Do-it-Yourself Olympic Winter Sports
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Ice climbing in Ouray, Colorado
Sporting chance: There's something about the bracing air, the swinging of an ice axe, and the crunch of crampon-clad feet into frozen, slippery surfaces that's immensely gratifying (if goose bump–producing). While ice climbing is not on the Vancouver 2010 schedule, athletes are lobbying to have the art of ascending waterfalls eventually included as an official five-ring event—which gives Olympic wannabes plenty of time to become experts. One of the finest places to begin training is Colorado's Ouray Ice Park, a wedge of the Uncompahgre Gorge, where nature and climbers (who spray water over the edge of the gorge) create a massive playground of crystal-blue ice each winter. San Juan Mountain Guides offers private and group lessons amid typically tolerable temperatures and wall-to-wall sunshine.
Training tip: Enough with the push-ups and bench presses already. You'll need more core and leg strength than upper-body power for the "vertical dance."
Learning curve: Moderately shallow. Basic techniques are simple to learn, but mastering the ropes safely requires commitment.
A half-day private lesson with San Juan Mountain Guides is $225; a full day is $350. A two-day group ice course is $320.