Between travel expenses and visa requirements, many Americans may have to nix a trip to Sochi, Russia this February for the 2014 Olympics. But that doesn’t mean winter sports enthusiasts have to sit these Games out. Thanks to World Cup and Olympic Trials action, fans can watch the same world-class athletes who will later represent Team USA right on home soil.
Where to Watch the Action
For the widest range of sports, head to the 2002 Olympic host destinations of Salt Lake City and Park City, Utah. Here, you’ll find World Cup and Olympic team-selecting competition in more than a dozen disciplines, including freekiing, (yes, meaning a chance to catch legendary Shaun White), moguls, aerial skiing, bobsled, luge, skeleton, speed skating and ski jumping. Competitions take place between November and early January, and all but speed skating events are free and open to the public. (Tickets for U.S. Speed Skating events, which range from $5 to $8 for adults, are available online at www.smithstix.com.)
Alpine ski racing enthusiasts can catch Ted Ligety in Beaver Creek, Colorado from Dec. 6 to 8 for the Birds of Prey World Cup, and Lindsey Vonn a week earlier at the Nature Valley Raptor World Cup. Other destinations hosting Olympic Trials competition include Lake Louise in New York (ladies’ alpine ski racing); Fargo, North Dakota (curling); Copper Mountain, Colorado (snowboarding); and Boston (figure skating).
More than Just Spectating
In addition to world-class competitions, some destinations also offer a chance to experience thrills typically reserved for athletes. At the Olympic Sports Complex at Lake Placid and Utah Olympic Park in Park City thrill-seekers can cross bobsled and skeleton rides off their bucket lists, often under the guidance of past Olympians. Park City Mountain Resort allows skiers to tackle the same runs used in 2002 Giant Slalom events, and adventurous Nordic skiers can take biathlon lessons in Lake Placid.
Some events bring a carnival-like atmosphere with plenty of off-mountain entertainment. The Freestyle Ski World Cup at Deer Valley Resort, which runs from Jan. 9 to 11, 2014, kicks off with a free outdoor concert on Park City’s Main Street and follows each nightly competition with fireworks. The men’s alpine ski racing World Cup in Beaver Creek features a fashion show, and the televised U.S. Figure Skating Championships, running from Jan. 5 to 12, 2014, concludes with the lighthearted “Smucker’s Skating Spectacular,” a winners’ showcase of creative performances free from the scrutiny of judges.
Olympic enthusiasts can also become part of the Games by helping athletes financially. Lodging provider Resorts West, for example, offers a chance to support Park City ski racer Megan McJames, a member of the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver and strong contender to make the 2014 team, through the Olympic Dreams vacation package. Other athletes are using online crowd-funding tools like IndieGogo and RallyMe to draw support from fans. When even small donations make a big difference, supporters can feel directly part of an athlete’s journey.
When to Catch Trials Events
Whether you’re an avid ski racing fan or want to experience a new sport, use this schedule to find World Cup and Trials action held in the United States:
U.S. Curling Olympic Trials at Scheels Arena in Fargo, North Dakota: Nov. 10-17
Long Track Speed Skating World Cup at Salt Lake City’s Utah Olympic Oval: Nov. 15-17.
Ladies’ Alpine Ski Racing World Cup at Beaver Creek: Nov. 29-Dec. 1
FIBT Bobsled & Skelton World Cup at Park City’s Utah Olympic Park: Dec. 6-8
Men’s Alpine Ski Racing World Cup at Beaver Creek: Dec 6-8
Ladies’ Alpine Ski Racing World Cup at Lake Louise: Dec. 6-8
FIL Luge World Cup at Park City’s Utah Olympic Park: Dec. 13-14
U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix & FIS World Cup at Copper Mountain: Dec. 16-22
Nordic Combined Olympic Trials: Dec. 28-29
U.S. Speed Skating Olympic Trials: Dec. 27-Jan. 5
U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston’s TD Garden: Jan. 5-12, 2014
FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup at Deer Valley Resort: Jan. 9-11, 2014
U.S. Freeskiing Grand Prix and Olympic Team Naming at Park City Mountain Resort: Jan. 17-18, 2014