Skiing in downtown Salt Lake City? It’s on the table for the 2034 Olympics.

Big air event slated for “Park Place” just north of the Delta Center, while curling also expected to move downtown

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) United States' Marin Hamill competes in the women’s big air qualification round at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing on Monday, Feb. 7, 2022. That event was held in an urban setting, and Salt Lake City Olympic bid organizers have proposed putting a ramp right downtown if Utah is selected to host the 2034 Games.

The golden Angel Moroni might be the only one in Salt Lake City who can’t catch a glimpse of a gravity-defying, gold-medal performance if the Olympics return to Utah in 2034.

On Wednesday, organizers of the effort to bring the Winter Games back to Salt Lake City unveiled their venue blueprint.

Accommodating 186 planned medal events in 15 sports across the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the competition sites are strung from Provo to Park City and from Midway and the Ogden Valley. Yet, organizers boasted that they’ve achieved the most compact Games layout since the last time they were held in Utah, with a mix of new venues and those recycled from the 2002 Winter Games, all within an hour’s drive of the athletes’ village.

The most striking new site, undoubtedly, will be the downtown big air skiing and snowboarding ramp. Organizers plan to hold the competition on a massive scaffolding built on the Park Place parking lot, also known as Block 85, north of the Delta Center. Passersby will likely be able to peep competitors’ high-flying flips and twists from the sidewalk along South Temple.

The site is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and sits just west of its temple. It is also slated to be home to the Medals Plaza, as it was in 2002, and a concert venue. With so much happening there, organizers are wagering only the Angel Moroni will be able to look away from the action. The golden statue that adorns the LDS temple faces east, and thus away from the big air venue.

“Big air has been a remarkable event that has literally brought the sport to the people,” Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation COO Calum Clark said in a news release. Clark has overseen similar big air events in downtown Denver’s Civic Park and Boston’s Fenway Park. “Producing big air in the heart of Salt Lake City will be an iconic event destined to leave an indelible mark on the 2034 Winter Games.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Colby Stevenson (USA) celebrates his silver medal win in the big air men's final at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022.

It definitely appeals to Colby Stevenson, the Park City skier who took silver in big air at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.

“I think that’s awesome,” he said. “It has the most public transportation available to get to there, and downtown there’s a lot of other entertainment. It’s kind of perfect.”

Worries about air quality

Stevenson said he’s not sure he’ll be competing in the Olympics in 10 years, but if he is, he won’t be worried about the snow. He pointed out that a month ago he skied in an outdoor big air contest on a scaffolding in Saudi Arabia. Temperatures rose above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but the snow, blown onto the course using liquid nitrogen, held up.

The smog is another matter entirely. Stevenson said his biggest concern is that an inversion during the big air competitions would cast a pall over the entire Games.

“That would be ugly. And that would be televised,” he said. “People would be like, ‘Oh, what is that?’ And they’d be like, ‘That’s the pollution and it’s the worst in the country and sometimes it’s as bad as in China. That’s not something you want.”

With the rest of the outdoor events taking place in the mountains, big air will likely be the only competition that could be blemished by bad air. However, inversion may also be a concern for the optics of the opening and closing ceremonies, which are scheduled to be held at Rice Eccles Stadium again, and that of the medals ceremonies.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Skiers and snowboarders prepare carve out lines on the Olympic caliber run at the grand opening of the Spencer F. Eccles Olympic Mountain Center at Utah Olympic Park on Wednesday, March 1, 2023. This area of the mountain may be used for snowboardcross and ski cross during the 2024 Olympics

To be clear, Salt Lake City hasn’t officially been awarded the 2034 Winter Games yet. The International Olympic Committee’s Future Host Commission is currently reviewing Utah’s bid and plans to visit the proposed sites next week. Unless something goes terribly wrong, however, the IOC is expected to select Utah as the 2034 host just before the start of the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

The venue plan revealed by the local committee Wednesday is the one submitted in Utah’s bid to the IOC. It includes contracts with all sites and is the fruit of a 2.5-year effort headed by Colin Hilton, the president and CEO of the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation, which oversees the upkeep of venues used during the 2002 Games.

