30 seconds later.

Accompanied children over the height of 1.5m (5ft) can have a go with parental consent. A mark on the door to the track measures their height. The bob-raft holds four people, all helmeted and strapped in. It costs 175 francs per person (about Pounds 20) and runs until the end of February. The warm spring weather after that puts an end to the season.

The track is only open under the floodlights after 4.30pm and from Tuesday to Sunday. A lorry takes you and your raft back to the start where a certificate will testify to your bravery.

Details from the resort's UK representatives: Erna Low Consultants. Tel: 0171 584 2841

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