There's just something about the ice at the Utah Olympic Oval thatmakes people go fast. Less than a month after it opened,competitors at the 2001 World Speed Skating Championships SingleDistances set five world records.
Top skaters approach sprinting speeds of 44 miles per hour. Itprobably has something to do with the altitude and astate-of-the-art facility big enough to fit two jumbo jets -comfortably.
"It's amazing how fast you go without being any good," says speedskating novice Steve O'Connor.
Speed skating appears as effortless as it does quiet and graceful,but, says program manager Lester Pardoe, it's highly technical anda lot of work. The Oval offers lessons, ice time, and skates toanyone interested in learning the sport. Strap on some blades,start moving your legs, and feel the smooth, glassy ice and thewind in your hair.
Site: Utah Olympic Oval, Kearns.
Costs: Adults $4, children $2; skate rental $2.
Hours: 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday, and noon to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Season: Open year-round except May.
Details: (801) 968-6825, www.saltlake2002.com
Want to know what it feels like to be America's latest skiing star Daron Rahlves, one of the favorites to claim the downhill gold in 2002? If you're an advanced intermediate skier, simply take the Snowbasin Resort lifts more than 9,000 feet above sea level to the top of the Olympic downhill runs in the mountains northeast of Salt Lake City and get busy.
The start shoots you into high gear and onto one of the two separate but intertwined runs. It's steep - in some places about a 35-degree pitch. You'll encounter double fall lines that tend to pull you off course and big-air hot spots. The course just keeps going, and the bottom just keeps on dropping out from under you. This is where Rahlves and other brave souls will compete in the downhill, an event all about speed and daring; the super-G, a shorter downhill with more gates; and an event that combines the two.
Imagine racing down that very same mountain, the way the pros do it, at 70 miles per hour after it's been watered and iced. At that speed, skis tend to take flight. Guess there's a good reason why the nets along the course are 30 feet high.
Site: Snowbasin Resort, Huntsville.
Cost: 2001-2002 season ticket prices are $48 for adults, $23 for kids.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Season: November to April.
Details: (801) 620-1000, www.snowbasin.com