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.
The Winter Olympics' youngest sport, freestyle skiing, encompasses moguls, aerials, and – starting in Sochi – halfpipe and slopestyle. Don't think you're ready to turn upside down? Think again. The new Woodward at Copper facility in Copper Mountain, Colorado, was designed not only as an elite training facility, but also a place for everyone to try flips, rails, and dangerous jumps. Start with an Intro Session, which gets first-time fliers acquainted with Woodward's trampolines, foam pits, and launch ramps. A freestyle-ski coach teaches basic air awareness, beginning with forward rolls on the springboard floor and gradually progressing toward a 60-foot synthetic ski hill surrounded by a foam pit. Wear gym clothes, but nothing too baggy because loose clothes can get in the way. After the mandatory Intro Session, try a $35 drop-in, staffed with coaches who offer pointers on tricks like misty flips and rodeos. Strap on a safety belt and head to the extra-bouncy super tramp to practice your first backflip.
Expect to rub shoulders with local pros like Bobby Brown, Gus Kenworthy, and Olympic hopeful Emilia Wint. But no need to feel intimidated. "Above all, Woodward is a place to come in and have some fun," says Tyler Conway, the Team Breckenridge freestyle coach and Woodward instructor. Want more? Take your new skills out onto the mountain at one of Copper's seven terrain parks with the full-day Freestyle Lesson.
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