Twenty years ago, Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. It was a wildly successful event that introduced Utah to the world stage, but I missed the festivities by five years, arriving in 2007. Fortunately, the Olympic Legacy lives on in the mountains of Utah, allowing those like me, who weren’t present in 2002, to recreate the Winter Olympic experience in our own way.
While we can’t duplicate the thrill of seeing the world’s best athletes competing at the pinnacle of the sport, we can explore the mountains, snow and ice around Utah in homage to the event 20 years ago as we prepare to cheer on Team USA in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Let’s party like it’s 2002!
Start your own Olympic experience by visiting the Olympic cauldron in the park at the south end of Rice-Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah. The twisting 72-foot steel and glass structure is topped with a 12-foot glass cauldron with a flame burning at 900 degrees Fahrenheit when lit, and streams of water running down the glass to resemble melting ice. The cauldron introduced the world to the Salt Lake City games, and it’s still as stunning as ever.
Next, stop by the museum at the Utah Olympic Park for a deep dive into the 2002 Games, including interactive exhibits highlighting historic performances and plenty of memorabilia from the Games. It’s a walk down memory lane that will get you excited for the upcoming Games. You can also take a look at the Nordic ski jumps looming over the complex, though I wouldn’t recommend trying your hand at those off the couch.
Enough learning about the Games. It’s time to feel the thrill of the sports for yourself. The Utah Olympic Park offers the unique opportunity to ride in a real bobsled on the famed track from the 2002 Games. A trained pilot will take you on a high-velocity ride down the track in a once-in-a-lifetime experience to feel the g-forces the world’s best sliding athletes do. It’ll raise your heart rate without a doubt.
Champion at Deer Valley Resort is one of the steepest, most sustained mogul runs you’ll find, and the immaculate bumps on it are home to annual World Cup mogul competitions. The run was also host of the 2002 Olympic Winter mogul competition where Jonny Moseley turned the sport upside down by throwing the dinner roll—a D-spin 720—ushering in a new age of freestyle skiing. Even if you aren’t throwing cork spins, you’ll enjoy the leg-burning challenge of trying to make it down Champion without stopping.
The legendary Grizzly Downhill at Snowbasin Resort starts from the top of the Allen Peak Tram and careens down the slope to the base area. Though I wouldn’t recommend pinning it to Olympian-like speeds on the precipitous slopes and intimidating rollovers, it’s still the perfect venue to test your mettle and the quality of your edge bevel. The slalom course that served as part of the combined event was home to Bode Miller’s legendary run that secured him an improbable silver medal.
Soldier Hollow, which is located in Wasatch Mountain State Park, was built specifically for the 2002 Olympic Winter cross-country events—biathlon, cross-country and Nordic combined. Today, the perfectly-groomed cross-country trails are a training ground for world-class athletes, the home of World-Cup events and the ideal place for a recreational cross-country skier to enjoy a few laps with incredible views of the Wasatch Back.
The mammoth Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns was constructed for the Olympic speed-skating events. Today, you can enjoy a public skating session on one of the two international-sized ice sheets which are ringed by the 400-meter speed skating oval. Nine world records were set during the 2002 Games here, so you’ll have no excuse for not being at your swiftest on the ice.
Park City Mountain introduced half-pipe snowboarding to a wider audience with the first Olympic event in 2002. Americans Ross Powers, Danny Kass and Jarret Thomas swept the podium in impeccable style. If you aren’t up for shredding a few pipe laps at Park City Mountain—it’s difficult—at least take a gander from a lift ride up the 3-Kings Chairlift to see where the historic performances went down.
So, that’s your 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Tour! Bonus points if you hit all these spots while wearing one of those iconic Olympic volunteer jackets you can find floating around on eBay.