For many Olympic contenders, speed is the thing, but if you go to Soldier Hollow in Wasatch Mountain State Park, you might just want to take it slow.
Where cattle once grazed, cross-country skiers traverse gentle trails that loop through the scrub-oak-covered foothills in a quiet corner of the Heber Valley. Unlike many cross-country systems, which follow pre-existing roads, Soldier Hollow was mapped out from scratch. That means that you meander through almost 19 miles of trails, but, by design, never venture much more than three-quarters of a mile from the lodge. The paths twist and wiggle, so the spacious, rolling scenery in front of you is always changing.
“It’s beautiful. It zigzags. It’s very open,” says Valerie Ciptak, a first-time skier who’s more accustomed to navigating New York’s sidewalks. “The buzz is really here and you can feel it.”
Ciptak glides across the snow at 4 to 5 miles per hour, 15 if she’s really motoring. The Olympic skiers could reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour — in grueling competitions from intense sprints to 50-kilometer marathons to ski-and-shoot biathlons.
Site: Soldier Hollow, Wasatch Mountain State Park.
Cost: Adults $15, children under 12 free. Hours: 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Season: December to January.
Details: (435) 654-2002, www.soldierhollow.org
The Olympic Winter Games of 2002
The Games commence February 8 and run through February 24 in Salt Lake City and surrounding areas. More than 2,300 athletes from some 80 countries are expected to compete. It might take a miracle or a small fortune to get tickets for some events, but for details, call (800) 842-5388 or log on to www.saltlake2002.com. The Salt Lake Organizing Committee is selling individual tickets, packages, and ticket and lodging combinations through various vendors. there are also online ticket auctions.