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Olympic-style luge is a labour of love for outdoors fans (6 photos)

'We’re never too old to play, regardless of what kind of play it is,' says Krista Storey in explaining the reasoning behind building unique adventure in her backyard

Two local people, known for their creativity and thoughtful expression, share an unlikely obsession that is helping them ride out the pandemic and enjoy the winter season.

Krista Storey works as the manager of arts and culture for the Town of Gravenhurst and is a passionate supporter of live music and performance. She has also become known for her love of nature through her recent chronicle of how she rescued and cared for a disabled monarch butterfly.

Zachary Lucky is a singer-songwriter known for his honest and soulful storytelling with a style that has been compared to Gordon Lightfoot and Kris Kristofferson.

Accustomed to being on tour, performing all across Canada and beyond, Lucky has transitioned into a full-time dad as his career has been unexpectedly put on hold during the pandemic, like so many performers.

Who would think that a compassionate butterfly caregiver and an earnest troubadour would become risk-taking speedsters to get through the winter.

Both Storey and Lucky have taken their creative energy and turned it into the creation of Olympic-style playgrounds in their backyards – and a place where they each get to unwind, have fun and just play.

For the past six years, Storey has built herself a luge (sled) track from her backyard deck that winds into the woods behind her house. But this year she has upped her game by building a second, longer run at the edge of the Severn Township homestead, where she lives with her husband, Jim, and teenage sons, Adam and Harrison.

“This year, with our sons home because of the pandemic, I was able to enlist their help to build a second run,” explained Storey. Although both of her sons were keen to help their mom build the luge run, it’s really Storey who enjoys getting up to 18 km/hour speeding down the track.

“It can get a bit dangerous,” said Storey, “but, you know, you’ve gotta spice it up a bit.”

Storey explained that her backyard sledding is a way for her to get outside after work, be active and have fun. “It’s such a release,” she said, “and it’s getting in touch with my inner child. You will rarely see me coming down that hill without a huge smile on my face!”

Lucky discovered the joy of building and running a luge course last winter. The family backyard is already on a bit of a slope, so a hockey rink was out of the question. This year, he expanded on the initial design and has built an elaborate 160-foot luge course, complete with banked sides and hairpin turns.

In Lucky’s case, it has also been a family affair, with his partner Mary Katherine Charters offering design suggestions, and their two daughters, Ida-May, 5 and Frances, 2 testing out the runs with their saucer sleds.

“This is a way for us to get outside. It’s something I would have loved as a kid,” added Lucky, who spends time every day maintaining the course.

“I like a challenge and once I start something, I really get into it,” said Lucky. "Last year, I discovered that using a garden pump to water the track worked really well; I’m always working on improvements. It’s a lot of work, but it’s my time to relax. It’s my zen time when I come out here in the evening.”

The “Nottawasaga Luge Centre” as Lucky has branded it, was a huge hit with the neighbourhood last year, with many nearby families coming over to enjoy the fun. “Our backyard became the centre for sliding fun and bonfire get-togethers,” said Lucky.

This year, with the restrictions brought about by the pandemic, the backyard action is a bit quieter but the response by neighbours has been the development of their own backyard luge tracks.

“There are three or four I know about on the street,” said Lucky. “Not as elaborate as this though,” he laughed.

For both Lucky and Storey, the number one motivator for developing their backyard luge runs, and the continual work they do to maintain them, is the opportunity to get outside.

“I want to be a good example to the boys,” said Storey. “And show them that you don’t have to rely on Netflix and sitting in front of a screen to be entertained.” She says they both love being outside, doing their own thing; whether making snowmobile trails, tinkering with a go-kart or designing a compost bin.

Storey says she hopes she has inspired others as well and shares her luge adventures on social media, as Lucky does as well, with his Instagram (nottawasagalugecentre) posts.

“We’re never too old to play, regardless of what kind of play it is,” says Storey. “Just do it, whatever you have fun doing. This is how I have fun.”