Want to re-create some Olympic moments or fashion your own private Olympics? Your best bets are probably at the Park City resort area, Soldiers Hollow and the Snowbasin ski area.
PARK CITY ENVIRONS
Founded in 1869, Park City, Utah, about 32 miles from downtown Salt Lake City, used to be a booming silver-mining town. Today, with its historical buildings and photogenic old-timey Main Street, Park City is host to Robert Redford's annual Sundance Film Festival as well as the epicenter for Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley Resort and the Canyons ski area. The three resorts spent $102 million on mountain improvements (lifts, resorts, runs, snowmaking equipment etc.) in the last four years, increasing skiable acres, lifts and trails by about 33 percent to 8,675 skiable acres, 47 lifts and 327 trails, says Shawn Stinson of the Park City Chamber and Visitors Bureau.
PARK CITY MOUNTAIN RESORT
Park City Mountain Resort, which opened in 1963, is the site for the Olympic giant slalom ski competition, the snowboarding half-pipe and snowboarding parallel giant slalom events. Four percent of the resort underwent changes for the Olympics: Terrain for the half-pipe was regraded, and the outdoor Eagle Race Arena was rebuilt for the giant slalom. The old base lodge was dismantled, making room for the new 54,000-square-feet base Legacy Lodge. The Eagle Chair lift, which had to be shortened to accommodate the Olympic Stadium, will be lengthened after the Games. Both the Eagle Race Arena and the snowboarding half-pipe areas will be open to the public after the Games when they're not in use for competition or training. Note: Both are rated "most difficult." Another interesting addition is a new one-mile ski trail that connects the resort to Main Street in Park City. Depending on your skiing skill level, it takes five or more minutes. Info: (800) 222-7275 or www.parkcitymountain.com.
THE OLYMPIC PARK
The 389-acre Olympic Park at Bear Hollow, four miles north of Park City, might just be the coolest place to test your Olympic readiness. The park is the site of 14 events, including bobsledding, luge, skeleton, ski jumping and Nordic combined ski jumping. After the Olympics, visitors can watch athletes train at bobsled speeds of 90 mph, or watch them practice on the K120 Nordic jump or K90 jump (the number refers roughly to the maximum distance in kilometers that jumpers fly) or practice their freestyle aerial jumps. In summer, the freestylers will land in a 750,000-gallon splash pool. Intermediate skiers can also take Nordic ski jumping lessons and eventually jump from the 20-meter or 40-meter jumps. (Lessons and jumping cost $20 to $40.) "As a spectator, it looks low," says Jon Rahl of the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It's still rather frightening." Visitors 16 or older can also take a bobsled ride (with a professional driver and brakeman) at speeds up to 75 mph. Or if you're at least 50 inches tall, you can take a rocket ride (a self-steered luge) with speeds close to 50 mph. All the tickets are sold out for this winter, but you can check on reservations for summer. Tickets for next winter will be available in September. Info and reservations: (435) 658-4200 or www.saltlake2002.com.
DEER VALLEY RESORT
Deer Valley Resort, open since the 1980-81 season, is the Olympic site for the slalom, freestyle aerials and freestyle moguls ski events. Still, just 3 percent of its area will be devoted to the Olympics. The resort made news last year when SKI magazine readers voted it the No. 1 ski area in North America, knocking Colorado's Vail to No. 2 and British Columbia's Whistler/Blackcomb to No. 3. (Utah's other resorts: Park City Mountain Resort came in No. 5, Snowbird No. 18 and the Canyons No. 25). Deer Valley has spent $37.5 million in the last four years, according to Christa Graff, communications manager. In the last year alone it spent money on grading, shaping Olympic runs and building stadium seating; its new Empire Canyon Lodge; a $1 million snowmaking pond; replacing the Quincy triple chairlift with a high-speed detachable quad chairlift; a new reservations system; five replacement Sno-Cats and eight extra snow-guns. After the Olympics, expert skiers can try out the Olympic runs (ranked "most difficult") on Bald Eagle Mountain: the Know You Don't (men's and women's slalom race); the White Owl (aerial event) and the Champion (moguls). Info: (800) 424-3337 or www.deervalley.com.
While not an Olympic venue, the Canyons resort three miles from Park City also has new runs, a new Sundial Lodge and new Grand Summit Resort Hotel and Conference Center. Info: (888) 226-9667 or www.thecanyons.com.
Before Olympic fever came to Utah, Soldier Hollow was an insignificant 2-square-mile spread in Wasatch Mountain State Park, about 50 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. "It was a cow pasture," says John Aalberg, director of cross-country skiing for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee and former Olympic athlete. In 1999, after $31 million in development and $10 million for an access road, Aalberg's new Olympic design made its debut. Fourteen miles of cross-country and biathalon trails were opened to train athletes and hundreds of children in cross-country skiing. Olympic events at the site will be biathalon, cross-country skiing and Nordic combined (cross-country skiing). After the Olympics, when the land reverts to state-park status, the public will be welcome again to ski in winter or, weather allowing, bike or even in-line skate and ride horseback on the trails. There won't be cows loitering about, but visitors might see protected indigenous species such as the Cooper's hawk and the Flamulated owl. A wetlands restoration project is under way at Soldier Hollow; trails were constructed to be eco-friendly, and native grasses and trees have been planted. Information: (435) 654-2002 or www.soldierhollow.org.
The Snowbasin ski area, 17 miles east of Ogden, is host to some of the most-watched Olympic events: the downhill, combined (downhill/slalom) and the Super-G. Accordingly, a four-year plan has transformed the ski area into more of a "resort": The area now has new automated snowmaking machines, new high-speed quad chairlifts, new gondolas, new avalanche controls and a new Olympic tram. Brand new ski runs were finished in 1998. Visitors can try their luck on the new runs -- but those visitors should be experts, says Karen Vardeny, a spokeswoman for Snowbasin. The runs -- the Grizzly (men's downhill) and Wildflower (women's downhill) -- are ranked double-black-diamond difficulty. The men's downhill course starts at a 74 percent grade and has a vertical drop of 2,890 feet. The women's course has a maximum grade of 58 degrees and a vertical drop of 1,972 feet. And visitors won't be treated to the same level of run-smoothing the athletes experienced -- so be careful. If you are able to ski the runs, you'll push off from the built-for-the-Olympics starting houses. Vardeny says she has already had quite a few inquiries from would-be vacationers wanting to ski those Olympic runs. If you aren't an expert skier, you can still use Snowbasin's easier runs and the three brand-new day lodges. Snowbasin Lodge, the new 45,000-square-foot base lodge, opened on Christmas Eve. The on-mountain lodges, the John Paul and the Needles, were scheduled to open by the end of January. You still won't be able to stay overnight at Snowbasin; the closest lodging is in Ogden or Salt Lake City. But Snowbasin plans to open for summer sports (new biking and hiking trails that connect to U.S. Forest Service trails) for the first time this year. Other sports such as golf and an indoor skating rink are in the works. Snowbasin is easier to get to now. A new access road finished in 2000 trims 13 miles from the previous drive from Salt Lake City, 40 miles away. Info: (888) 437-5488 or www.snowbasin.com.