Going for the gold
Want to know what it’s like to ski like Bode Miller, snowboard like Ross Powers, bobsled like Vonetta Flowers or speedskate like Casey FitzRandolph?Forget about it. You’d have to train for years to come close to those 2002 Olympians.But if you just want to check out the venues where they grabbed so much glory in Utah last February, that’s another matter.Ski Utah is promoting a self-guided tour of Utah’s 2002 Winter Olympic venues, from the death-defying Grizzly downhill run at Snowbasin ski area to the long-track speedskating oval in Salt Lake City. The venues are open to the public and the centerpiece of the state’s efforts to cash in on post-Olympic publicity and rebound from soft skier numbers last season.”We want to constantly remind people of the Olympics and make Utah and Salt Lake City the winter sports capital of the world,” says Ski Utah spokesman Nathan Rafferty. “We need to keep that awareness level up in the minds of skiers and snowboarders.”That means Ski Utah’s 13 member resorts are highly motivated to offer deals to entice people back to what many consider the best skiing on the planet, Rafferty says.The Olympic stay-away factor, 9/11 travel fears and the sagging economy conspired for a 9-percent drop in state skier days last season, but Rafferty says skiers and snowboarders wanting to check out Olympic race courses and halfpipes, as well as loyal Utah skiers returning to the fold, should reverse that trend this season.He says there is currently no overall Olympic venue package deal being offered, but that individual resorts are being very aggressive.”Because all the venues are so accessible, you can almost call any ski package to Salt Lake City an Olympic venue package,” Rafferty says, noting that there are seven ski resorts in the Wasatch Mountains within 45 minutes of downtown Salt Lake. For lodging deals and ski packages, call 800-SKI-UTAH or click on the “Hot Deals” button on http://www.skiutah.com.Here are the highlights of Ski Utah’s self-guided Olympic tour: Snowbasin’s Grizzly and Wildflower downhill runs. The starting areas of the men’s and women’s downhill and super-G runs, at about 9,200 feet, are hair-raising 70-degree pitches that sends skiers on a 3,000-foot ride down the mountain 40 miles north of Salt Lake.Vail’s Lindsey Kildow, whose sixth-place finish in the women’s combined (slalom and downhill) Feb. 14 was the best result for an American woman in alpine ski racing at the 2002 Games, says recreational skiers should beware of the start.”That was the hardest downhill I’ve ever done, because of the terrain,” Kildow says of her Olympic run on Wildflower. “It’s a little advanced on the top section; in the beginning part there’s quite a big pitch. But after that it’s pretty fun and its not too advanced on the bottom part.”Call 888-437-5488. Hitting the superpipe. From gold medalists Kelly Clark to Ross Powers, some of America’s most glorious moments of the Games came in the Park City superpipe. Just a half hour drive from Salt Lake, Park City has painstakingly recreated its 400-foot snowboard pipe, with its 17-foot-high walls and 17-degree pitch. The town’s historic Main Street was also the party epicenter of the Games. Call 800-222-PARK or click on http://www.parkcitymountain.com. A day in the park. While you’re there, check out the Utah Olympic Park, the venue for Olympic bobsled, luge, skeleton and Nordic jumping events. For $7 for adults, $5 for youths and seniors and $3 for children, you can tour the ski jumps, bobsled runs and the new Joe Quinney Winter Sports Center and Alf Engen Ski Museum. For an additional charge, sign up for a one-day learn-to bobsled, luge or skeleton clinic, taught by a certified coach or possibly an Olympian.”You’re not going 80 (mph), but probably close to 60, and your chin will be three inches off the ice,” says Frank Zang, spokesman for the Utah Athletic Foundation, which runs the park. He adds that the Olympic venues are still very much in use by world-class athletes, including World Cups in luge (Nov. 23-24), bobsled (Nov. 29-30) and skeleton (Nov. 30).Call 435-658-4208 or click on http://www.utahathleticfoundation.com. Dinner Roll, anyone? Try to pull off freestyle mogul skier Jonny Moseley’s famous "Dinner Roll" move while pounding the bumps on Deer Valley Resort’s Champion run. And check out the World Championships of freestyle at the resort, Jan. 29-Feb. 2. Call 800-558-3337. Skinny ski like a star. Opening Dec. 14, Soldier Hollow, about an hour from Salt Lake City, was the site of the cross-country and biathlon events. Wasatch Mountain State Park includes 16 miles of ski trails, a new day lodge, snowshoe trails and a 1,000-meter tubing hill. Call 435-654-2002 for rates. The fastest ice on Earth. The Olympic Speed Skating Oval in Kearns, a Salt Lake City suburb, is open to the public for skating, clinics and lessons. At 4,675 feet, the altitude makes for some of the speediest skating on the planet, underscored by 10 Olympic records and 8 world records. Public skating is available on the 400-meter oval five days a week for $4 for adults, $3 for children and $2 for skate rentals. Call 801-968-6825 or click on http://www.utahathleticfoundation.com. Sweeping the nation. Lesson or demonstrations of the ancient Scottish game of curling (sweeping stones on a sheet of ice) are available in Ogden at the Ice Sheet. Click on http://www.utahcurling.com.