Follow the path of the Olympians (but don’t expect a medal)

craig.hill@thenewstribune.comFebruary 2, 2014 

When the Winter Olympics start Thursday, NBCUniversal plans to stream every second of competition.

While this sounds like a great excuse to plop down on the couch for 18 days and watch the athletes have all the fun, it doesn’t have to be that way.

The Northwest is packed with ways to play like an Olympian. Here’s one for each day of the Sochi Games:

1SKI THE METHOW

The Methow Valley is a popular training ground for Olympic athletes. Siblings Erik and Sadie Bjornsen, along with Brian Gregg, are from the Methow and locals like to say they have more Olympians per capita than anyplace else in the country. The reason is obvious. The valley is home to the nation’s largest Nordic trail system (200 kilometers) and is known for quality grooming. On Feb. 15, Methow Valley Biathlon will host its annual Try Biathlon fundraiser in Mazama. No experience is needed for participants as young as 9 to ski and shoot at targets. A donation of $20 is recommended.

MORE INFO: mvsta.com or methowvalleynordic.com.

2SKI TRIPLE 60

Moguls skier Patrick Deneen is one of Washington’s top contenders for a medal this month in Sochi. The former world champ is from Cle Elum and learned to ski at the Summit at Snoqualmie. Deneen says the Triple 60 run at Summit Central is one of his favorites when it’s not groomed.

MORE INFO: summitat snoqualmie.com.

3SKI PARADISE

In 1935, the best skiers in America came to Paradise to race in the U.S. National Championship and determine the first U.S. alpine ski team. While Paradise never became a ski resort as some wanted, it remains a loved destination for backcountry skiers.

MORE INFO: nps.gov/mora

4SKATE PATTISON’S WEST

Pattison’s West in Federal Way might look like any other roller rink, but it’s not. Its hardwood maple floor makes it a popular spot for inline racers. The skating rink was also the launching pad for the most decorated Winter Olympic athlete in U.S. history (Apolo Anton Ohno) and one of the top medal threats in Sochi (J.R. Celski). Ohno won eight Olympic short track speed skating medals. Celski won two bronze medals in Vancouver and is among the favorites to win gold in Sochi.

MORE INFO: pattisonswest.com

5SKI CYPRESS

With the exception of the hockey arena where Canada’s gold medal launched a national celebration, Cypress Mountain had arguably the most electric atmosphere during the 2010 Winter Olympics. The small ski area in North Vancouver hosted the freestyle skiing and snowboarding events. Additionally, a lift ride to the top of Mount Strachan offers one of the best views at a Northwest ski resort.

MORE INFO: cypressmountain.com

6SKI WITH A GOLD MEDALIST

Nancy Greene is a member of the Canadian Senate, a 1968 Olympic gold and silver medalist and the director of skiing at Sun Peaks Resort. For years the resort has offered opportunities for skiers of all levels to take a run with Greene. She’s often at the top of the Sunburst Express chair at 1 p.m. on weekends, according the resort’s website.

MORE INFO: sunpeaksresort.com

7SKI WHITE PASS

Twin brothers Phil and Steve Mahre grew up skiing at White Pass where their father, Dave Mahre, was the general manager. They went on to become some of the best skiers in U.S. History. Phil took gold and Steve settled for silver in the slalom at the 1984 Olympics. Phil also won silver at the 1980 Olympics.

MORE INFO: skiwhitepass.com

8RIDE THE ARMSTRONG EXPRESS

After Seattle native Debbie Armstrong won a gold medal in the giant Slalom at the 1984 Olympics, Alpental named a chairlift and ski run in her honor. The Armstrong Express services Debbie’s Gold. Continue a little farther up the mountain and you’ll find her favorite run, International.

MORE INFO: summitatsnoqualmie.com

9SKI WHISTLER

All of the runs that were used to determine Olympic skiing champions in 2010 are open to the public. Ski Dave Murray Downhill to sample the runs where Bode Miller won three medals. Ski Upper Franz’s to try the course where Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso combined for four medals.

MORE INFO: whistlerblackcomb.com

10SKI WHISTLER OLYMPIC PARK

Whistler Olympic Park was the venue for ski jumping, biathlon, Nordic combined and cross-country skiing at the 2010 Olympics. While you can’t launch yourself off the ski jump, you can ski the 56 kilometers of trails. The facility also offers opportunities to try biathlon.

MORE INFO: whistlerolympicpark.com

11TAKE A BOBSLED RUN

For $169 (Canadian) you can ride a bobsled or skeleton at the Whistler Sliding Centre, constructed for the 2010 Games. The track quickly earned a reputation as one of the fastest in the world. Participants in the public bobsled program can reach speeds faster than 75 mph, according to the facility website.

MORE INFO: whistlerslidingcentre.com

12SKI LEAVENWORTH

Leavenworth is home to 26 kilometers of groomed Nordic ski trails and the state’s only ski jump. The ski jump isn’t nearly the size of those used in the Olympics, but it might be big enough to make you nervous. The trail system was the training ground for Leavenworth’s Torin Koos, a four-time Winter Olympian.

MORE INFO: skileavenworth.com

13RIDE GOLD HILLS

A month after Alaskan Rosey Fletcher won a slalom snowboarding bronze medal in the 2006 Winter Olympics, she was at Crystal Mountain competing in the North American Alpine Snowboarding Finals. The race was staged on Gold Hills. Canadian Jasey Jay Anderson, the 2010 Winter Olympics gold medalist, also competed in the race.

MORE INFO: crystalmountainresort.com

14THROW A STONE

Seattle’s Granite Curling Club has produced several national champions and 2010 Olympian Nicole Joraanstad. (Joraanstad’s team just missed making the Sochi Games.) The club experiences a spike in interest during the Winter Games. The club is offering open houses ($25 per person, $60 per family) to allow people to try the sport Feb. 15-16 and 22-23 and March 8 and 29. Reservations can be made on the club website.

MORE INFO: curlingseattle.org

15SKI MISSION RIDGE

Before he made the 2002 Olympic team, Cashmere’s Tom Rothrock grew up skiing at Mission Ridge. He honed his craft on a run called Skookum, an intermediate run used for racing. After races conclude, recreational skiers often lineup to sample the course.

Bill Johnson, the first American man to win a skiing gold medal, trained here as a teenager. The U.S. Ski Team once planned to train on a run named Chak Chak during the 2010 Games.

MORE INFO: missionridge.com

16SKATE SUN VALLEY

Idaho’s Sun Valley is brimming with history and famous for luring celebrities. One of the best places to see celebrities is the ice rink. The 1941 romantic musical “Sun Valley Serenade” was filmed here and starred Sonja Henie, Norway’s 1928, ’32 and ’36 figure skating gold medalist.

MORE INFO: sunvalley.com

17SKI GRETCHEN’S GOLD

Henie apparently didn’t ski well enough for “Sun Valley Serenade,” so Northwest skiing icon Otto Lang (he started the ski school at Paradise) was brought in to help with the scenes. Tacoma native Gretchen Fraser was used as Henie’s skiing double. At the 1948 Olympics, Fraser became the first American skier to win a gold medal. She also won a silver. Sun Valley beginner run Gretchen’s Gold is named in her honor.

MORE INFO: sunvalley.com

18SKI TIMBERLINE

When you’re the only year-round ski area in North America, you tend to draw some pretty talented skiers. Deneen has trained at Mount Hood’s Timberline Lodge and so has 1998 gold medalist Picabo Street.

MORE INFO: timberlinelodge.com

Craig Hill: 253-597-8497 craig.hill@thenewstribune.com thenewstribune.com/fitness theolympian.com/fitness

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