Experience the Utah Olympic Park
Light the Fire Within: Utah’s Olympic Legacy Lives On
Consider taking a day off from all that skiing, hiking, or biking and find time to explore the 15 year legacy of the Utah Olympic Park. The UOP and its various venues are a sight that must not be skipped on any visit to the Beehive State. With its main facility located in Kimball Junction, just 30 minutes from the Salt Lake International Airport, the access to world class Olympic adventure in Utah is unparalleled. In addition to the diverse amenities at the Utah Olympic Park, you’ll find activities ranging from cosmic curling and ice skating at the Olympic Ice Oval in Kearns, to cross country skiing, winter tubing, or snowshoeing at the Soldier Hollow venue in Midway, UT.
I remember the fantastic energy that descended upon Utah when we hosted the Winter Games in 2002. It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years, but the special memories live on in the venues where champions once vied for gold. I showed up to the Utah Olympic Park in Kimball Junction for one of the daily tours that are offered three times per day in the winter, or on the hour in the summer months. As a longtime Utah resident, I’ve always gazed up in wonder at the massive ski jumps crowning the hills above the road to Park City, but I’d never had the chance to peep at them up close. Today was a big day, indeed!
Olympic bobsledder and silver medalist, Val Fleming, showed me around the lofty heights of the Utah Olympic Park at Kimball Junction.
We first took a good look at the pool where skiing aerialists practice their moves in the summer. Here you can catch one of the many aerial shows or even test your skills on some of the smaller jumps in the warmer months. Having tried it myself a few years back, this is an unforgettable experience. Next we toured the ropes courses and admired the steep zipline looming below the massive Nordic ski jumps. I couldn’t wait to take in the view from the top!
I soon found myself standing in the very gates where Olympians have braced themselves at the top of the 120 meter Nordic ski jump. The sickening drop was enough to convince me that the talent and fearlessness of these athletes is something everyone should attempt to stomach. The appreciation you will gain for these feats of athleticism will leave a lasting impression on your memory of Utah’s mountains and Olympic legacy.
The Olympic venues in Utah are one of few complexes worldwide that have remained operational and open to the public since their debut in 2002. Not only that, the facilities remain open year round for athletes to train. The park also hosts many youth groups, development teams, and corporate retreats, meaning it now welcomes over four times the number of visitors annually since the 2002 Olympics!
Next, Val took me down to an area where she has spent a good amount of quality time. Following the natural contours of the mountain’s flanks, the bobsled and skeleton track at the Utah Olympic Park winds 1335 meters from start to finish. Boasting a vertical drop of 402 feet and 15 hair-raising curves, it is regarded among athletes as one of the most challenging tracks worldwide. Today the track serves as proving ground for up-and-coming development athletes, Olympic hopefuls, and the braver members of the general public. Should your stay coincide with one of the many events or competitions hosted on this hallowed ice, you should definitely not skip the chance to catch the action. I found goosebumps popping up along my arms as Val described the thrill of descending this track at over 80mph.
If you’ve ever watched the movie Cool Runnings, you’ve undoubtedly wanted to feel the thrill of bobsledding. As one of only four Olympic bobsled tracks in North America, the chance to test your mettle on this track presents a rare opportunity. Offering heart-stopping rides in both the summer or winter, you can rip through 10 of the track’s thrilling curves, reaching speeds of 65MPH and 3Gs of force. Make sure to call ahead and make a reservation, as this popular activity is usually sold out in advance.
You don’t even need to be mildly athletic to enjoy the many attractions offered at the Utah Olympic Park! From zooming down the zipline, to testing your skills on the ropes course, there is something to challenge everyone. In addition, the countless events hosted by the Utah Olympic Park offer swell entertainment. From ski jumping aerial shows, to the breathtaking action of the free solo climbing competition, Psicobloc, the opportunity for exhilaration is limitless.
I, for one, found one of the most enjoyable pieces of the Utah Olympic Park to reside in the Joe Quinney Winter Sports Center. This is adventure basecamp for the UOP, and I think the Alf Engen Ski Museum is an absolute must for any winter aficionado.
Virtual reality ski theatre games, topographical maps, and incredible momentos from skiing in decades past will enchant you. The glory of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games is also highlighted in a gallery of images and artifacts.
If you’ve got time to burn and an adventurous spirit, the Utah Olympic Park, Soldier Hollow, or the Kerns Ice Oval is worth a visit. You can devote an afternoon or an entire day to the wide variety of activities offered by the different Olympic venues. Pay homage to the glory of the games and help support the quest of future Olympians on their path to gold.
Words: Lexi Dowdall
Images: Austen Diamond