It is the rare and probably Canadian person who grew up near a luge track or a curling sheet. Though they become temporarily high profile when the Winter Olympics roll around, many winter sports are practiced only in very specific places by very specialized athletes. That makes fully appreciating the achievements that will be showcased at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, far more difficult than, say, understanding how exceptional Hussain Bolt is on the track. In order to gauge a competitor's mastery of a sport, it helps to have tried your hand at it.
But you can't just nip out to the local ski jump. If you want to try Winter Olympics sports, you'll have to either visit the few facilities around the country that offer tutorials for beginners or fly to Sochi and try to sneak into the Olympic Park. And we don't recommend the latter. Not surprisingly, it's probably easier to get to one of the following places to take part in the Winter Olympic sports you've never tried.
One of the world's oldest team sports, curling may also be among the hardest to fully understand. Inspired by sixteenth-century Scottish clansmen, the sport consists of competitors sliding a 42-pound granite stone, a.k.a. "the rock," across the ice toward a target. Players then use brooms to scrub the ice to control the direction of the stone. Most beginning curling programs take three to four hours largely because the rules and terminology require some serious explaining. The best place to try it out is probably Wisconsin's Green Bay Curling Club, which hosted the 2013 U.S.A. Curling National Championships. The facility's Learn 2 Curl is offered in September, before the season starts, and during the Olympics.
"We had 50 to 60 people showing up every night for a week during the last Olympics," says the club's vice-president, Bill Rhyme, a fourth-generation curler. Just be sure to bring a good pair of tennis shoes – the club will provide a slip-on slider required to play – and your I.D. "It's custom to sit down with your opponents after the tournament and share a drink," says Rhyme. The club keeps three beers on tap: Miller, Miller Light, and (at press time) Spotted Cow.
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