In Salt Lake, you can ski the giant slalom, speed skate the ice oval, even rocket down a bobsled run - using the very same venues where Olympians compete. Here's how.
"Track cleared for bobsled number 12," bellows the announcer. Chris Corr Jr., Mark Dante, and John McGuinnes, hearts pounding, don helmets and slip into a sleek, red fiberglass bullet. The two pushmen throw all their weight forward and propel the runners of the sled over the lip of the track and past the point of no return.
Going into turn five, the crew achieves an exhilarating 55 miles per hour. They have no sense of cold or wind, only speed. All they can do is fight the intense centrifugal force dragging their bodies down to earth, and clench their hands around the rope handles anchoring them into the sled. Seconds later, they cheer as they sail across the finish line.
Are these guys world-class bobsledders? No, they're a group of thirtysomething businessmen. Chris is a television account executive, Mark is a sales manager at a TV station, and John sells advertising. But here, gathered just minutes outside Park City, Utah, they're Olympians for a day.
The world is coming to the Salt Lake City area February 8-24 for the Olympic Winter Games of 2002. Turns out the games they're playing aren't just spectator sports. The following facilities welcome wannabes before and after the Olympics.
Bobsledding coach Pat Brown will be the first to tell you that the run at Utah Olympic Park is no Disneyland ride. Because of the superior way the track is engineered and the ice is made, even amateur "sliders" race down the track at more than 80 miles per hour, speeds equal to and sometimes faster than those clocked in Nagano. Think up to five Gs of force!
As our friends Chris, Mark, and John gather inside the start house,instructor Joe Davis leads the half-hour Bobsledding 101orientation. Next, the thrillseekers pick sled positions, with adouble-blind draw out of a basket, and pair up with anOlympic-caliber driver. Finally, the group slips on their winterwear, a good pair of gloves, a helmet, and a dose of courage, andprepares to shoot down the eight-tenths-of-a-mile-long strip ofice.
One big push and they're off.
They count the turns, which come faster and faster. They have towork to hold their heads up to watch the world rushing past. Inless than a minute, the ride of their lives is over. The officialtime: 50.82 seconds.
"The next time I watch it on TV," brags Chris, "I'm gonna say Iwent through that turn."
Site: Utah Olympic Park, north of Park City.
Cost: $200 for a no-do-overs ride of your life.
Hours: By reservation only.
Season: November to January.
Details: (435) 658-4200, www.saltlake2002.com