BEAR HOLLOW — Olympians do it, so why not everyone? Why not … take a long slide, a couple of jumps, a few spins, a flip and put the hands in the air. Then quickly step to the podium for the medal ceremony.
Only in Utah, at all levels, anyway, and only at the Utah Olympic Park in Park City.
The Utah Olympic Park is known, obviously, best for the 2002 Olympics. Fourteen Olympic events were held there. Some have carried forward from the Games. Others haven't.
Those that have carried over have started to attract a range of athletes, from complete beginners to experienced experts. And, they come here from around the world.
Colin Hilton, president/CEO of the Utah Athletic Foundation, overseer of the park, said roughly a third of the daily visitors are from local areas and two-thirds are out-of-state and foreign visitors. They come for a variety of reasons, but most arrive looking for a taste of the Olympics.
And it can start at one of the signature features — the splash pool.
Freestyle aerials is one of the Olympic glamor events. Athletes on short skis and heavy boots completing multiple twists and flips in the air and landing skis first on a steep slope … hands held high after a successful performance.
At the park, new recruits start in the FLY program with a climb up a ramp where they position themselves for a start. On signal they slide down the in-run, go airborne a couple of feet off the water and in most case, land upright, skis first, like a falling brick on the surface.
The three-hour program is an introduction to freestyle skiing made doable thanks to the forgiving surface of water as opposed to snow or hard ground.
Students first don jumping gear — wet suit, life vest, helmet and a somewhat soggy pair of ski boots and short, stubby skis — and then jump into the very same pool as the Olympians in training.
The degree of difficulty depends on the daring of the participant.
But, it adds another dimension to the park, noted Carl Roepke, event and tour host and voice of the park.
"It's the first step in getting involved," he noted. "It's an opportunity to try different sports and, maybe, find one you like. … Then you can sign up for more complex training. The park is here not just to look at, but to try all the stuff."
Which, in the summer, would also include a Comet ride down the bobsled course.
The summer sled-on-wheels is only slightly slower than its winter cousin, a bobsled in runners. Winter sleds run at 80 miles per hour on ice, while summer sleds top 70 mph and pull up to 4 G's in the turns.
With a professional pilot at the wheel, up to three passengers act as crew on the run … keeping heads down, bodies packed close together and leaning, where possible, in the turns.
"This is," said Roepke, "the only place in America where you can get a ride like this … 15 turns, 1,330 meters and on an Olympic course — start to finish."
Lake Placid, which has the only other bobsled course in the United States, starts its summer bobsled run at the "junior start," which is six turns down from the top.
The Utah track is noted for being very technical and until recently carried the title of the world's fastest. The track in Whistler, British Columbia, recently recorded a run of 95 mph, bumping it up to be recognized as the "world's fastest track."
Other summer activities include:
Xtreme and Ultra ziplines. A zipline is a thrill ride that consists of a cable and a harness. Riders are fitted into the harness, which is hooked to downward-sloping cable, and then sent on a steep downhill run.
The Xtreme Zipline is the steepest in the world and runs alongside the imposing 120-meter ski jump. On command, doors or barricades swing open and the rider is released for a rather tense slide. Riders reach speed upwards of 55 mph along the 1,454-foot-long cable.
The Ultra takes a more gentle slope to the base area. The cable is 754 feet long and riders hit speeds upwards of 42 mph.
Quicksilver. This is a European-style slide referred to as an "autoboggan" and is the first in North America. Instead of a fiberglass track, this one run on a steel track and uses a special car.
Like other alpine slides, this one allows the rider to control the speed.
For those who choose to look rather than do, there are a range of options.
Spectators can watch from the bleachers or sloping lawn as freestyle students and Olympians train off the big jumps into the splash pool or enjoy the experiences of the beginners.
Every Saturday at 1 p.m., through Sept. 5, some of the world's best freestyle aerialists present the Flying Ace All-Stars Freestyle Show. The show has become extremely popular.
Visitors can also walk alongside the bobsled course and feel the speed and watch the line of the Comet.
Then there is the free walking tours of the Joe Quinney Winter Sports Center with the Alf Engen Ski Museum and Eccles Olympic Museum.
What has helped make the park so popular is admission and self-guided tours are free. There are fees for rides and guided tours.
As summer fades and colder weather returns, the park will begin its winter program, which includes the introduction to luge and skeleton and ski jumping. Park staff will begin icing up the bobsled track in mid-October. It will take from seven to 10 days to complete the icing work.
Roepke said he expects with the coming 2010 Games in February that visitation to the park will increase.
One of the side benefits of a visit is that past Olympic experiences will give people a better appreciation and a greater understanding of the coming Games.
All, of course, of the programs and the work is intended to offer visitors and participants a true Olympic experience — and it does.
Utah Olympic Park happenings
FLY Intro Freestyle: Focuses on basic freestyle skills. Ages 6 and older. Daily from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at cost of $95. Includes wet suit, life jacket, helmet, skis and boots.
Comet Bobsled: Run on bobsled run. Ages 14 and older and the cost is $60 first ride, $30 second.
Quicksilver Alpine Slide: Autoboggan ride. Ages 8 and older and the cost is $15 first ride, $7 second. For those ages 8 and older with child rider the cost is $20 first ride, $10 second.
Xtreme Zipline: Slide along a cable. Weight 100 to 275 pounds. Cost $20 first ride, $10 second.
Ultra Zipline: Slide along a cable. Weight 50 to 275 pounds and the cost is $15 first ride, $7 second.
Guided Tours: Adults 18 to 64 and the cost is $7. For seniors 65 and older and youths 3 to 17 the cost is $5.
Activity All-Day Pass: Gold for Comet, Xtreme, Ultra and Quicksilver is $90; Silver for Xtreme, Ultra and Quicksilver is $40; and Bronze for Ultra and Quicksilver is $25.
Flying Ace All-Star Freestyle Show: Olympian and national freestyle team members display acrobatic maneuvers. Saturdays through Sept. 5. Start 1 p.m. For adults 18 to 64 the cost is $10, and for seniors 65 and older and youths 3 to 17 the cost is $7.