Chills and thrills of win­ter Games

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - TRAVEL 2013 -

AARON MIL­LAR

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.

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