With the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games on the horizon, one can’t help but feel nostalgic here on Canada’s west coast. It was, after all, just four short years ago that British Columbia welcomed the world during 27 days of celebration and sport. We won the most gold medals ever on home soil during Winter Olympic competition, but more importantly, we won over more than a few hearts, thanks to the beauty of our landscape and the warmth of our people.
Today, British Columbia continues to draw grand-scale contests, with the Special Olympics Canada 2014 Summer Games and the final game of the FIFA 2015 Women’s World Cup both set for Vancouver, along with the 2015 Canada Winter Games primed for action in Northern BC. And while our province proves an ideal stage for world-class competition, it’s the lasting legacies, both tangible and intangible, that live on today.
So, grab your skis, skates, mittens and more, and revive the Olympic spirit, right here in Canada’s westernmost province:
Whistler Sliding Centre
Start at the Whistler Sliding Centre’s fast track, where spandex-clad athletes battled it out during 2010 luge, bobsleigh and skeleton competitions. You’ll feel the rush along the course’s twists and turns, thanks to two open-to-the-public sliding adventures sure to get you going: the solo, head-first Skeleton Ride Experience (with speeds up to 100 kilometres or 62 miles per hour) and the team-spirited Bobsleigh Ride Experience (which cruises up to 125 kilometres or 77 miles per hour). Safety reigns during outings that include a helmet fitting, sled familiarization, track etiquette, precautionary guidelines and a mock run. And while your start point is just one third of the way up the track, rest assured, there’s still plenty of opportunity to shriek your way down this fast and technical run.
Whistler Olympic Park
Something more sedate? Along the looped cross-country trails of Whistler Olympic Park, host site for the 2010 Winter Games Nordic events, enthusiasts can raise the heart rate in an entirely different manner with the Discover Biathlon program, an expert pairing of cross-country skiing (skate technique) and rifle marksmanship. Bonus: you can test your rifle skills year round, and should you wish to take to the trails during warm weather months, bikes, instead of skis, will blaze the trail in summer.
The nearby slopes of Whistler Blackcomb beckon, particularly to those eager to carve some tracks along the same runs that were spotlighted during the 2010 Winter Games men’s and women’s alpine events. Ski the Dave Murray Downhill, snowboard along Franz’s Run, or better yet, hook up with the ultimate guide, courtesy of WB’s Ski With An Olympian program. With its winning combination of top-of-the-line gear and time spent with a pro (read: eternal bragging rights), this is one outing that won’t soon be forgotten.
Lost Lake Passivhaus
Should cross-country be more your speed, strap on the skinny skis and head to Lost Lake Passivhaus. This former Games-time headquarters for the Austrian Olympic Committee and Austrian Public Broadcasting Corporation has been reinvented as an ultra-low-energy day lodge and hub for cross-country skiers, the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association (WORCA) and the Whistler Nordics Ski Club.
Whistler Olympic Plaza
Embraced by mountains cloaked in white, the Whistler Olympic Plaza thrummed nightly with medal ceremonies and concerts during the 2010 Winter Games. Today, this gathering place still draws the masses with music, all-ages entertainment and even skating in winter. Little ones love the accessible playground, while shutterbugs can’t resist the opportunity to snap a pic or two of the plaza’s mammoth Olympic Rings and Paralympic Agitos.
Sea to Sky Highway
And that aforementioned highway that connects Whistler to Vancouver? Aptly named the Sea-to-Sky Highway, this scenic stretch received a substantial infrastructure upgrade to widen and straighten the road, cutting travel time significantly. That is, if you don’t pull in along the roadside stops to take in the glorious mountain-and-ocean scenery.
For ski adventure closer to Vancouver, head south from Whistler along the scenic Sea-to-Sky Highway (another Olympic legacy) to Cypress Mountain. Make tracks along the same terrain that spotlighted high-flying Olympic freestyle skiing and snowboarding battles — slopes that also marked the spot where Canada snagged its first gold medal of the 2010 Winter Games. Feel the rush with over 50 downhill runs or cruise in classic fashion along 19 kilometres (12 miles) of powder-packed, groomed trails on neighbouring Hollyburn Mountain.
Richmond Olympic Oval
While the ice is no more, the Richmond Olympic Oval will forever be known as home to long-track speed skating in 2010. Today, however, this state-of-the-art, architectural stunner offers so much more to get the blood pumping. You could, for example, scale the heights along the 12-metre (40-foot) climbing wall, perfect your volleyball serve on the hardwood courts or take the back and forth to a smaller playing field with a bit of table tennis. If multi-tasking is more your thing, sign up for a heart-thumping roster of regular fitness classes, including yoga, Pilates and strength training.
For an in-depth look into Olympic sportsmanship, which highlights Richmond’s role during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, be sure to time your visit for late 2014, and check out the much-anticipated Richmond Olympic Experience. This on-site immersive and interactive draw focuses on four main themes: Richmond’s own Olympic experience, an overview of the 2010 Winter Games, the Olympic movement including past competitions and the rich sporting history of Richmond. Some highlights? Sculptural artwork in the Oval lobby, a multi-media theatre that takes viewers on an Olympic journey and interactive sport simulations, including the thrill of flight during your very own Olympic ski jump.
A pause might be in order, however, once you reach Vancouver — if only to catch your breath before taking in the legacy landmarks in this fair city. To start, a leisurely stroll along the shores of English Bay promises an up-close view of the beach’s towering stone inukshuk, the official emblem of the 2010 Winter Games. Traditionally used by Canada’s Inuit people as directional landmarks across the north, these grand monuments have come to symbolize hope, friendship and hospitality. Stoke the Olympic fire at — where else? — the Olympic Cauldron. Located on Jack Poole Plaza at the Vancouver Convention Centre, this grand steel-and-glass structure still proves an ideal spot for a wish-you-were-here photo.
For even more camera action, book a public tour for an up-close look (from interior vantage points) of the Vancouver Convention Centre’s two-hectare (six-acre) “living roof” — a vast expanse that literally blooms with thousands of indigenous plants. Green is the name of the game here; this convention centre, which functioned as the 2010 Winter Games International Broadcast Centre, was the first in the world to earn the highest LEED® Platinum rating.
Easy transport to and fro was a big focus during the Games, and the unveiling of The Canada Line, an extension to Vancouver’s SkyTrain rapid transit system, made commuting to sporting and celebratory events a breeze. Today, this is one ride that still gets you where you need to go; visitors can travel from Vancouver International Airport to downtown Vancouver’s Waterfront Station in about 26 minutes. Minus the throngs of red-and-white clad fans.
Consider yourself a foodie? Then you’ll want to hop off The Canada Line in Richmond to take in the city’s vibrantly tasty dining scene. Here, family run farms and Canada’s largest fishing fleet ensure farmers markets and local shops are freshly stocked, while more than 800 restaurants showcase a diverse range of flavours that are uniquely Richmond. Whether you nibble just-caught salmon and fish and chips (seaside views included), or opt instead for Shanghai-style xiao long bao dumplings, Korean street tacos or delectable dim sum, your menu is sure to be gold medal-worthy. Fore more, see Tourism Richmond’s website or 365DaysOfDining.com
The Whistler Sliding Centre: an Olympic Bobsleigh & Skeleton Experience
A #skiBC getaway in Whistler – Part 1
A #skiBC getaway in Whistler – Part 2
Snowshoeing in Vancouver: Cypress Mountain
Are you a BC travel guru? Why not share your experience and write for the HelloBC blog?