The sound of the herald trumpets can only mean one thing: it’s time for the Olympics. This year, the Winter Olympics will be held February 4th-20th, 2022 in Beijing, China. While watching from the comfort and warmth of your couch you may wonder, how do you even try that sport. We took a look around the North Jersey area to see where you can try your hand at Olympic favorites like curling, cross-country skiing, ice skating, and even the luge. Read on to plan your winter Olympic outing locally.
The Winter Olympics
If it seems like there’s always something happening during Olympics coverage, you’re not crazy. There are 15 sports with both men and women competing, and several events for each. For example, curling has three events: Men’s, Women’s, and Mixed Doubles. Each event is played in a round-robin style tournament, so that’s a lot of curling, and that’s just one sport.
We’d be remiss not to talk about the town of Lake Placid, NY, just a few hours away. Lake Placid was home to the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. It continues to be a favorite destination for skiing and hiking. The Olympic Legacy Sites, made up of four venues used in the Olympics, are now used to give visitors the opportunity to ‘find the Olympian inside.’ Visitors can visit the Olympic facilities to do different activities including skating on a speed-skating oval, ski, snowboard, or cross-country ski on the trails, skating on an Olympic figure skating rink, and visiting various historical sites, like the rink where the Miracle on Ice happened.
Some of the more unusual activities visitors can do include the Bobsled Experience, where visitors can ride in a two-person bobsled down the track, reaching speeds up to 55 miles per hour, and the Sky Flyer Zipline, which is meant to emulate the feeling of ski jumping. There is also the Skeleton Experience, which is racing on a sled, face-first, on an icy track, and the Luge, which is taken from its seasonal setting on an icy track and transformed into a wheeled sled on a paved track.
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In addition to being a destination in itself, the venue often plays host to sports competitions and other special events that are open to the public. Keep an eye on the events calendar to see what’s happening.
Athletes who excel in the biathlon are highly skilled at two sports: cross-country skiing and target shooting. This sport made its debut in the 1924 Winter Olympics as a military patrol demonstration event and was added as an official, competitive sport in 1960. Both men and women compete. There are six types of races: sprint, pursuit, mass start, relay, individual, and mixed (men and women) relay. Participants cross-country ski through a course with a .22 caliber rifle on their back, and have to stop and shoot at targets along the way. Both speed and accuracy are scored to get the athlete’s total score.
Mt. Van Hoevenberg | 220 Bobsled Run Lane, Lake Placid, NY
To learn how to do the biathlon, head to the Olympic Center at Lake Placid for a biathlon workshop. Participants can get a lesson in both cross country skiing and shooting with a professional on Olympic-quality grounds. Many biathletes train in the off-season by completing the same course and race, but by running instead of cross-country skiing.
The Pennsylvania Biathlon Club hosts events all summer with an emphasis on helping participants improve their time, develop physical endurance, and practice shooting.
If this sounds like something to watch up close, the 2022 US Biathlon Association National Championships will be held in Lake Placid, NY from March 23rd-27th. There will be men, women, and paralympic athletes competing in sprint, relay, and pursuit courses.
This quirky sport made its Olympic debut in 2018 and was a fast favorite. This is the one where it looks like the players chase down a big, smooth rock using brooms on ice, and they’re having a blast.
Plainfield Curling Club | 133 McKinley Street, South Plainfield, NJ
Since 1963 the non-profit Plainfield Curling Club has been enjoying this low-key sport from its clubhouse and ice facility in Plainfield, NJ. The Club invites people to check out curling at the facility and be guided by members at any of its frequently held Curling Experience sessions, which are a two-hour beginner’s workshop. In honor of the Olympics, the Club will host special Olympic Open Houses. Registration is required so please check the website for availability. The Club can also host private events, so if you’re looking for a memorable corporate outing or birthday party, this may be the move.
Winter Village at Bryant Park | Bryant Park, 42nd Street + 6th Avenue, New York, NY
The Winter Village at Bryant Park has an iceless curling setup that might not be up to regulation but is for sure a good time. The Curling Cafe has heated igloos set up for groups to enjoy their own curling lane, snacks, and drinks. The curling lane and equipment are made of synthetic materials that closely resemble the real thing. Bonus? You can order hot chocolate directly to your igloo.
Watching ice hockey: always fast, always fun, and there’s usually a fight. This team sport is a crowd favorite, and both men’s and women’s teams compete. The US Women’s team won gold in the 2018 Olympics. And who could forget the 1980 Miracle on Ice when the US Men’s team beat the Russian men’s team in its eventual run to the gold medal in Lake Placid? This year, no NHL players will be participating in the Olympics, so maybe we’ll have some new star players to root for. If you’re feeling inspired to try out for the roster, now’s your chance to pick up some stick skills.
