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Vacation like an Olympian

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Entertainment,Robin Tierney
Dream of bobsledding down mountains? Now you can swoosh along the world's fastest track at 80 mph and nearly 5-G force at Utah Olympic Park. Be assured, a professional pilot will do the steering.

Less need for speed? Opt for a tamer tour of the nearly mile-long, 15-curve bobsled, skeleton and luge track, the world's highest Nordic ski jump, and a ski museum mixing cool facts and artifacts.

If you go
Utah Olympic Park
25 minutes from Salt Lake City in Park City. Free admission to park and exhibits.
olyparks.com
435-658-4200
Park City Quick S.T.A.R.T. Ski Today and Ride Today offer:
Free same-day lift ticket when presenting airline boarding pass, online voucher and out-of-state ID at the Canyons Resort, Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain Resort. Valid Jan. 3 to Feb. 18 and March 27 to resort closing day.
parkcityinfo.com/quickstart
800-453-1360

Ori Hoffer left Arlington and his job at AOL to train as an Olympic skeleton contender when the 2002 Winter Games venue opened. Why skeleton? "I thought it was the coolest way to get down the mountain," says Hoffer, now a local TV producer. "Plus better odds of making it onto a national team in this sport than in tennis or basketball."

UOP serves as a year-round, world-class training facility. At 7,310 feet, UOP's K90 and K120 meter jumps are the world's highest-altitude jumps, allowing skiers to fly 55 mph. Explore the park on your own, or take a 45-minute guided bus tour to the top of the Nordic jumps and bobsled track.

In the park's Alf Engen Ski Museum, you can discover alpine pioneers, snow-showboarders tackling the precipitous slope of nearby Ecker Hill, and how the Great Salt Lake effect plus high terrain creates "the greatest snow on Earth" compared with the "Sierra Cement" of other ski areas.

"Luge riders steer using their calves, less by sight than by muscle memory," says tour guide Alexis Brown. "Reaching 90 miles per hour, the ice gets white-hot." Skeleton riders steer using their shoulders, face-first, facedown.

"A deer jumped onto the track at curve 6 and slid down 8 or 9 curves," recalls Brown, guessing curiosity as the deer's motivation. "We removed her using a carpet; she was fine."

What's the Comet Bobsled ride like? "The most intense minute of your life," Brown replies. "Pressure close to four to five times the force of gravity. It drops the equivalent of a 40-story building in under a minute."

Prefer fewer Gs? Try the park's Quicksilver Autoboggan, a stainless-steel European-style alpine slide with 15 curves.

Hoffer still flies downhill -- but now on skis instead of skeleton. Speaking of skiing, Park City's new Quick S.T.A.R.T. special converts a plane ticket into a free same-day ski-lift pass at three area resorts. You'll find Olympic-class perfect powder at all of them.

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