No time for a quick jaunt to Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games? Make your gold medal dreams a reality with these Olympic sport experiences stateside, where you can glide in champions’ skates for the cost of admission. Then catch the competition on TV fireside with a cocktail at one of our favorite nearby hotels. Beats the crowds and a 12-hour plane ride any day.
Utah Olympic Park, Park City, UT
Built for the 2002 Winter Olympics, this 389-acre sports park in Park City is chock-full of facilities (imagine a 750,000-gallon summer aerial training pool) and also serves as a training center for U.S. athletes. But while the medal hopefuls are in Sochi, you can raid their stomping grounds and take over the six Nordic ski jumps. Or get behind a pilot and race 80 miles per hour with more than five times the force of gravity down the Comet Bobsled Olympic track. Want to try a solo ride? Head for the sport of skeleton on the Rocket Skeleton ride, where you’ll steer your own sled down the Olympic track. At the indoor Utah Olympic Oval, lace up for the 400-meter speed skating oval or two international size hockey rinks. The biggest challenge? Keeping your eyes on the ice with the architecturally daring clear span suspension roof (designed with masts and cables, similar to a bridge).
Hitting the slopes couldn’t be easier with the dedicated ski valets found at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The St. Regis Deer Valley. The valets are on hand to satisfy your every whim, from rentals to a libation on the private “ski beach” overlooking Park City. After your snowy workout, relax in the split-level heated infinity pool with views of the Wasatch and Uinta mountains. If you’re there February 9, don’t miss the five-course Russian-themed tasting menu at The St. Regis Bar. While you dine on warm beet borscht with vodka crème fraîche and dill, and spaetzle stroganoff, Olympic medalist Shannon Bahrke will be there to offer insider perspective on televised Sochi events, including ladies’ speed skating and snowboarding as well as men’s downhill and ski jumping.
Another lodging option is Stein Eriksen Lodge Deer Valley. With ski-in/ski-out access to Deer Valley Resort, the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel is steeped in Olympic history. Named after the famed Norwegian gold medal skier, the luxury property is suitable for those who prefer vacations on the warmer side, too, with a 23,000-square-foot spa complete with oxygen therapy and a Nordic detox cocoon wrap.
Lake Placid, N.Y.
With the greatest vertical drop east of the Rockies, it’s no wonder this Adirondack region’s gorgeous town is a two-time host of the Winter Olympics (1932 and 1980). For $32, an Olympic Sites Passport admits the bearer to all of the games’ historic sites. For speed demons, the Olympic Sports Complex nearby has a nearly milelong combined bobsled, luge and skeleton track, with a 400-foot drop down Mt. Van Hoevenberg. Non-Olympians ride half the track with a professional pilot and brakeman. Or lace up at the Olympic Center’s Speed Skating Oval (the site of Eric Heiden’s five gold medal wins in 1980), open to the public to test your best twirls, jumps and dances. True Olympic buffs must try a lesson in biathlon, which combines cross-country skiing and target shooting, or skeleton, sliding down a track facedown at 30 miles per hour, with your chin inches from the ice.
A resort that defines rustic luxury, choose Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Lake Placid Lodge’s lakefront cabin and enjoy a private, secluded retreat furnished with handcrafted Adirondack furniture, sumptuous bedding and spectacular snowy views of the wilderness. Inside the lodge, Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Artisans Restaurant features a seven-course tasting menu with plates such as roasted parsnip panna cotta or lamb loin roulade and lamb bacon.
Squaw Valley, Olympic Valley, Calif.
Home to the 1960 Winter Olympics, Squaw Valley showed viewers that America’s Lake Tahoe area has world-class ski resorts. The Olympic Ice Pavilion’s skating rink is nestled in the crest of Squaw Valley’s upper mountain, giving views of the Sierra Nevada and Lake Tahoe. In 2010, the Nordic ski competition trails were restored and are accessible from nearby Sugar Pine Point State Park. For those in need of a caffeine fix before lacing up the skates or strapping in the ski boots, Squaw’s mountaintop also boasts the world’s only ski-in/ski-out Starbucks, too.
Where to stay
Located less than 30 miles from Squaw Valley at Northstar California Resort, future Olympians of all levels, including beginners, can enjoy ski-in/ski-out access with a stay at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe. Indulge in nightly s’mores and a slopeside backyard bar, plus a slopeside Four-Star spa with an après-ski massage as well.
Photos Courtesy of iStock, The St. Regis Deer Valley and Lake Placid Lodge