The winding curves and steep grades on Blue Ridge Mountain Road (Route 601) in Clarke County instill a sense of caution in most people that travel the treacherous road, but for one group of extreme sport buffs it presented an opportunity for a thrill.
The road runs along the ridge line of Mount Weather and offers beautiful views drawing drivers and motorcyclists from all over the area who venture out for a scenic drive. However, on the weekend of November 13th, law enforcement officials responded to two serious accidents on Route 601. The Virginia State Police and Clarke County Sheriff’s office worked two separate motorcycle accidents one of which involved a fatality. While working the incidents, Clarke County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Thompson received two calls, one from an ambulance, the other from a tow truck driver, both of whom were called to the scene of the fatal accident, alerting police to a dangerous situation both drivers had witnessed.
The drivers reported seeing a group of people racing down the mountain on over-sized skate boards on Route 601 near Route 50. Deputy Thompson said he responded to the area and found a group of adults and one 17 year old, racing down the mountain engaged in a street luge. The extreme sport involves large boards with over-sized wheels mounted on skateboard trucks. Riders typically travel feet-first and can reach speeds in excess of 60 mph. Sanctioned races are held on closed courses that are inspected and have barriers installed at dangerous turns. However, the gathering that was discovered on the mountain was an extremely dangerous and illegal version of the sport.
Deputy Thompson described the scene, “The riders would start down hill and a vehicle would track behind the rider with their emergency flashers on.” The riders steer by leaning their board and brake with their feet. “This is highly dangerous and totally unsafe,” remarked Deputy Thompson.
Thompson collected the riders at the base of the hill and discovered that it is a known location for this type of event. Several of the riders said that they “do it all the time” and have never had a problem. Deputy Thompson spoke to the group at length about the dangers of the road, the reality of which was driven home by a fatal motorcycle crash only a short time before their illegal gathering.
No citation was written and Thompson said he felt like the message to the group was received loud and clear.
But, the street luge phenomenon appeared again that day only a short time later. This time just across the Clarke County line on Route 7 in Loudoun. A 911 call came in approximately three hours later that a group of lugers were racing down the busy stretch of eastbound Route 7. Thompson said the description sounded like it was a different group than the ones he had spoken to earlier in the day. However, there was no sign of the group when law enforcement arrived on scene.
The disturbing trend has been noted by the Sheriff’s office. Thompson said he intends to keep an eye on the mountain for dangerous activity based on the events of that tragic weekend.
The video below is in no way connected to the incident, but does demonstrate the type of activity encountered on the mountain.