Every four years, snowy sports get their time to shine, thanks to the Winter Olympics. But don’t just watch the world’s best athletes show off their skills on the slopes, rinks and ice-covered tracks of PyeongChang, try their sports for yourselves! Here are six places where your family can imagine Olympic glory.
Show off your salchows, lutzes and axels at one of the area’s many indoor ice skating rinks. Former gold medalist Evan Lysacek trained at Seven Bridges Ice Arena in Woodridge, where public skating is offered a few times a week. And former Olympian and Highland Park native Jason Brown spent his early years perfecting jumps and spins at Centennial Ice Arena, which is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays.
If it’s good enough for the Blackhawks, it’s good enough for us! Johnny’s Ice House was the team’s official practice facility until a couple months ago, and it still retains some Madhouse on Madison vibes. Kids can sign up for youth hockey starting at age 2, or stop by on Saturday mornings for drop-in classes. And for fully grown Olympic wannabes, they offer adult programs, too.
Our flat Midwestern terrain might not rival the slopes of South Korea (or even Wisconsin), but you can go skiing right here in Illinois. Villa Olivia, a facility of the Bartlett Park District, offers downhill skiing that’s perfect for newbies, especially of the kid variety. Ski lessons are available for ages 4 and up, or buy tickets for the whole crew so you can schuss down the hills together. Family Fun Night is offered on Feb. 28.
It’s an Olympic sport on its own terms, plus the basis of another (Biathlon), but cross-country skiing usually doesn’t get the same love as its hillier counterpart. Traverse some snowy paths at the Sagawau Nordic Center, where you can rent skis, then explore four miles of carefully tended trails as a family from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily. Not feeling your cross-country cred quite yet? Lessons for ages 12 and up are offered every weekend.
As the redheaded stepchild of the more polished skiing, it only makes sense that snowboarding would get its bona fides from a guy nicknamed the Flying Tomato. Raging Buffalo Snowboard and Ski Park in Algonquin became the world’s first snowboard exclusive terrain park back in 1993 and features halfpipes, table tops, rails and other snowboard standards that would make Shaun White proud.
Daredevils, rejoice! You might not be able to defy death here in Illinois, but our friendly neighbor to the East has you covered. Just three-and-a-half hours away is the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex, where anyone 8 and up can fly down the icy chute known as the luge. The 850-foot track was designed by a former Olympian, so you know it’s legit. And the adrenaline rush it gives you is likely to last until the next Winter Olympics in 2022!