Alpine skiing we can do. Ditto hockey. But bobsledding? Ski jumping? Some winter sports seem about as accessible as Dick Cheney. But getting started in these cold-weather exotics is easier than you think, and you can do it at some of the best facilities in the world.
EZ Ski50: Percentage of U.S. population just a two-and-a-half-hour flight from Salt Lake City 50: Percentage of Colorado ski resorts within 35 miles of an airport 82: Number of daily domestic nonstop flights to Reno, Nevada, an hour’s drive from 15 Tahoe-area resorts
Training Center, Lake Placid, New York
Prerequisites: A medical clearance form signed by your doctor
Participants in this three-day camp take to the ice immediately after arriving, hone their techniques on the second day, and race on the third. Price
includes food and lodging at the Olympic Training Center, gear, and instruction from Olympic and national-team coaches.
Hit 55 miles per hour in a 300-pound sled on the new half-mile of banked turns that served as the course for the 2002 Goodwill Games. 518-523-1842, www.usbsf.com
Where: Howelsen Ski Area, Steamboat Springs, Colorado
When: Tuesdays, 6–8 p.m., January–March
Prerequisites: Ability to ski blue runs confidently
Tuesday night is the only time the jumps are open to the general public. Wannabe fliers start out with a ten-minute orientation from park staff (keep those tips up!), then you’re on your own. Price includes orientation and lift ticket. Bring your own gear (alpine or telly is fine), including helmet. Want more? The staff can connect you with local coaches who charge about $60 per hour.
Howelsen’s seven jumps, ranging from a ten-meter ramp (think hucking off a tool shed) to World Cup–
worthy 100- and 127-meter runways, have produced 47 Olympians. 970-879-0695, www.sswsc.org
Where: Olympic Oval, Kearns, Utah
Admission covers speed-skate rental and 90 minutes of open skating. For an extra $25, you can
reserve an hour of personal instruction, generally from national- or regional-team coaches, who will explain how to skate low, improve glide, and do crossover turns.
The playground: Built for the 2002 Winter Games and home to the U.S. national team, the 400-meter Utah Olympic Oval has the best ice this side of Tiffany’s. And it’s all just 20 minutes from Salt Lake City. 801-968-6825, www.olyparks.com
Where: Bemidji Curling Club, Bemidji, Minnesota
Prerequisites: Must like bowling and brooms
Curling is the only sport listed here that mixes safely with beer, and newbies can learn the basics—strategy, sweeping, etiquette—in about the time it takes to drink one. Lessons, from club manager and U.S. men’s Olympic coach Bob
Fenson, include rocks, shoe covers, and brooms.
Bemidji’s six 150-foot-long indoor sheets of ice have produced 27 U.S. champions and are the training ground for both the men’s and women’s Olympic teams. The in-house lounge is home to dozens of enthusiastic spectators. 218-751-1123, www.bemidjicurling.org