By Mark Lebetkin
It seems like every four years we re-learn about the existence of sports like skeleton and biathlon, but that doesn't mean they simply disappear in the meantime.
In the years between Vancouver and Sochi, athletes have been training and competing, fans have been watching and -- yes -- amateurs have even been participating for fun and fitness.
Want to your chance to play the Olympian, too? We found ways to try 10 of the sports you'll soon be watching on TV.
Not surprisingly, the best places to try many of these sports are past Olympic venues. Olympic parks in and around Vancouver, Salt Lake City, Lake Placid, N.Y. and Calgary still have the dedicated facilities like ski jump ramps and bobsled tracks.
In several cases, though, these sports are more accessible than you may have thought: There are curling clubs in most states, for example, and you don't have to be a performance athlete to join.
Who knows? All that spectating may spark an interest.
One of the most accessible Olympic sports for newbies, curling is like shuffleboard on ice. Although most popular in the Midwest and Northeast, there are curling clubs both official and unofficial in 44 states, according to kccurling.com, the website of Kansas City Curling. In hot spots (cold spots?) like Wisconsin in Minnesota, many of these clubs have dedicated curling facilities, and in most other places -- like Olive Branch, Mississippi's Mid-South Ice House -- curlers rent time at an ice rink.
This foot-first cousin of skeleton has racers sliding down an icy track and negotiating turns at speeds up to 90 miles per hour. The sport is so dangerous that a Georgian luger died on a training run at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics after flying over the sidewall of a turn. Still want to give it a try? Canada Olympic Park, host of the 1988 Calgary Olympics, offers luge rides on the Olympic track, complete with a coaching session by professional athletes.
If you're stoked about Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones' attempt at Winter Games glory, you, too, can try your legs at bobsledding. Utah Olympic park offers the Comet Bobsled Ride, in which a professional pilot and three passengers rip through the entire Olympic track, hitting speeds up to 80 miles per hour. Lake Placid, Whistler and Calgary have similar bobsled rides.
For East Coast skiers and boarders with aerial aspirations, Killington Resort in Vermont is the place. But beyond its six terrain parks, Killington's famed mogul run, Outer Limits—the longest and steepest in the East -- is the kind of place where Olympians are made. Not only did gold medalist Donna Weinbrecht train there, she now teaches mogul skiing teaches mogul skiing at Killington. If you think your thighs are up to the task, you can also participate in the amateur-only Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge for a chance at glory on a smaller scale.
Target shooting and cross country skiing may seem like an odd pairing, but the sport, with its roots said to be in Norwegian military training, is a hit in many European countries. In the U.S. there are more than 50 local clubs that practice the sport, according to the U.S. Biathlon Association. The International Biathlon Union lists five stateside training centers, including Lake Placid's with its beginner "Be a Biathlete" program.
Apolo Ohno may only be in Sochi as a TV commentator, but his sport, with a history going back centuries, lives on. It also happens to provide a great low-impact workout and was the sport that gave rise to the now-famous Tabata method of high-intensity interval training. US Speed Skating lists clubs in 23 states.
In this discipline, which combines elements of downhill racing with freestyle features, four snowboarders -- or skiers, as the case may be --race down a course in the style of a motocross or BMX event. Since the introduction of snowboard cross in the 2006 Turin Olympics, American Seth Wescott has dominated, twice taking home the gold. That home is Sugarloaf, Maine, where Wescott helped design Sidewinder, the resort's permanent snowboard and ski cross course.
For the complete list of the Winter Olympic Sports To Try Yourself, go to TheActiveTimes.com.
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