(CNN) — We’ve waited four long years. At last, the Winter Olympics are here.
We’re ready to experience the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat and all the emotions that come with new events making their debut, such as mixed doubles curling and big air snowboarding.
For aspiring athletes, there’s a lot to love about the Winter Games, but there’s a lot more to love when you can learn and participate in the events, in some cases with former Winter Olympians.
1. Lake Placid, New York
Home to the Winter Olympic Games in 1932 and 1980, Lake Placid is a picturesque village tucked away in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. Make your first stop the Lake Placid Olympic Museum for a primer on key events, like speed skating and ski jumping, Team USA parade uniforms over the years, and original footage from the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” hockey match.
At the Lake Placid Olympic Center, glide along the 400-meter speed skating oval or take a lap on the ice rink that hosted the historic hockey match. For those so inspired, consider the four-night Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp, which runs March 25 to 29.
Next, make a short hop to the Olympic Sports Complex for a three-hour biathlon lesson and a serious adrenaline rush from a bobsled ride with a skilled pilot and brakeman. At nearby Whiteface Lake Placid, ski the same trails as Olympic athletes and hopefuls.
Lake Placid Olympic Museum, 2634 Main St, Lake Placid, NY 12946, +1 (518) 302-5326
Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp, 2634 Main St, Lake Placid, NY 12946, +1 (518) 524-3502
Olympic Sports Complex, 220 Bobsled Run Rd, Lake Placid, NY 12946, +1 (518) 523-4436
Whiteface Lake Placid, 5021 Route 86, Wilmington, NY 12997, +1 (518) 946-2223
2. Calgary, Alberta
Calgary was the first Canadian city to host the Winter Olympics.
WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park/Facebook
Follow the four-day Road to Gold self-drive itinerary from Calgary to Canmore to capture the spirit and excitement of the 1988 Winter Olympic Games. Begin your journey at WinSport as you navigate 14 turns on the bobsled track, thankfully with the help of a trained bobsled crew.
For aspiring skaters, enjoy a graceful skate at Olympic Plaza in downtown Calgary or speed skate around the Olympic Oval, home to the world’s fastest ice. At Canmore Nordic Centre, set out for an afternoon of cross-country skiing.
WinSport, 88 Canada Olympic Rd SW, Calgary, AB T3B 5R5, +1 (403) 247-5452
Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, 169 Canada Olympic Rd SW, Calgary, AB T3B 6B7, +1 (403) 776-1040
Olympic Plaza, 228 8 Ave SE, Calgary, AB T2P 2M5, +1 (403) 268-2489
Olympic Oval, 2500 University Dr NW, Calgary, AB T2N 1N4, +1 (403) 220-7954
Canmore Nordic Centre, 1988 Olympic Way, Canmore, AB T1W 2T6, +1 (403) 678-2400
3. Whistler, British Columbia
Start at the Whistler Museum and wind your way through the newest exhibit, Hosting the World, which shares Whistler’s story of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Pose with the Olympic torch or snap a selfie while wearing a ski bib from the Games.
At Four Seasons Whistler, take a ski lesson (even apres ski) with Whistler Olympian Robbie Dixon. Nearby Whistler Blackcomb also offers private ski and snowboard lessons with multiple Winter Olympians, including gold medalist Ashleigh McIvor, who became the first to medal in the sport of ski cross when it debuted at the Games in 2010.
For those eager to steer a skeleton or experience the thrill of a high-speed bobsled ride, you can make it happen on the fastest sliding track in the world at Whistler Sliding Centre. Take it easy at nearby Whistler Olympic Park with night skiing on Fridays to celebrate its 10th winter season.
Whistler Museum, 4333 Main Street, Whistler, BC V0N 1B4, +1 (604) 932-2019
Four Seasons Whistler, 4591 Blackcomb Way, Whistler, BC V0N 1B4, +1 (604) 935-3400
Whistler Blackcomb, 4545 Blackcomb Way, Whistler, BC V0N 1B4, +1 (604) 967-8950
Whistler Sliding Centre, 4910 Glacier Ln, Whistler, BC V0N 1B4, +1 (604) 964-0030
Whistler Olympic Park, 5 Callaghan Rd, Whistler, BC V0N 1B8, +1 (604) 964-0060
4. Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Steamboat Springs is the hometown of ski legends including Debbie Armstrong and Nelson Carmichael.
Steamboat Ski Resort
Snap a photo of the 15-foot Steamboat Cauldron, which burns the length of the Winter Games, then head to Lincoln Avenue for a stroll along Steamboat’s own “Walk of Fame.” Every hometown Olympian, including medalists Nelson Carmichael and Shannon Dunn-Downing, have a bronze plaque set into the sidewalk.
Next, stop in the Tread of Pioneers Museum, which has exhibits dedicated to the history of skiing in Steamboat Springs and the local athletes representing the town at this year’s Games. On select Saturdays during ski season, the museum hosts a “Meet an Olympian” talk.
Howelsen Hill Ski Area, 845 Howelsen Pkwy, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487, +1 (970) 879-8499
Tread of Pioneers Museum, 800 Oak St, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487, +1 (970) 879-2214
5. Crested Butte, Colorado
Celebrate the Olympic Opening Ceremonies slopeside at Butte 66 for Olympic-themed appetizers and drink specials on February 9. Ladies can also swap ski tips on the mountain, then apres ski at Umbrella Bar with a glass of wine every Tuesday afternoon during the ski season.
