Local venues turn participants into Olympians for a day

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Many BYU students have imagined themselves skating, skiing or curling with Bob Costas’ voice providing commentary.

Local venues provide just the opportunity they’re looking for.

Between Soldier Hollow and the Utah Olympic League Foundation, BYU students don’t have to go far to participate in Olympic events action such as the biathlon, speed skating and curling.

Biathlon

Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndalen competes during the men's 12.5 km pursuit race at the biathlon World Cup competition in Hochfilzen, Austria. Biathlon is a sport Utah residents can try. AP photo
Norway’s Ole Einar Bjoerndalen competes during the men’s 12.5 km pursuit race at the biathlon World Cup competition in Hochfilzen, Austria. Biathlon is a sport Utah residents can try. (AP photo)

This sport features athletes cross-country skiing and stopping to shoot a rifle at a target and is available for anyone to try at Soldier Hollow. While many students haven’t even seen the biathlon, Bandy Mecham, who works at Soldier Hollow’s biathlon course, said many newcomers have a great time on the course.

“This winter has been one of the busiest for us,” Mecham said. “Everyone has asked tons of questions and just had a blast.”

Much of its popularity is due to its broad appeal to men and women of different ages. Participants can choose from three different packages: gold, silver and bronze, each varying in the amount of time and activities provided. The track may also be adjusted to the desired level of fitness.

The silver package is the most popular because it includes one hour of skiing and shooting with all equipment provided for $69. Those who have little to no experience with rifles will find the range master’s short safety lesson on gun safety helpful.

“As a student at BYU, you have to try it at least once,” Mecham said. “It’s a blast, and you’re so close in proximity.”

After the event, feel free to take pictures on the Olympic podium with first-, second- and third-place levels. In order to have an authentic Olympic experience, Soldier Hollow gives participants bibs, actually used in the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, throughout the activity.

Curling

Another little-known Winter Olympic sport available to students is curling.

To add to their Olympic résumés, students can hurl a 42-pound granite rock down the ice at the Olympic Oval. Students who sweep their apartments will be naturals at chasing down the stone with brooms to adjust its speed.

The Olympic Oval offers curling instruction on Mondays and Fridays for $12, all equipment included. Curling can even be done cosmic style — neon lights and all — on Saturdays.

Speed skating

Students can give speed skating a whirl at the Olympic Oval.

Apolo Ohno may make it look easy, but it’s not. Once BYU students have mastered the ability to ice skate without holding on to the railing, they can take advantage of the speed skating classes offered at the Olympic Oval.

The Oval is not available for open speed skating. In order to participate, students must sign up for a class ahead of time. Classes are $50 and include skates and six lessons.

Resources and information

BYU’s Outdoors Unlimited rents cross country skis for $12 to those without a car or those who want to save money. Spanish Fork Canyon has a couple trails that are free to ski as well.

For more information about curling and speed skating, call the Olympic Oval at (801) 968-6825.

To make reservations, or for more information about biathlons and other activities, call Soldier Hollow at 435–654–2002.

For rental information about cross country skis, call BYU Outdoors Unlimited at 801–422–2708.

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