Visiting former Olympics sites
Good news for Olympic fans: It's still possible to be on the site of the Winter Games this month, and it won't cost you an arm and a leg or require constant vigilance. The bad news (maybe): It won't be the site of this year's quadrennial extravaganza in Sochi, Russia, but one of the five sites in North America that have hosted previous Winter Olympic Games.
Unlike their summer counterparts, Winter Olympic sites tend to stay intact, primarily because the host country needs the facilities for training and international competitions, plus it's pretty tough to move a mountain. Collateral beneficiaries include visitors who can skate on the same rinks, schuss the same slopes or pole the same Nordic trails and even slide down the same G-inducing bobsled, luge and skeleton courses. (All bobsled and skeleton rides have minimum age limits and sometimes height and weight restrictions; be sure to check before you sign up.) For those still preferring the roll of spectators, there's invariably a museum or exhibit and an opportunity to take guided tours of the sites. So let the Games begin -- again!
LAKE PLACID (1932, 1980)
It's been 34 years since New York's own Lake Placid last hosted the Winter Olympics, but what an Olympics it was, highlighted by the unforgettable "Miracle on Ice" victory of the U.S. men's hockey team over the heavily favored Russians in the semifinals, and speed skater Eric Heiden's five gold medals.
VENUES At the Olympic Sports Complex at Mount Van Hoevenberg, you can sample 5G forces on the bobsled ride ($85 adults, $80 teens, $75 juniors; also available in summer, but on wheels) or 30 mph on the skeleton course ($65). At the Olympic Jumping Center, you can take an elevator to the top of the awe-inspiring 120-meter jump, or at Whiteface Mountain, home of the alpine events, a gondola ride to the top. Back in the center of town, at the Olympic Center, you can take a few laps around the Speedskating Oval. An Olympic Sites Passport ($32) gives you access to all four and the museum.
MUSEUM Lake Placid Olympic Museum at Olympic Center. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Admission: $7 adults and teens, $5 ages 12 and younger.
SALT LAKE CITY (2002)
America's most recent Winter Olympics took place in Salt Lake City, where U.S. athletes took home a record-smashing 34 medals (the previous record had been 13) in front of the largest crowds in Winter Olympic history.
VENUES At the Utah Olympic Oval in suburban Kearns, home to the speed skating competition, you can skate or learn to curl ($12, classes Fridays 7:30-9:30 p.m. through March). At Utah Olympic Park in Park City, site of the bobsled, luge and ski jumping competitions, you can hit speeds of up to 80 mph on the Comet Bobsled Ride ($200) or the Rocket Skeleton Ride ($50). Also available here are one-hour, guided shuttle bus tours (free, year-round). For do-it-yourself skiers, you can re-create both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat on the alpine courses at Deer Valley, Snowbasin and Park City Resorts.
MUSEUMS Alf Engren Ski Museum and Eccles Salt Lake 2002 Winter Games Museum (both at Utah Olympic Park). Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. Admission: free.
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA (2010)
Site of the most recent Winter Games, Vancouver -- the largest city ever to host them -- had events both downtown and at Whistler Mountain. A shortage of snow didn't stop the United States, which captured the most medals (37), exceeding the Salt Lake City total by three.
DOWNTOWN VENUES Rogers Centre, site of hockey games and now home of the NHL's Vancouver Canucks, and the Richmond Olympic Oval, available for public skating.
WHISTLER VENUES At the Whistler Sliding Centre, take your choice of the piloted Comet Bobsled Ride or the on-your-own Rocket Skeleton Ride (both about $152). At Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort, you can test your mettle on the Dave Murray Downhill; while at Cypress Mountain you can slide where the boarders and freestylers did. Or take the circuitous scenic route at Olympic Park, site of the Nordic events.
MUSEUM 14,000-square-foot Richmond Olympic Experience set to open later this year.
CALGARY, ALBERTA (1988)
Featuring Italian downhiller Alberto Tomba, British ski jumper "Eddie the Eagle" Edwards and the Jamaican bobsled team, the 1988 games were among the most successful commercially. Alas, they were a disappointment for the Americans, who won only six medals.
VENUES Canada Olympic Park (15 miles from downtown), site of the bobsled, luge and ski jumping competition, is now home to the comprehensive and state-of-the-art Winter Sports Institute (WinSport), where you can ski, snowboard, skate or take a bobsled ride (about $152) down the Olympic course. Hours: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: free to grounds, fees for activities vary. But to do them where the competitions actually took place, you will need to go to Nakiska (alpine events), the Canmore Nordic Centre (Nordic events) and the Olympic Oval (skating) at the University of Calgary.
MUSEUM Olympic history is included in the Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in the Markin MacPhail Centre at Canada Olympic Park. Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: about $11 adults, $7 ages 4-18.
SQUAW VALLEY, CALIF. (1960)
A small, family-run resort when it won its Olympic bid, Squaw Valley had to be effectively rebuilt from scratch at a cost of $80 million, becoming the first site built specifically for the Games. Squaw Valley also was the first nationally televised Olympics (a dispute over a missed ski gate led to the first instant replay), and the pageantry was coordinated by Walt Disney himself. Not surprisingly after all these years, only the original Olympic Village dorm, now known as the Olympic House, remains. Each January, Squaw Valley hosts an Olympic Heritage Celebration with free walking tours.
MUSEUM Olympic Exhibit at High Camp (accessed via aerial tram). Open daily: noon-4 p.m. Admission: free, but round-trip aerial tram ride costs $32 adults, $25 ages 13-22, $10 ages 5-12.