Now that that one big sporting event is out of the way, we're ready to set our sights on the sort of competition the rest of the world actually pays attention to: the Olympics. With the Winter Games kicking off in Sochi on the 7th, we're mighty tempted to settle into our blanket burritos and cheer on athletes who are clearly in far better shape than we are. But this go-round we're ready to say nay. We're hoping to shed our blankets and actually give a few of the Olympic events a whirl of our own. Thankfully, there are a bevy of places where we can learn to compete like an Olympian right here in New York City — or a few hours away. (Fact: it ain’t easy to fit a luge into the city.)
By far the event most likely to have competitors that look like someone’s heavy drinking dad, curling is an everyman’s sport that doesn’t require hours of training or special skills. In honor of the Olympics, Plainfield Curling Club in South Plainfield, New Jersey is hosting a curling open house February 22–23. For a $10 donation, we can learn how to deliver the stones and sweep away on the ice. For those who can’t make the open house, we suggest the club’s Learn-to-Curl program, which features three sessions on all the finer points of the sport. Bonus points go to those who buy the first round at a local bar for your fellow competitors. Ardsley Curling Club in Irvington, New York is also hosting a few weekends of open houses in late February and learn-to-curl classes in March, and Long Island’s LI Curling Club is letting people give the sport a try.
It may look like a sport that only requires staying upright on a pair of skates and smacking into other people, but hockey actually does involve rules and more than a little bit of skill. Learn the finer points of competing on the ice at Aviator’s adult learn to play hockey classes, and then sign up to join an adult league or drop in on a game. (Virtuosos may be selected to join the league’s traveling team.) We can also learn the sport at Chelsea Piers, which features two rinks, more than 100 adult hockey teams, and upwards of 1,500 participants. Already confident on the ice? Opt for the hockey prep classes, or get back to basics with game time instructional hockey.
For those of us who are more into twirling and gliding on the ice than going for bone crunching hits and slap shots, both Aviator and Chelsea Piers also offer classes in figure skating. Adults-only classes at Aviator mean you won’t look like that one weirdo in a class full of little kids, especially if you make it to competitive levels. Learn the basics during one of Chelsea Piers skating lessons and then take your skills to the next level during one of the rink’s freestyle sessions specifically for figure skaters and separated by level, so we don’t have to rub elbows with the newbies once we’ve got the moves on lock.
Bobsled, Skeleton, and Biathalon
It’s five hours away, but Lake Placid is the place for Olympic diehards hoping to get a grasp on the more extreme of the winter sports. Shelliing out $85 at Whiteface, will get us squeezed into a bobsled and hurled down the mile-long track with a professional driver and brakeman in charge to guide us safely down the 400-foot descent. For an extra $40, buy a combo ticket and tack on skeleton and hurtle down an icy chute on your stomach at 30 miles per hour. For those wanting to attempt one of the Olympics’ oldest winter sports, we suggest trying a hand at the shoot-and-ski combo of biathlon. Chase an hour-long cross-country skiing lesson with some time at the biathlon shooting range aiming at tiny targets, but don’t forget to remove the skis. Unlike at the actual Olympics, we’re not supposed to keep the skis on in the range—a pretty strong reminder that no matter how many winter sports you sign up for, we’ll probably never be trusted with slightly sharp objects, much less the opportunity to help the U.S. win gold.