Where to Try Your Hand at Winter Olympic Sports in and Around DC
It’s not too late to be a curling superstar
With the Winter Olympics here, it’s time to revisit a recurring question: Where’s the nearest place to hop on a luge track? OK, so for that, you’ll actually need to head up to Lake Placid (there are surprisingly few luge tracks in the U.S.), but DC residents don’t have to journey particularly far to get into the thick of it with some other winter games. For instance: Did you know that DC has one of the most Olympic-centric speed skating facilities in the country? Or that multiple curling facilities are just within reach? Or that no less a brand than Vail Resorts operates a super-accessible resort with skiing and snowboarding offerings just up I-70?
Whether you’re interested in sending your own body hurtling over sheets of ice at high speeds or in attempting to get a large granite stone to go into its “house”, here’s the hookup for a wintry athletic fix this Olympic season.
Get into the groove with speed skating at Inner City Excellence
Speed skating has been a part of the Winter Olympics since the first competition was hosted back in 1924 — though it wasn’t considered suitable for women until a few decades later. Luckily, DC’s Inner City Excellence (a.k.a. ICE, get it?) is just about as progressive as they come. Honorary members include Maame Biney, a two-time Olympian who began her competitive career at one of DC-ICE’s meets, as well as Shani Davis, one of the sport’s pioneering Olympic champions, who actually inspired this particular club’s creation.
Even if these Olympians aren’t on site when you hit the ice at ICE, the club’s manager, Nathaniel Mills, better known to patrons as “Coach Nat,” is often in the building. The club’s learn-to-speed-skate program was not only the springboard for Biney’s Olympic career, but still exists today for anyone who is interested in learning the sport’s technique. There’s no better place in town to skate, whether it’s speed, figure, or inline.
Consider a curling membership, half season or full, at the Potomac Curling Club
Although it’s often maligned by flabbergasted onlookers, curling has slowly but surely earned global respect: Moving heavy stones up and down an icy surface using a broom is harder than it looks, and the process requires intensive strategy. Now you can try “chess on ice” for yourself at the Potomac Curling Club with a crash course on the basics of delivery, sweeping, and scoring.
About 35 minutes outside of DC proper, this club frequently hosts “Try Curling” open houses, with an hour of basic instruction for just $10. Twice a season, they also provide a three-hour “Learn To Curl” session for those who want intermediate support. And, if you end up falling in love with the sport, PCC also offers half-season or full-season memberships that will give aspiring curlers unlimited access for months at a time. Just make sure you learn all about curling etiquette before hopping on that ice – and dress warmly! Curling is not for the faint of heart.
Ski and snowboard down the slopes at Whitetail Resort
If the more esoteric winter sports aren’t your speed, consider the basics: skiing and snowboarding. For DC residents, Whitetail Resort offers plenty of both. Just 90 minutes from the city, this Pennsylvania ski resort is owned and operated by Vail Resorts, the true experts in creating fun, contemporary ski culture in America.
With plenty of lessons on deck for beginners, and all the equipment rentals you could need/want, Whitetail is a one-stop shop for your winter slope needs. And — if you don’t like going extremely fast? They also offer snow tubing, an incredibly fun, novice-friendly snow sport with tickets sold in two-hour chunks. This often sells out — though it might not be in the Olympics (yet?), it’s a guaranteed good time.
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