Book a 2.5-hour ski lesson with former downhill and slalom Olympian Wendy Fisher throughout the 2017-18 season at Crested Butte Mountain Resort as part of the “Wednesdays with Wendy” ski clinic. She leads clinics for intermediate and advanced skiers eager to improve their form and style. Guests can also take private lessons with Fisher throughout the ski season.
For the younger set, Crested Butte hosts the Prater Cup February 22 to 25. This annual ski race offers Colorado 12- and 13-year-olds the chance to qualify for the Junior Olympics in the super G, giant slalom and slalom events.
Crested Butte Mountain Resort, 12 Snowmass Rd, Crested Butte, CO 81225, +1 (970) 349-2222
Butte 66, 10 Crested Butte Way, Crested Butte, CO 81225, +1 (970) 349-2999
6. Park City, Utah
In Park City, book a stay at the St. Regis Deer Valley, which recently partnered with the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation to offer bobsledding with silver medalists Valerie Fleming or Shauna Rohbock. Listen to their inspirational stories, then take to the track at speeds of up to 70 mph.
At Utah Olympic Park, learn how to work moguls, aerials and terrain park skiing from seasoned coaches, even former Olympians. Sign up for ice skating lessons at the Utah Olympic Oval or take a curling class with the same stones athletes used at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
While in town, trace the paths of medal winners and learn their stories. A good place to start is Park City Mountain Resort, home to Eagle Race Arena, which saw a young skier named Bode Miller come from behind in the men’s combined alpine skiing event to take silver in 2002.
St. Regis Deer Valley, 2300 Deer Valley Dr E, Park City, UT 84060, +1 (435) 940-5700
Utah Olympic Park, 3419 Olympic Pkwy, Park City, UT 84098, +1 (435) 658-4200
Utah Olympic Oval, 5662 Cougar Ln, Salt Lake City, UT 84118, +1 (801) 968-6825
Park City Mountain Resort, 1345 Lowell Ave, Park City, UT 84060, +1 (435) 649-8111
7. Northstar (Truckee), California
Get read to shred the gnar on Shaun White’s home mountain at Northstar California Resort, which boasts multiple award-winning terrain parks and pipes. There’s even a massive 22-foot superpipe at Northstar designed by White himself.
Sign up for lessons at the on-site Burton Snowboard Academy, which provides instruction for all levels. Northstar also offers “Her Mountain,” ski and snowboard lessons designed just for women that are led by female instructors and include yoga and an apres-scene with other women. Look for monthly two-day ski and snowboard retreats for women in February and March.
After a few days up on a snowboard at Northstar you may be well on your way to achieving a perfect score like White did recently at the U.S. Grand Prix in Snowmass, Colorado. He’s now set to compete in Pyeongchang for his third gold medal.
Northstar California Resort, 5001 Northstar Dr, Truckee, CA 96161, +1 (530) 562-2267
8. Stowe, Vermont
To get a taste of the Vermont ski experience, head to Stowe Mountain Resort.
Stowe Mountain Resort
Vermont turns out more Winter Olympians per capita than any other state. Stowe, for one, is home to numerous amateur ski clubs that have bred world-class athletes. With the recent acquisition of Stowe Mountain Resort by Vail Resorts, look for that number to rise as plans to revitalize the ski area come to fruition.
When you’re ready to take a break from the slopes, you can play like an athlete too. Head out on a snowmobile to explore miles of snowy trails or join a guided snowshoe tour to re-center before taking the ski lift back up for another run.
Stowe Mountain Resort, 7416 Mountain Rd, Stowe, VT 05672, +1 (802) 253-3000
Smugglers’ Notch Resort, 4323 Vermont 108 S, Jeffersonville, VT 05464, +1 (802) 370-3186
9. Squaw Valley / Lake Tahoe, California
At Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, train like an Olympian at one of five official training sites for the US Ski & Snowboard Team. Blaze the trails on skis or a snowboard, then make time for snow tubing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing when you’re ready for a break.
Test your skills on the NASTAR race course for a chance to win medals every weekend. The national championships will be held on this course from March 21 to 25. While on the mountain, book a guided tour with Winter Olympian Errol Kerr, who placed ninth in ski cross at the Vancouver Games in 2010.
At the renovated Olympic Museum, check out newly acquired memorabilia from the 1960 Games at Squaw Valley. The nearby Museum of Sierra Ski History is also worth visiting for exhibits on the 1960 Winter Olympics. Snap a selfie with the original Olympic rings from the Games.
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows / Olympic Museum, 1960 Squaw Valley Rd, Olympic Valley, CA 96146, +1 (800) 403-0206
Museum of Sierra Ski History, 9480 Crocker Rd, Granite Bay, 95746, +1 (702) 497-4048
10. Mammoth Lakes, California
With ski seasons that can extend into July, it’s no wonder Mammoth Lakes has turned out such an impressive number of Winter Olympians. Spend any amount of time in the area and you’re bound to bump into an Olympian or two.
Mammoth Mountain Ski Area not only benefits from some of the best and most reliable snow conditions (hello, snow until July), but that snow has been expertly shaped and groomed in ways that have exceeded the expectations of even the world’s best freeskiers and snowboarders.
New to snowboarding? Mammoth Mountain offers loads of performance development classes, even multi-day clinics, where you can learn to rock the halfpipe, hit the bumps and manage the moguls. Take a break with a snowcat tour, an exhilarating snowmobile ride or an introduction to backcountry skiing.
Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, 1001 Minaret Rd, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546, +1 (760) 934-0745
Erin Gifford is a Washington, DC-based travel writer who covers adventure, wellness, culinary and family travel.
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