Winter Olympics may come only every four years, but winter and snow sports are available to our California kids every year, almost year round. Even so, while figure skating, skiing, and hockey draw fans fairly reliably each winter, there's nothing quite like the excitement of Sochi (or Vancouver, or Salt Lake) to get kids interested in speed skating, ski jumping, freestyle snowboarding, ice dancing, and even curling. These are the sports that only get our attention when broadcast from exotic locales every fourth year; but this may be just the chance you're looking for to experiment with - and perhaps embrace - a new and off-the-beaten-path winter sport.
Figure Skating & Ice Dancing
When it comes to figure skating, our LA kids are spoiled for choice, with some of the top rinks and top coaches in the country, if not the world. It's no coincidence that so many LA skaters turn up at the winter Olympic games; great skating coaches from all over seem to balance their hours spent in chilly rinks by opting to live in the SoCal sunshine. Check out all the rinks and programs for would-be figure skaters (which includes outdoor rinks for part of the year); ice dancing is a specialty within figure skating that can be pursued at many rinks, but the Torrance rink seems to have the most ice dancing options locally.
Like figure skaters, boys and girls who want to play hockey have plenty of options for leagues, lessons, classes, camps, and every other way that kids can hit a puck around an ice rink. Our post on hockey opportunities in the LA area has all the lowdown on pursuing this sport for kids and adults - including hockey's funny cousin, broomball.
Ice skating's speed sport can't be practiced just anywhere; that holiday pop-up rink with the Christmas tree in the middle has a few too many obstacles. The best bet is to hook up with the Southern California Speedskating Association, which practices at rinks in Valencia and Lakewood. Kids are very welcome, and the group even has loaner equipment; $15 covers an hour that includes a class, skate time, and use of skates, pads, and helmet.
This has nothing to do with hair; curling is that hard-to-explain sport played with various objects that look like cleaning implements: brooms, a disk that looks like a Roomba, etc... The randomness and obscurity of this winter sport are definitely part of its charm, and one doesn't tend to hear a lot about curling in warm climates on non-Olympic years. The folks who do pay attention every year are the enthusiasts at Hollywood Curling, who practice their art (including open houses and learn-to-curl workshops) at Valley Ice in Panorama City. Orange County residents can try an open house with OC Curling.
Skiing and Snowboarding
These are separate Olympic sports, of course, but skiing and snowboarding lessons take place at the same snow resorts in Southern California. Whether your little Olympians-to-be dream of downhill skiing, jumping, slalom, or moguls; whether they hope to snowboard freestyle, halfpipe, or slopestyle, their lessons start on the same mountain. Of course, snowboarding kids may want to get in some extra practice time at LA's many skateboard parks.
There are a few ways for LA kids to learn cross-country skiing, but a good start is a traditional downhill skiing lesson at one of SoCal's ski resorts. Local outdoor enthusiasts shop REI offers some lessons in cross-country (as well as snow-shoeing), and some snowsports websites offer tips for striding out cross-country as a family. Once everyone has gear sorted out, some of SoCal's parks for make-your-own-trail sledding are also good launching points for cross-country skiing.
Bobsled, Luge, Skeleton
OK, the truth is that these sports are way too fast and dangerous for any sane person to offer them to kids. But they're really just extreme sport versions of sledding, which we all know is the best family winter sport there is. The LA area offers plenty of sledding opportunities; take the easy way at an inner tube park, or make your own trails with a family toboggan, bobsleigh style. No time to head for the hills? Here in LA, we've got another winter sport for little luge lovers, too: sand sledding.
If your little ones aren't quite ready to take to the slopes or the rink just yet, check out some of our ideas for Olympic winter sport games without leaving the house. Either way, let the games begin!