Olympic Games come and go, and it’s becoming more common for those expensive buildings to begin rusting after the world has stopped paying attention. That should make Utah Olympic Park even more respected, because it appears to gleam as much now as it did in the unique winter of 2002.
The Park City-based bobsled and luge tracks, along with the ski-jumping stations, thrive in large part because they serve as major launching pads for the future of Winter Games hopefuls of the United States. But the park keepers—the nonprofit Utah Athletic Foundation—have gone to great lengths to make it accessible year-round to weekend warriors and kids. “We think it’s just as important to promote participation,” said UOP director Alison Butz. Activities in Park City are surely good conversation starters, unique vacation or stay-cation opportunities to the state of Utah that don’t involve temples, membership cards or fry sauce.
There aren’t many other parks around that let visitors try to do flips after skiing downhill and landing in a pool of water. Or charge down a cement path in a special type of wheeled vehicle. Summer athletes of all ages can also be introduced all summer to camps dedicated to chasing either style (lots of flips), distance off the ski jumps or high speeds in the track events. It’s fairly common to see multiple generations of families doing a class together. Butz points out that there are smaller hills that are used by ordinary Joes and Janes—not the crazy-steep slopes that are used to chase gold medals.
The UOP is constantly trying to keep itself innovative. For starters, organizers say their busiest season—despite being built on the premise of snow—is in the summer.
For activities in which users wear skis, it can help to have some experience wearing them. But it’s not mandatory, and Butz says there is another dry slope where you can be taught how to navigate the runs in a straight line. The best part: All of the equipment is included in the fee.
The park is also making a push this summer to introduce multi-sport camps, which are for kids and intended to invite them to try a number of sports. The adult demographic could view a trip close to the ski resorts as an alternative to Disneyland. Kids could enjoy sunning on a deck, as hip parents try things like the summer bobsled (think a large, caged Rollerblade, charging down the halfpipe). There’s also the popular alpine slide and zip lines, which send riders along a rope at high speeds—a refreshing breeze on a hot day.
UOP is a gem, for visitors and locals, considering one could go to places like Athens or Beijing—which held Olympiads well after Utah—and see venues that have already started to dilapidate, according to myriad reports. The only other American competition is Lake Placid, a New York village that isn’t nearly as accessible.
UOP has made simple moves to stay vital—like erasing the admission fee to the park and museum about three years ago— but it’s also been creative to draw crowds. Butz said it’s becoming more common for the park to be used by bachelor parties and corporate groups. Local companies are also inquiring about activities as a means of morale boosting.
On July 25, the park will hold the Festival of Flight, dedicated to freestyle demonstrations and competitions. Expect to see some more traffic from the “real” winter athletes as the Vancouver games next February get closer. Bobsledders, lugers and ski jumpers will descend upon UOP to get in some final-weeks training runs before heading to Canada. For those who want to see how it’s really done, UOP will use the latest community technology—Facebook and Twitter—to let people know when some potential Olympic champions will be in town.
UTAH OLYMPIC PARK
3419 Olympic Parkway