There’s a moment, when you’re standing at the top of the 90-meter ski jump at Calgary’s Olympic Park tethered to a steel cable, when you ask yourself, “What am I doing?”
And it is at that instant, when you look to your right, and see your eight-year-old daughter — also tethered to a steel cable – that you think, “If she’s about to take the the leap, how bad can it be?”
In a place like Calgary, Alberta on the edge of Canada’s western frontier, you discover the answer to those questions quickly. For us, the answers were: “We’re looking for adventure” and “Pretty bad, actually.”
Or maybe I should say good.
The cable is part of North America’s fastest zipline course. It’s actually three separate runs — a practice course, near the bottom of the hill; a medium course, farther up, and the piece de resistance, a terrifying drop off of the now defunct Olympic ski jump, where you can reach speeds of up to 125 km an hour or about 80 miles per hour.
My daughter, Erysse, pushed off the ledge without hesitation and dropped down the ramp screaming with delight. She deployed her parachute about three quarters of the way down the run, before coming to a sudden halt at the end of the line.
“That’s awesome!” she exclaimed.
I, on the other hand, was crying when I came to a grinding halt, crying with relief that we had survived the terrifying drop.
But I agree with her. It was awesome.
If adrenaline is your thing, then head on over to the luge course, also at the Olympic Park. There, you can plunge down a simulated luge track on a go-kart-like contraption.
These asphalt luges use gravity to pull you down the course. But beware: If you don’t steer it correctly, you could wipe out as my son Aren did, spectacularly.
We got the whole thing on video. Here it is.
Calgary’s edginess is also on display at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. Now, if you’re not Canadian, you might be tempted to skip this museum. Don’t. The Hall of Fame has some of the most clever interactive exhibits I’ve ever seen. One of our favorites was the Be Your Own Broadcaster booth, which allows you to narrate an Olympic event play by play. We discovered our kids are standup comics.
My middle son, Iden, also practiced his quads on a virtual ice rink, thanks to an interactive display that lets you feel what it’s like to be a figure skater.
Calgary was our second-to-last stop on a cross-country road trip through Canada. The next phase of our journey was a six-hour crossing of the Canadian Rockies.
And there, in the mountains, we discovered Calgary’s edginess extended into the rest of the province. At our final stop in Alberta, just before crossing the provincial border into British Columbia, we found ourselves in the town of Banff for lunch.
We’d skied here before, during the winter, but in the late summer, Banff looks and feels different.
Don’t get me wrong, it was still snowing, as it was during our previous visit. But instead of the sharp edges of skis and snowboards to contend with, we were more aware of the wildlife — wolves, moose, and bear.
During the colder months, sightings are more rare, as many of these animals hibernate or hide from the elements. But at this time of year, we saw lots of wildlife, especially wolves.
The province of Alberta has one of the catchiest tourism slogans we know: Feel the energy. In our case, we felt that, but we also felt the edge. To our family, Western Canada is unexplored country, and it beckons us to come back every time we visit. We find its call irresistible.
Just as the burst of adrenaline I got from sliding down an Olympic ski jump had a certain addictive quality to it, you’ll find you want to go again. You know you will.