Growing up in Alberta, we just can’t help but love winter. Snow, ice, alpine. It’s in our blood. When Calgary was awarded the Winter Olympic Games in 1988, you could almost taste the excitement. The whole province got involved, with volunteers from every corner pitching in to help us make a good first impression on the world stage. State of the art facilities were built in and around Calgary to provide training and competition venues, with names like Canada Olympic Park, Nakiska, Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park and the Olympic Oval.
Over the years, under the guidance of WinSport Winter Sport Institute, the facilities have been expanded, enhanced and modernized. Many Canadian athletes and others from around the world continue to train here. My dream? To follow in the tracks of Olympic hopefuls by experiencing as many of the Olympic winter sports as possible.
Begin at the Beginning
I start my odyssey at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame on the grounds at Canada Olympic Park. I’m taken back in time at the sports equipment exhibit, which conjures the smell of the black tape we slapped on our shins as kids to keep our hockey pads in place. I’m planning to return before day is done to explore Olympic lore, interactive exhibits and 10 different sports halls. Right now it’s time for action. Tops on my list are the famous bobsleigh and luge courses. I have a need for speed!
The Ice House is the world’s only indoor push-start facility for bobsleigh, luge and skeleton. I can feel my adrenaline spike as I tuck myself into a four-person bobsleigh driven by an experienced pilot. He tells us to hold tight and scrunch our heads down to see the turns. We do 14 twists in 60 blurry seconds. But it takes just 40 seconds to conquer the luge track, while lying on my back as the world streaks past. Check two awesome experiences off my list!
Feel like an Olympian
Nakiska is a mountain resort in Kananaskis Country, just 45 minutes west of Calgary in the front ranges of the Canadian Rockies. As I ski down the Legacy run that World Cup racers still use to train, I make another check mark on my bucket list.
Nearby, Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park was built for cross-country skiing and biathlon events and is home to Canada’s national Nordic and biathlon teams. I literally followed in their tracks along some of the 65 km (37 mi) of groomed and track set trails, amidst jaw-dropping alpine scenery.
Back in Calgary, I had to try speed skating at the Olympic Oval. It’s still the fastest ice in the world. International and short track and long track speed skaters come every year to train and compete.
To complete my Olympic experience, I laced up for a skate around Olympic Plaza downtown, where the medals were handed out in 1988. This has been a weekend for the record books. I’ll be back.