Markdale family's backyard luge track a labour of love

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The Lantz family’s luge track at their Markdale home is a lockdown luxury.

Every winter for the past five years, Brady Lantz has sculpted the snow on part of the family’s six-acre property into a speedway. This year, the creation is over 200 feet long by his estimation and slaloms between the trees.

There is a timber-frame starting house at the beginning of the track with a seven-foot-tall ramp of snow descending into the woods.

Brady Lantz’s work on the luge track begins before the first snowfall each of the past five years with the construction of the starting house. The timber structure serves as a ramp to build up speed for the rest of the track. Lantz said he tries to improve the course each year. Photo supplied.
Brady Lantz’s work on the luge track begins before the first snowfall each of the past five years with the construction of the starting house. The timber structure serves as a ramp to build up speed for the rest of the track. Lantz said he tries to improve the course each year. Photo supplied.

Lantz even strings lights in the trees following the track’s path so it is usable at night.

The Lantz family children, Carter, 8, and Ryleigh, 5, along with mom Shannon are the luge track’s regular riders.

The neighbours have popped over a few times, but with the provincial lockdown in place for most of the prime snowfall, it’s mostly been a family activity.

“They love it, they always look forward to it,” Lantz said.

Brady Lantz lights a trail through the trees of his six-acre property so the family can use the luge track at night. Photo supplied.
Brady Lantz lights a trail through the trees of his six-acre property so the family can use the luge track at night. Photo supplied.

It started as little more than a built-up snow hill five years ago.

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“And it just took off from there,” Lantz said. “It just keeps getting a little better each year.”

The yard doesn’t have a significant natural slope, Lantz said, so the starting ramp at the top of the track helps carry the rider’s momentum to the bottom. Other than that, it’s a lot of back-breaking shovel work to build up the track.

He estimates he’s logged over 500 hours of work into the project, all told.

“It’s never really finished either,” he said. “If I can get enough speed to go a little bit farther I’ll make it a little farther.”

There are tips to the trade as well.

The Lantz family likes to use the inflatable tubes as their launching apparatus of choice. The tubes don’t go as fast with fresh snow, however, and when it’s really cold the tubes lose air.

“When it gets to like -5 C to -6 C the tubes seem to work the best,” Lantz said. “You can get some pretty good speed.”

Carter (left) and Ryleigh Lantz (right) get a helpful push from mom Shannon Lantz at the top of their 200-plus foot luge track built in the yard of their Markdale home. Photo supplied.
Carter (left) and Ryleigh Lantz (right) get a helpful push from mom Shannon Lantz at the top of their 200-plus foot luge track built in the yard of their Markdale home. Photo supplied.

A lot of shovelling goes into the track construction and maintenance. Lantz made a concrete darby-like tool that he pulls along the track to flatten the snow as well.

He shovels up the sides of the track to create the lip and uses a toboggan to smooth everything off.

He’ll switch up the track’s layout sometimes, although he regrets his decision-making process this year.

“Last year was probably the best. I’m kicking myself this year because I made a change and now we lose a little speed at the bottom,” he said. “It’s never really the same. I like to change it up to see if we can get a little farther each year.”

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There’s also been time to experiment over the years.

“I don’t flood mine, because we found that when we flood it the little ice crystals seem to rip holes in the tubes,” he said. “Most people flood their tracks and use toboggans and stuff, but I just pack everything down and I find that’s the best way to smooth everything off.”

He had some advice for those looking to build their own luge tracks and make the best of what’s left of the winter season.

“Find help,” Lantz laughed. “No, it’s just everybody is going to have different ideas and different ways of doing it.”

His mind is already racing thinking about next year’s approach.

“There are some dead trees I should cut down, so maybe that opens up something new,” he said.

Carter (left) and Ryleigh Lantz fly down the 200-plus foot luge track in the backyard of their family’s Markdale home. Photo supplied.
Carter (left) and Ryleigh Lantz fly down the 200-plus foot luge track in the backyard of their family’s Markdale home. Photo supplied.

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