Hilton said the resourcefulness of local organizers is evident in the variety of sites proposed as venues.

“It’s the gamut. It’s ski resorts, it’s government-run ice or community ice rinks, it’s these legacy venues,” he said. “We figured out a way to keep them operating because of having an endowment from the 2002 Games. That, to me, is what we hope to show to the IOC when the Future Commission comes here next week.”

Thanks in large part to the foundation, Hilton said, most of the venues from 2002 will need little more than cosmetic improvements to be ready to welcome the world in 2034. Some, however, will be hosting different events.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Athletes compete in the men's mass start at the Four Continents speedskating championships Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024 at the Olympic Oval in Kearns.

Snowbasin Resort, for example, will not only be the site of the downhill skiing competitions but also slalom, giant slalom, Super-G and combined. Deer Valley Resort, an annual World Cup stop for moguls and aerials, will take on those Olympic events. Park City Mountain, meanwhile, will be busy with the halfpipe and slopestyle contests.

The skiing and snowboarding events will, as the committee promised, avoid resorts in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon. Instead, a ski course built just last year at the Utah Olympic Park has tentatively been tabbed as the site of ski and snowboard cross and parallel giant slalom. The UOP will also again host the sliding events — bobsled, luge and skeleton — as well as ski jumping.

Nordic events like biathlon and cross-country skiing will return to Midway’s Soldier Hollow, which recently underwent a facelift in anticipation of the 2034 Games. Hockey games will again be held at Peaks Arena in Provo and the Maverik Center in West Valley. Similarly, long-track speedskating will be at home at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, while short-track and figure skating are slated for the Delta Center downtown.

In fact, downtown will be especially busy if the proposed venue plan plays out.

Ogden losing an event

In addition to adding the big air events, organizers expect to move curling into the city center. The Weber County Ice Sheet in Ogden hosted that up-and-coming sport in 2002. Now that its popularity is booming, however, Hilton said it made more sense to have it at the Salt Palace, which can seat 6,500 fans compared to 2,500 at the Ice Sheet.

“That is driven by the growth of curling,” Hilton said. “Our view is that the most cost effective thing, rather than expanding pretty large sums of permanent construction costs at the Weber County sports complex, to instead put that in in a temporary fashion at the Salt Palace.”

The Salt Palace will also house the print and broadcast media center. The Athletes Village will return to the dorms at the University of Utah, while athlete family housing — an idea unique to these Olympics — will also be at the U. and in surrounding areas, Hilton said.

Fraser Bullock, the president and CEO of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games, cautioned, however, that a lot can change in 10 years, including the venue plan.

“Ten years is a long time, and event locations will evolve based on ownership changes, new sports, or new venue opportunities,” he said in a news release. “Events in the Games have also increased nearly 40% since 2002, so we will have time to evaluate the best placement.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Yaroslav Shchur practices with the Ukraine curling team at the Utah Olympic Oval, on Tuesday, May 17, 2022.

Among the new venue opportunities might be a new MLB stadium near the Utah State Fairpark and an NHL arena, either in the Delta Center or as a standalone entity. Hilton said the Olympic committee would almost undoubtedly use those sites if possible.

“Most certainly. It’s exciting, potentially, to have added pro sports in Utah,” Hilton said. “And … it would be very likely that if we had an NHL arena, that would be used for hockey.”

The Paralympics share a similar footprint to the Olympics only smaller because they consist of fewer sports. Snowbasin will host para skiing, Utah Olympic Park in Park City will host para snowboarding, the Maverik Center will host para hockey, Soldier Hollow will host all Nordic events and the Salt Palace will welcome wheelchair curling. The Athletes Village, media center, medals plaza and opening and closing ceremony sites also aren’t expected to change between the Olympics and Paralympics.

Correction, April 3, 1:19 p.m. • This story was updated to state that Utah Olympic Park in Park City will host the para snowboarding event.