John F. Russell: Taking the plunge |

John F. Russell: Taking the plunge

You expect to find ski jumps in places like Steamboat Springs, Lake Placid, N.Y., and Calgary.

But they’re not the type of thing you expect to see while vacationing in Orlando, Fla. There is no snow there, but thanks to Mickey Mouse and company, a ski jump called the Summit Plummet is in the heart of the Blizzard Beach water park.

For the price of admission, thrill-seekers can climb a countless number of stairs (well, at least too many for me to count) or ride a low-speed chairlift from the base of the water park to the top of the “jump.”

Once you reach the top, wearing nothing more than swim trunks, you lower yourself into a pool of rushing water and hold onto a bar until the lifeguard – who is wearing a winter jacket to shield her from February’s sub-70 degree temperatures (maybe 65 with the wind chill) – gives you the go-ahead. Once you let go of the bar, it only takes a second or two to get to the bottom.

It’s not exactly the same ride ski jumpers take in our mountain town, but it’s as close as most of us will ever get without signing a waiver.

Disney created the 120-foot-high slide to look just like a ski jump. The façade makes it appear – at least from the bottom of the hill – that the rider will slide down the face and get launched into the air before landing with a splat somewhere near the Lottawatta Lodge. The lodge is a great place to get those Mickey Mouse-shaped chicken nuggets or an over-priced hamburger, but it wouldn’t be the best place to land a ski jump. Quite simply, there’s too much concrete.

Luckily, the rider actually drops into a steep slide that runs under the jump façade. The only way to reach the lodge is by walking after you get off the ride. Not a bad idea for those of use who planned to eat funnel cake after our meal.

It’s too bad riders can’t take flight, but the cool thing is that you can top out at 55 mph before reaching the bottom. That’s similar to the speed many ski jumpers reach on their in-run.

Less than a week ago, I was among several thousand people (a slow day at the park) who were enjoying the rides at Blizzard Beach – a water park designed to look like a melting ski area. It’s a fun theme, or a dire prediction, depending on how you view global warming.

I can’t explain why I spent a vacation day in a place that reminded me of snow and cold except to say that Blizzard Beach is a lotta fun in the watta. The truth is that the Summit Plummet is just another thrill ride, but that wet slide gives us all a chance to feel like a jumper, if only for a few seconds.

– To reach John F. Russell, call 871-4209 or e-mail

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