Chelsea Piers | 61 Chelsea Piers, New York, NY
In Manhattan, Chelsea Piers offers an Adult Hockey Prep Program. This program is designed for adults who have some basic skating skills but want to learn more about the mechanics of playing hockey.
Montclair State Ice Arena | 1 Arena Drive, Little Falls, NJ
The Montclair State Ice Arena is home to year-round adult ice hockey, including an instructional league for beginners. Another option for adult beginners is a ten-session program of adult hockey instruction. The course will focus on basic skills like skating forward and backward, stick-handling, and passing.
Figure skating is probably the one Olympic sport that has as much drama and excitement behind the scenes as in front of the cameras, which is saying a lot for a sport where the costumes are made of mostly Lycra and sequins. There’s no denying the incredible athleticism of the competitors: essentially they’re performing gymnastics, on ice, with sharp knives strapped to their feet. And as wild as it all sounds, they make it looks like art. US Figure Skating, the official organization of figure skating in the US, describes the Olympic figure skating events as follows:
In singles figure skating, men and women compete solo, demonstrating required elements during a program that can include jumps, spins, step sequences, and more.
As defined by the International Skating Union, pairs figure skating is “the skating of two persons in unison who perform their movements in such harmony with each other as to give the impression of genuine Pair Skating as compared with independent Single Skating.” Each pair consists of one male and one female skater, and together they complete both a short program and free skate. In contrast to ice dance, pairs skating features overhead lifts, and side-by-side jumps and spins.
III. Ice Dance
With its roots in ballroom dancing, ice dance features a male and female performing a choreographed routine to music. Similar to singles and pairs, ice dance has two competition segments: a rhythm dance and a free dance.
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There are plenty of places to ice skate nearby. But even Nancy Kerrigan had to start somewhere. Lots of facilities mean lots of opportunities for adult beginners to learn how to skate.
Chelsea Piers | 61 Chelsea Piers, New York, NY
Chelsea Piers has a lesson series for adults as well as private instruction available. Skate rental is available on-site. Students can wear either figure skating or hockey skates.
Ice House NJ | 111 Midtown Bridge Approach, Hackensack, NJ
Even though the Ice House is home to some of North Jersey’s most competitive youth hockey players, there’s still room for beginners in one of the facility’s four NHL-sized rinks. The team at the Ice House takes training seriously and has an entire department dedicated to its Learn to Skate program. The adult Learn to Skate program has six levels of curriculum based on skill level.
Montclair State Ice Arena | 1 Arena Drive, Little Falls, NJ
Classes for all levels of skaters are taught all year-round at the Montclair State Ice Arena. The Adult Learn to Skate class is designed to teach adult beginners the basics of skating. Class registration includes a pass to open skate sessions at the Arena for the entire semester of your course.
Newport Skates | 95 River Drive, Jersey City, NJ
Newport Skates will be open from Saturday, November 20th, 2021 through Sunday, March 13th, 2022, weather permitting. It is open Mon-Fri 4PM-9PM, Sat 11AM-9PM, Sun 11AM-7PM.
Winter Village at Bryant Park | Bryant Park, 42nd Street and 6th Avenue, New York NY
There’s no shortage of activities in Bryant Park and the Skate School is another opportunity to spend time in the festive Winter Village. Lessons can be reserved online and can be private or in a small group of up to six students. Any level of the student is welcome and the lessons are 30 minutes long.
Wollman Rink | 830 5th Avenue, New York, NY
This classic New York City landmark has a skate school onsite with an entire series of classes dedicated to adult skaters. From the adult First Steps class to the Skating Academy, there is a course to suit your skillset. The Rink also offers other ice rink-based workouts including yoga…on ice.
Skiing + Snowboarding
This might be stating the obvious but there are so. many. kinds. of ski and snowboard-based Olympic sports. Alpine skiing, cross country skiing, freestyle skiing, Nordic combined, ski jumping, and snowboarding. Each of those has several subcategories so needless to say there will plenty of coverage on TV.
There are several places to learn how to ski and snowboard nearby: trust us when we say you won’t be the only adult beginner or it’s-been-a-while skier on the slopes. There’s no shame in the bunny slope game – all runs lead to the base bar.
Cross Country Skiing
High Point Cross Country Ski Center | 1480 Route 23, Sussex, NJ
This sport-specific facility is only open seasonally from December till March, so if you’re thinking about making a trip, don’t delay. Group lessons are available four times a day, every day, and private lessons are offered twice a day. Reservations are required for lessons. Equipment rental is available onsite, including a baby back carrier and a pulk sled to pull behind you. The park is at 1600’ elevation, so in addition to it being ideal conditions for cross-country, the views are incredible.