Even for those like me, normally the hardiest of skiers, it’s nice to spend a day off the downhill slopes while visiting Park City. I know that time away from the lifts allows me to enjoy other attractions that I cannot find back home.
So how about learning a bit about our Olympic legacy and trying a sport like bobsledding?
In Your Bucket Because…
- You can create your own Olympic experience
- It’s fun to learn about the heritage of the winter Olympics
- Outdoor activities for visitors who want a break from downhill skiing
The 2002 winter Olympics contributed various permanent structures to the landscape at Utah in and near Park City. including a bobsled run, two very high ski-jumping platforms, a cross-country ski center, a speed skating oval, and a museum dedicated to U.S. western winter Olympic history.
America’s Winter Olympic Legacy Museum
I love the fact that the museum bears the name of Alf Engen, someone many current skiers may not recognize. A Norwegian-born ski pioneer who held numerous titles in U.S. ski jumping before World War II, Engen was a director of the ski school at Alta, Utah and helped to found many other alpine ski areas in the American West.
The museum has memorabilia from the 2002 games and earlier. A fun life-sized poster let you pretend you are an Olympian by poking your head through a slot on top of the action body of a downhill racer; there are also interactive exhibits where you test your skill on a slalom run.
Bobsledding at the Olympic Park
One of the facilities located close to the museum is the Utah Olympic Park, situated near the entrance to Park City closest to the Interstate from Salt Lake City. During the winter, the most compelling activity is the bobsled ride. It is open to all participants over the age of 16 who meet health requirements. It is one thrilling – and scary, for many first timers. The four-person bobsled is guided by a professional driver.
I have ridden the bobsled once, luckily as the second rider behind the driver. (The person in the back is apt to feel like he or she is the biggest ice cube being tumbled in a gigantic blender.) The sound of the “winter comet” as it is known, is a roar once it gets going, even though each rider is protected by a huge helmet.
If that’s not enough, you can also try sliding down a track head first on the “Winter Rocket Skeleton Ride.” Happily for novices, you are taught how to maneuver this minimal sled before you start down the last four turns of the icy skeleton track.
Beckoning speed skaters and recreational figure skaters is the nearby Utah Olympic Oval. Originally the place where 100 world records were set, it is now a community recreational site. Yes, world-class speed skating races take place annually, but the Oval also provides learning programs for aspiring figure skaters, speed skaters, hockey players and more.
Solitude – with occasional shooting – at Soldier Hollow
At a different location, closer to Midway, Utah, there is Soldier Hollow, the attractive cross country skiing resort. It was the site of the 2002 Olympic Nordic and biathlon events. Cross-country skis, shoes and poles are available for rental. I have loved the solitude of its miles of groomed Nordic trails, a very different kind of skiing than downhill. Those who don’t want to try this gentle form of sliding can rent snowshoes at Soldier Hollow. Want to become a temporary biathlete? You can even sign up in advance for biathlon lessons… as long as you don’t mind lying down in the snow to shoot.
- Utah Olympic Park is open daily 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. throughout the winter. Admission to the museum and the displays are free.
- A bobsled ride is $200. A Skeleton ride is $50. There are special combination passes for both adults and youths.
- The Olympic Oval houses facilities for all levels of skaters. Contact the Oval for details on admission, lessons and rentals.
- Soldier Hollow is open daily throughout the winter, snow conditions permitting. It is separate from the Olympic Park and Olympic Oval with separate rates. Contact Soldier Hollow for more information.