Saturday, February 15, 2014 12:00 AM
By Jill K. Robinson, SF Gate -- Maybe you thought about it. Perhaps you even looked into getting tickets. But ultimately, the truth must be faced: You're not going to Sochi.
The Olympic Winter Games is a spectacle unlike many other modern sporting events. Each host venue practically hums with excitement during the 18 days of competition. Despite the TV programming offering the best seat in the house (plus schmaltz-laden "up-close, in-person" stories), there's a different way to immerse yourself in the Olympic spirit.
If a strict training regimen isn't in the cards, there are still plenty of ways you can create a do-it-yourself Olympics. In addition to Salt Lake City, click the link below for highlights of all five of the North American Winter Olympic venues, where average joes can ski, skate, jump and bobsled in the footsteps of famed athletes. When you're done, hit the town and have a victory drink - where the athletes celebrated their wins or drowned their sorrows - knowing you don't have to wait four years to do it again.
Salt Lake City 2002 (XIX)
Don't think Vancouver, British Columbia, is the only spot with serious Olympic bells and whistles. Salt Lake City's Olympic legacy is still alive, and because of the short distance between downtown and Park City, it's easy to create a sport-packed trip.
At Park City's Utah Olympic Park, rip through the 15 turns of the Olympic track on the Comet Bobsled ride to experience 5Gs of force, or give it a solo (and a little slower) go on the skeleton.
Ski and snowboard tricksters can try their skills on the 22-foot Eagle Superpipe at Park City Mountain Resort. Over at Deer Valley, take a turn down Know You Don't trail, site of the Olympic slalom events. If you're a bump master, hit Champion, which was the site of the moguls events.
At Snowbasin, the men's Grizzly Downhill course can be carved together by skiing Men's Start, merging onto John Paul Trail and then Grizzly Downhill. The women's Wildflower Downhill course begins at Women's Start, merging onto John Paul Trail, then Wildflower Downhill, Draba Drop, City Hill, and finally, Women's Finish.
Grab a bite at Silver in Park City, or Pallet in Salt Lake City, after your long day. If you still have the energy, head to speakeasy-style Bar-X (a favorite of athletes during the Olympics) for libations into the night.
Bragging rights: The Utah Olympic Oval is considered to have the fastest ice in the world. Give it a try during a public skate session, or drop in on a speedskating class. At the Utah Olympic Park, get some beginner air with a private ski-jumping lesson just around the corner from the huge 90- and 120-meter jumps.
Fun fact: Trading pins is a huge tradition at the Olympics, and a certain green Jell-O pin was in high demand at the 2002 Winter Olympics. Why? Salt Lake City is America's Jell-O eating capital, and the average Utah resident eats twice as much lime Jell-O as the average American.
If you go
Utah Olympic Oval: 5662 S. Cougar Ln., Kearns, Utah. (801) 968-6825, www.utaholympiclegacy.com. Public ice skating, $4 adult admission. $10 speedskating class drop-in (depending on ability).
Utah Olympic Park: 3419 Olympic Parkway, Park City, Utah. (435) 658-4200, www.utaholympiclegacy.com. Comet Bobsled ride, $200. Rocket skeleton ride, $50. Private ski jumping lesson (upon availability), $100 per hour with Olympic level coach, $50 per hour with club level coach.
Park City Mountain Resort: 1345 Lowell Ave., Park City, Utah. (435) 649-8111, www.parkcitymountain.com. $107 adult full-day lift ticket.
Deer Valley: 2250 Deer Valley Drive South, Park City, Utah. (800) 424-3337, www.deervalley.com. $108 adult full-day lift ticket.
Snowbasin: 3925 E. Snowbasin Rd., Huntsville, Utah. (888) 437-5488, www.snowbasin.com. $86 adult full-day lift ticket.
Where to eat
Silver: 508 Main St., Park City, Utah. (435) 940-1000, www.silverrestaurant.com. Entrees from $18.
Pallet: 237 South 400 West, Salt Lake City, Utah. (801) 935-4431, www.eatpallet.com. Entrees from $16.
Bar-X: 155 East 200 South, Salt Lake City, Utah. (801) 355-2287, www.barxsaltlake.com.
Where to stay
Washington School House: 543 Park Ave., Park City, Utah. (800) 824-1672, www.washingtonschoolhouse.com. Park yourself in the heart of Park City at this luxe boutique hotel in a former school building. Rates start at $850 per night.
Waldorf Astoria Park City: 2100 Frostwood Drive, Park City, Utah. (435) 647-5500, www.parkcitywaldorfastoria.com. The hotel's Majordomo package ($869 per night) includes the opportunity to choose activities, like a private speedskating lesson with a member of the U.S. National Speedskating Team ($120 extra).
Visit Salt Lake: (800) 541-4955, www.visitsaltlake.com.