Utah Olympic Park

September 14, 2009

So this past week, I had to haul off to Idaho again for another magical adventure placing HAR stations. This time however, rather than flying into Boise and driving to the eastern edge of the state, I flew into Salt Lake City and drove north.

This change in entry point allowed me the chance to do a bit of Olympic related sight-seeing on the days of my flights. As a result, I was able to drop by the 'E Center' on Tuesday night, and the Utah Olympic Park on Friday morning.

The 'E Center'

The 'E Center' was of course the main hockey rink for the 2002 Games, and the location where Canada won its Men's & Women's Gold Medal Games. Short of maybe the Luzhniki Ice Palace, I'd say that its one of the most important foriegn hockey facilities in terms of Canadian Hockey History.

That being said, despite the hallowed ground, the facility itself was actually less than impressive. Its now home to the ECHL Utah Grizzlies, and it looks and feels exactly like you'd expect an ECHL Rink to look and feel. It's really in the middle of a power-centre, and at only 10,100 seats, its hardly a large rink. Something like the John Labatt Centre in London is way way more impressive....

Utah Olympic Park

If the 'E Center' was perhaps a bit of a dissapointment, then the Utah Olympic Park certainly made up for it. Home to the Ski Jumping and Sliding Sports during 2002, it has the Summer Splashpool for the Aerial Skiing/Moguls teams, as well as a couple of Olympic Museums on site.

One of the coolest bits about the park was that I found out upon my arrival at 9 AM was that the US Freestyle Team would be coming to the splashpool to train, starting at 11 AM. It was almost perfect timing, giving me enough time to poke around the facilities, tour the museums....then finish it all off with a little live action from the Freestyle Team!!

Ski Jump

I started off by heading over to the Ski Jumping area. The first thing that struck me was the incline of the landing ramp....its very very steep...to the point that I bet that jumpers are really never more than 10 m or so off the actual ground. Its probably more like 'Ski-Falling' rather than 'Ski Jumping'.

The other thing I noticed was how intimate the venue was. One thing I've been worried about regarding the venues is that we'll be sat so far back that we won't actually have a chance to really 'see' anything. This was pretty much dissuaded by my time at the ski-jumping facility, where you could picture where the stands were during the games. They were pretty much right on top of the action.

Sliding Sports

After I spent some time at the Ski-Jump hills, I headed over for the Bobsled track....

Once I got into the track, the first thing that hit me was how increadibly steep and narrow the track is. When you see it on TV, you basically assume that the track is more or less level, even though you know that its a gravity sport, and hence thats not totally true. However, I never imagined that it would be on the kind of slope that it really is. In fact, the average grade of the entire track is 7.8%, so I'd estimate that in steep sections you're looking at a 15% grade or so at least. Throw in the fact that you're on ice when you're going down that, and its not hard to see how you reach speeds of +140 km/h.

The second thing that I noticed about the bobsled track is, again, how on top of the action the spectators really are. It was even more drastic at the bobsled track than it was at the ski-jumping, as for the sliding sports, you could probably reach out and high-five someone going by....should you be so inclined. I can't wait to see a bobsled go past me only 5 feet away!

However, as I was a little pressed for time, I was only able to make it about half-way up the bobsled track before I had to turn around and head on back.

Olympic Museum

After the bobsled track, I headed back to the main HQ and went through the Olympic Museum they had on site. It was pretty much standard fare in terms of a museum...some things that we really cool...and alot of stuff that you're really not intersted in.

The two coolest 'items' were probably the picture board highlighting Canada's hockey wins, and one of the curling stones from the Ogden Ice Sheet. You could reach in and try to pick it up, so I was able to get a little 'hands-on experience'....


The last, and by far coolest, thing I saw at the Utah Olympic Park was the US Freestyle Team's practice session in the Splashpool. As you can see from the picture below, they have a practice facility that they use in the summer, where all the normaly mogul and aerial ramps land into a 10 ft pool. It was a really amazing set up, and I was lucky enough to actually see it in use:

The ramps themselves are treated with a special kind of plastic, which is then wetted down by small sprinklers to reduce friction. Or...in other words...its basically an overgrown Slip-'N-Slide!!

One other thing that might not be evident, from the pictures at least, is the bubbling of the water. As jumpers leave the ramp, there are a series of pipes on the bottom of the pool that release a blast of air. The resultant bubbles reach the surface of the water roughly the same time the skiier lands....breaking the surface tension of the water and reducing the impact. Very high-tech....

Overall, I was able to stay and watch about a half-hour of the practice session before I had to take off for the airport. It was a very cool thing to see in person however, and again...just got me more pumped for the Olympics. Unfortuneatly during the games, I'm only going to have a chance to see the Moguls competition...missing out on the Aerials. Ben and Andrea are of course going to the Men's Finals....but I'll be at Curling during that time. I suppose you can't do it all!


The slideshow below has all the pics from my little adventure. Having now had a chance to actually see Olympic Facilities, I'm even more pumped for Vancouver. I could picture what it must have been like at these places when the games were actually on, and know that it will only be more amazing when its on Canadian Soil!!

On a final note, as of today there are 150 Days To Go...


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This blog is the online chronicle of our adventures leading up to, and including, the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. We hope to give you a little insight into what went into planning our trip and a first hand look at the Games from the ground in Vancouver.

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