kearns • The Utah Olympic Oval has been part of Phillip Canick’s life since 2012.
He has played hockey in two leagues at the Oval and now his 6-year-old son Cooper is in the Learn to Skate program.
The two drive from Cottonwood Heights to Kearns three times a week year-round.
“The ice cream is always great. You wouldn’t know the facilities as old as they are,” he said. “It’s just a great place.”
However, what makes Canick want to return to the venue is the community he creates. “By playing here I’ve made a lot of good friends for life.”
The Utah Olympic Oval—dubbed the “world’s fastest ice” at over 4,500 feet—was built for the 2002 Winter Games. Flags from around the world hang from the ice rinks and running track, and the five Olympic rings remain ubiquitous images around the facility.
The site continues to host world-class racing and remains a gathering place for people from across the valley to enjoy sports on and off the ice.
On any given day or night, the five-acre venue can be filled with young and old alike running on an indoor track, figure skating on an ice rink, playing hockey on a separate sheet of ice, or sliding on the 400 and tumble-meter speed skating oval.
“It’s beautiful ice,” said Carolyn Krambule, a regular at the public skating sessions. “We work with many coaches and they are all fantastic.”
Krambule’s family goes to the on-site ice rinks at least four times a week. Husband Dean plays hockey and daughter Leia participates in the Learn to Skate program.
“It’s a great place to do something,” Krambule said before being interrupted by her daughter. “Except for watching screens and playing video games.”
For some, ice sports are pure entertainment. For others, these activities and the discipline they require have a deeper meaning.
Derek Parra grew up in San Bernardino, California and found it useful to keep active.
“Coming from Southern California, I didn’t have much around me to offer a kid,” Parra said, “mostly to get out of the bad neighborhood I grew up in.”
When he started speed skating, doors opened and fame came. He won gold and silver medals at the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Parra now works as the Oval’s coach and athletic director.
“We are a beacon of community,” he said. “I can only imagine what it would be like if I were a little kid in this community with this amazing facility in my backyard.”
The Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation offers grants to provide access to programs for those who cannot afford them.
While the Oval attracts many regulars, it’s open to everyone – from beginners to seasoned winter sports enthusiasts. Like the theme of the 2002 Winter Games, it welcomes the world.
Here are six fun things to do there:
Public skate sessions are held on the 400 meter oval from August to March. There are also skate courses for different ages and abilities. Toddlers can start as soon as they are 3 years old.
There are leagues for youth, men and women. The Oval offers hockey lessons and a hockey learning program recommended for children ages 4 to 12. Participants learn power skating, racquet handling, passing and shooting.
A 442 meter long indoor track with four lanes surrounds the oval. There is also an eight-lane, 110-meter sprint zone. High school and collegiate athletes grace these trails during the colder months.
Courses are available for beginners. The students use the same stones that slid across the ice at the 2002 Winter Olympics. Curling leagues are open to beginners and experienced players.
Before the pandemic, the Oval hosted cosmic curling sessions at night, complete with fluorescent “houses”, laser lights and a disco ball
Introductory courses are offered for short and long track speed skating. A Masters camp for competitive skaters over 30 is on pause due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Oval offers private figure skating lessons for all skill levels, as well as freestyle sessions where skaters can play their music and practice their routines and competitive synchronized skating teams.
Parra recommends curling for people who want to avoid buckling up their skates
Not only is the oval fun, it’s a safe place, Parra said. “And I know, because I grew up in a roller rink, how that changed the direction of my life.”
Alixel Cabrera is a Report for America Corps member and writes for The Salt Lake Tribune on the status of communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley. Your donation of our RFA grant helps her write stories like this; Please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.