Virtual reality comes to the Alf Engen Ski Museum
January 15, 2016
Have you ever dreamt of ski-flying off the rocky edge of Mount Superior? How about zooming down the high-speed bobsled track? Or maybe you’d rather land a Nordic ski jump to the applause of an Olympic crowd? Thanks to the new virtual reality exhibits at the Alf Engen Ski Museum of Utah Olympic Park, anyone can experience the most thrilling winter sports. The newest additions to the museum’s vast collection are a fun, interactive way to get visitors excited about winter in the Wasatch.
The museum’s virtual reality rides are keeping Alf Engen’s legacy alive by redefining how we experience winter sports. Engen, the "father of powder skiing," not only helped to establish 31 ski areas in the United States (including Alta and Snow Basin) but also set Olympic ski jumping records in the 1930s. What began as a collection of Engen’s trophies and memorabilia, has become an "interactive collection of snow sports’ exciting history," says museum executive director Connie Nelson.
"We want visitors to interact with everything," says Nelson, who is especially excited to share the museum’s newest Quad Chair Experience with visitors. It’s a lift chair unlike any you’ve ridden before that first takes a spiraling ride down the Olympic Park’s bobsled track. With GoPro footage from the front of a bobsled, you experience every 65 mph turn — minus the five Gs of force that accompany the real deal.
Next up, prepare your parachute to launch off the rocky cliffs of Little Cottonwood Canyon. With video from local Marshall Miller’s ski-flying adventure, you feel every gust of wind whip the parachute as you play ski-hopscotch down the spine of the 11,132-ft Mount Superior.
The final Quad Chair simulation is a cruisey ski run in deep powder. An ode to Alf Engen’s love of powder, the footage takes you floating through the pillowy pines of Alta, ending with a tumbling wipeout, complete with a real blast of fluffy "snow."
If you’re still craving some virtual entertainment, the Olympic ski jump simulation is a fun way to practice your ski-skills. A wobbly foot pad tests your balance to replicate the feeling of flying with long Nordic skis. The spandex-clad virtual ski jumpers of the exhibit look very different than the ski jumpers of Park City’s past.
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Beyond the simulations, museum-goers can travel back in time to the 1920s and 30s, when Ecker Hill, (near the site of the today’s Ecker Hill Middle School), was the biggest ski jumping attraction in Utah. Every weekend, cars full of Salt Lake locals would fight their way up the canyon to watch the Engen brothers rocket off Ecker Hill, soaring as far as 296 feet, sometimes 30 – 40 feet above ground.
Although few of us will ever parachute-ski or steer a bobsled, everyone is welcome to pretend at the Alf Engen Ski Museum. blending today’s technology with the spirit of Park City’s original ski pioneers, the Alf Engen Ski Museum creates a truly unique experience for visitors of all ages.
The Alf Engen Ski Museum at the Utah Olympic Park on State Road 224 near Kimball Junction is open daily from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Admission to the exhibits is free. Tickets for the virtual reality activities are $5.
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