CLEVELAND, Ohio — The vast majority of us will never compete in bobsleigh, finish a triple axel on ice, or hurtle down a ski slope at 80 mph.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun trying.
Of course, it’s nice to watch the Winter Olympics on television. What’s even better is trying out some of these Olympic moves at public venues in the area.
You can ski, skate, curl, and even go sledding in Ohio and neighboring states.
The most complete Olympic experience is in Lake Placid, New York, an eight-hour drive from Cleveland. The scenic town in the Adirondacks Mountains hosted two Winter Games, in 1932 and 1980, and has retained much of the infrastructure from the event, offering a wide variety of cold-weather thrills, from bobsleigh to skeleton in through speed skating.
But you don’t have to go that far for an Olympic-style adventure. There’s sledding in western Michigan, curling in suburban Cleveland, and cross-country skiing in Lake County.
So here are 10 activities that will make you feel like an Olympian, all within a day’s drive from Cleveland:
Bobsledding and more in Lake Placid
There are only two places in the United States where you can test drive a bobsleigh – Lake Placid and Park City, Utah, which hosted the 2002 Winter Games. In upstate New York, you Soar up to 55 mph over half a mile of trail in a four-person sled, alongside a professional driver and brakeman. Cost is $250 for two. Dates are limited. Information: mtvanhoevenberg.com/todo/lake-placid-bobsled-experience or 518 523-2811.
Skeleton – that crazy, head-first dive down an icy chute – is also open to enthusiasts in Lake Placid. For $70 you can slide down a quarter of Lake Placid’s 1-mile slide track at speeds of up to 30 mph. “You’ve never sled like this before,” the site’s website says. Participants must be at least 13 years old and 48 inches tall. Dates are limited and reservations are highly recommended. Information: mtvanhoevenberg.com/todo/skeleton-experience or 518-523-2811.
Alas, amateurs are not allowed to take off from either of Lake Placid’s two ski jumps unless they are in formation. But visitors can access the top of the 128-meter jump via the new Skyride gondola and glass elevator. The belvedere offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding landscape. In the spring, visitors can descend on the new Sky Flyer zipline. The fare to the top is $20. Information: lakeplacidlegacysites.com/todo/skyride or 518-523-3330.
Other Olympic activities in Lake Placid:
* Do like an Olympic speed skater on the outdoor 400-meter James C. Sheffield Speed Skating Oval or try some spins on the indoor 1932 Jack Shea Arena. In addition to the public skating hours, the facilities offer public sessions of hockey and speed skating; see lakeplacidlegacysites.com. (Alas, the Herb Brooks Arena, where the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” hockey game was held, is currently closed for construction.)
* Downhill skiing at Whiteface Mountain.
* Cross-country skiing over 30 miles of groomed trails, including some of the same paths the Olympians raced on.
The Lake Place Olympic Museum is closed for construction, but a special exhibit, “80 Total – 80 Objects from the Lake Placid Olympic Museum Collection”, is on display inside the Olympic Center Conference Center. Information: lakeplacidlegacysites.com/todo/lake-placid-olympic-museum. For overnight options and other area activities: lakeplacid.com
Tobogganing in Michigan
Head west to Muskegon, Michigan to try a third Olympic sliding sport, luge, where participants fly flat on their backs, feet first, along the track. Muskegon Luge Adventure Sports Park offers enthusiasts an 850-foot toboggan run, designed by three-time Olympian Frank Masley, built atop a sand dune in 1984 not far from the shore of Lake Michigan.
The track is open to the public from Friday to Sunday and from Wednesday evening until mid-March. For $55, you get a 2.5-hour session, which includes equipment, practice, and four or five runs down the slide.
Also here: outdoor ice skating, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Muskegon is about five hours from Cleveland. Information: www.msports.org
Curling, cross-country skiing and Big Air
Other Olympic options nearby:
* Try curling at the new facility at Mayfield Curling Club in Warrensville Heights. The facility offers plenty of opportunities for beginners to try out the sport for a small fee. Information: mayfieldcurling.com.
* One of the easiest and cheapest ways to act like an Olympian: head to the Chapin Forest Preserve at Lake Metroparks in Kirtland, with 6 miles of maintained trails, some of which are lighted. Cross-country skis are available for rent at the park’s Pine Lodge Ski Center for $5 an hour; reservations required (snowshoes also available). Call 440-256-2118 for ski conditions; more information: lakemetroparks.com.
Or try the Big Met Golf Course at Fairview Park, where Cleveland Metroparks rents cross-country skis when there’s 4 inches or more of snow.
* Thanks to recent cold temperatures and heavy snowfall, downhill skiing and snowboarding are both thriving in parks in northeast Ohio and surrounding states, with rentals and lessons available for those who are just beginning.
Read more: Where to Ski Near Cleveland: Everything You Need to Know About 14 Ohio Ski Resorts in Neighboring States
More advanced skiers and snowboarders who want to show off their skills and compete for prizes can enter Snow Trails’ Big Air competition this Saturday (see snowtrails.com), with participants taking off from the park’s Rustler Jump Line. On March 20, Holiday Valley in western New York is hosting its annual Northwind Super G event, featuring timed runs on the resort’s Northwinds trail, which will be equipped with gates (see holidayvalley.com).
Meanwhile, in southwestern Pennsylvania, Seven Springs Mountain Resort hopes to launch its massive Superpipe this weekend. The Olympic-size structure – which takes in a huge amount of snow – is 440 feet long with sides 22 feet high. It is open to the public for future Olympians to channel their inner Shaun White. Information: 7springs.com.