Chills and thrills of winter Games
THE OLYMPIC torch has returned to Earth after its spacewalk with Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky, heralding the build-up to the XXII Winter Olympics and Paralympics on February 7 in Sochi, Russia.
For two weeks, 7 650 athletes will compete in 15 snow and ice events. You can watch in awe, or you could have a go yourself. From shooting down a bobsleigh track to gliding on ice, it’s possible to try nearly all the Winter Olympic sports. Bobsleigh, Norway At the Hunderfossen Olympic Park, in Lillehammer – the venue for the bobsleigh and luge events of the 1994 Games – the public can test the former Olympic track for themselves either on a piloted luge or “bob-rafting” and “taxi-bob” rides. Cross-country skiing, Finland Ski from chalet to chalet through the deep powder over the Finnish-Russian border on a new seven-day trip from Baltic Holidays (balticholidays.com). Expect up to 22km of skiing a day; some previous cross- country experience is advised. Figure skating, USA Learn to dance on ice at Park City in Utah, venue for the 2002 Winter Games. Visitors to the Olympic Oval can learn everything from basic skating to triple axels and toe loops. Curling, Scotland The surprisingly tense sport of curling – in which players slide polished circular stones across the ice towards a target area – is thought to have been invented in medieval Scotland. Guests at the North West Castle Hotel ( mcmillanhotels. co. uk), in Stranraer, can have a go at the in-house curling rink. Biathlon, Italy The biathlon is one of the most demanding Winter Olympic events, combining high- intensity crosscountry skiing with precision target shooting. The resort of Antholz in the South Tyrol will host next year’s Biathlon World Cup (Janu- ary 16-19; biathlon-antholz.it) but also teaches the sport. Ski jump, Germany Defy gravity in Germany’s Thuringian Forest on the Skiflyer: claimed to be the only place in the world where it’s possible to experience the thrill of ski jumping with the safety of a harness. Freestyle skiing, England If the tricks, jumps and twists of freestyle skiing are your thing, then Chill Factore (chillfactore.com) in Manchester is the place to go. It has the UK’s longest indoor park. Downhill skiing, Russia Ski this year’s Olympic courses and soak up the post-games atmosphere on a trip to Sochi.
The venue for the Games is made up of three separate resorts. Rosa Khutor has the most challenging runs and will host the main alpine events; Mountain Carousel has good intermediate skiing; and Gazprom is best for beginners. Ice hockey, Canada Ice hockey is one of the toughest and fastest sports around.
Soak up the atmosphere and tradition in Toronto with a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame (hhof.com) and a night out watching the Toronto Maple Leafs (mapleleafs.nhl.com). Halfpipe, France Snowboarders should head to Avoriaz to master one of the most spectacular Olympic events: the gravity-defying flips and spins of the halfpipe.
MEDIEVAL SPORT: Try curling at the North West Castle Hotel in Scotland.