Where to Try Your Hand at Winter Olympic Sports in and Around Chicago
And if you’re 33.9 years old, we have some great, curling-related news for you
For most athletes at the Winter Olympics, the road to Beijing began from the moment they could walk, with decades of intense training, endless workout regimes, and gross vanilla-flavored protein shakes.
But there’s always a chance — a small one, but also one that expands considerably if you enjoy curling — that your road to the Olympics could begin right here in the Chicagoland area. (And at the very least, our wealth of winter sports facilities sort of makes up for our infamously miserable winters.)
So whether you think you’re destined for gold medal glory or just want to try your hand at some of the Winter Olympic events, we’ve got you covered.
If flying down an icy hill at 87 mph sounds like your idea of a perfect weekend, then set your GPS for the Muskegon Luge Adventure Sports Park. The park runs a 2.5-hour program designed specifically for first-time lugers; they’ll cover everything from how to use the equipment to how to steer the sled. You’ll also be equipped with everything you need to luge, including elbow pads, a helmet, and an authentic training sled handcrafted by a family of third-generation luge sled builders in Austria. (Hey Bravo, we have your next reality show subject.)
Feeling extra competitive? The program culminates in a “fun and friendly” (their words, not ours) competition where the class’s fastest sliders compete for gold, silver, and bronze medals. And just a reminder: It doesn’t matter if you’re beating an 11-year-old, a medal is still a medal.
Curling might just be our new favorite sport. It’s fun, it’s accessible, and, best of all, the average age of an Olympic-level curler is 33.9, making it probably your best bet to achieve Olympic glory.
The Chicago Curling Club is dedicated to promoting the sport in the Chicagoland area, and they offer 2-hour Learn2Curl clinics, during which participants gain an introduction to the game.
Still not convinced that curling is the greatest sport ever? Each Learn2Curl clinic ends in a traditional “broomstacking” event, which is a post-game ritual to drink and socialize with your fellow players. (Take note, every other sport.)
Cross Country Skiing
Sure, you could spend another freezing Chicago winter weekend cooped up at home, rewatching everything on Netflix (again).
Or … you could take advantage of the Cook County Forest Preserve’s 350 miles of cross-country ski trails.
Be sure to reserve a time to rent online — you can’t get equipment without it.
Figure Skate Chicago
Michelle Kwan. Tara Lipinski. Nancy Kerrigan. And now? You.
If you’re itching to get on the ice and try your hand at triple axels, Figure Skate Chicago is just the place to do it. With multiple ice rink partners across the city, Figure Skate Chicago offers private lessons for skaters of all ages and skill levels, whether you’re brand-new to skates or an old pro looking to break out of retirement to confront a rival on the ice.
And if the idea of falling on the ice in front of cool teens doesn’t terrify you,, Heartland Ice Arena offers an Adults Basics class for ages 12 and Up.
While we can’t help you join the Chicago Blackhawks, we can direct you to a beginner’s level Adult Hockey class offered at the very same arena they play at. And really — aside from the money, fame, free drinks, and endless love of diehard Chicago fans — that’s almost as good.
Intermediate classes and off-ice skills classes are also available.
Milwaukee really does have it all: beer, cheese, a bronze statue of the Fonz and one of the top speed skating training sites in the country.
Milwaukee’s Petit National Ice Center is an official training site for US Speedskating athletes, with all of the US speed skaters in the last six Winter Olympics having competed or trained at the center.
While they may not be able to turn you into the next Apolo Ohno, you can still take part in the Petit National Ice Center’s public skating hours, which is offered nearly every day.
Skiing and Snowboarding
People on the coasts tend to think of the Midwest as a giant flat space filled with corn fields and Culvers.
And while, okay, they might be a little accurate, we also have our fair share of ski and snowboarding resorts.
Chestnut Mountain Resort in Galena (about a three-hour drive from Chicago) offers world-class snowboarding and skiing, with 19 ski runs (ranging from bunny slopes to black diamonds) and a snowboarding terrain park. Plus, if you need a little extra help, the resort’s 50+ instructors offer daily group lessons in both skiing and snowboarding.
Prefer your skiing closer to the city? Villa Olivia — part of the Bartlett Park District — has seven runs and a tubing hill, with rental equipment available.
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