Arriving in Whistler it doesn’t take long to be reminded of the good times we all had during the 2010 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games. Right off the highway a massive Inuksuk looms brilliantly backlit with blue light. Inuksuit (plural) were originally used by the Inuit people of northern Canada as trail markers or points of reference but here in Whistler the human-shaped rock sculptures serve to remind us of that incredible winter when the world came to our quiet mountain town to party, make friends and watch Olympic and Paralympic athletes shine.
The good news is that the Olympic spirit lives on in the many Olympic Legacies left over from the games and The Whistler Insider has put together a quick list of places and venues where one can re-visit the excitement of the 2010 Winter Games, even if you missed them the first time around.
Bombing down an icy chute at upwards of 100km/hour is actually way more fun than it sounds (and when the Sliding Centre opens to the public later this month you can see for yourself) but this weekend the pros are in action as the 2nd Viessmann Luge World Cup slides into town on Friday and Saturday (Dec 9-10).
“The one thing that is always consistent about Whistler is it’s one of the best tracks of the world,” says Chris Dornan with the Canadian Luge Association. “Being around the athletes so far this week, everyone is excited to be back here—Whistler has some of the smoothest and best ice.”
Chris says to expect top speeds of more than 140KM/hour as athletes from across the globe hurl themselves feet first down the frozen track and, hopefully, onto the World Cup podium. Insiders at the Whistler Sliding Centre also report there will be fireworks, DJs and theatre sports. World Cup events capture much of that Olympic excitement and with perfect clear weather in the forecast things should get nice and speedy out there.
Competitions start at 3 PM on December 9 and 10, with upload to the site via the Excalibur Gondola in the Village. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the Whistler Visitor Centre.
“The Plaza” is really coming of age this winter. It started as the site of the Whistler Medals ceremonies but after a summer of hosting free concerts by everyone from Sam Roberts to Loverboy the covered, centralized gathering spot is currently giving guests and locals alike a new place to meet up, kick back, and enjoy the stunning mountain views of the Whistler Valley.
Last weekend the Whistler Film Festival screened a free series of animated short films from Industry giant Pixar and now crews are hard at work laying down a sheet of ice for Whistler Village’s first ever outdoor skating rink (slated to be ready Mid-December.) The Plaza also houses lots of 2010 memorabilia, athlete tributes and a memorial to Georgian luge athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili. You pretty much have to check out the Plaza because it’s right beside The Rings and everyone goes there.
A slower, more peaceful experience can be found just south of town at the Whistler Olympic Park out in the beautiful Callaghan Valley. The Park offers self-guided recreational Nordic skiing, tobogganing and snowshoeing and as well as lessons or multi-day programs in skate skiing, ski jumping, and Biathlon (which is not as peaceful as the others but when else are you going to be able to shoot a gun on holidays in Canada?)
Currently open Wednesday to Sunday 8:30am-4:30pm the WOP will start running full-tilt boogie 7 days a week after December 19. (And night owls can head out Wednesday evenings from 4-9pm until March 21.)
The WOP is also hosting an Innovative Fitness Nordic Ski Weekend December 17-18 that includes private group skate ski and biathlon lessons, lunches, workouts and more.
The Olympic Rings
The most popular rings to hit Whistler since melted cheese and onion rings (French Onion Poutine!) the official 2010 Olympic Rings almost always have a crowd gathered around them shooting “Hero” photos and reliving the Olympic dream. If you jump up on the rings, raise your arms and close your eyes tightly you really do feel like a bit of a champion there for a second (or longer, depending on how many drinks you had at après.) In any case, the Rings are a Whistler must-see and are located right by the Whistler Olympic Plaza in the Village.
Whistler Mountain Inuksuk
Holding it down just outside the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler Mountain, this Inuksuk is almost always covered icy rime and blowing snow. The views from up there are absolutely unparalleled and a photo with this guy will make all your friends jealous for sure.
Dave Murray Downhill
Even though it was around long before the 2010 Games this Whistler Mountain classic (named after a Canadian ski hero and one of the original “Crazy Canucks”) is where they held the men’s Downhill, Super G, Giant Slalom and Slalom events. If you have a need for speed there is no better run in the country. The “Dave Murray” is also a locals’ favourite so you never know who might be up there opening it up and getting some wind in their hair— Skiercross gold medalist Ashleigh McIvor or her teammate Julia Murray (who is also Dave’s daughter) have both been ripping that run since they were knee-high to an Inuksuk.
Albeit with substantially less adrenaline than the Dave Murray downhill, the Whistler Museum does provide the most all-encompassing look at our local experience in February 2010. Perfect for days when your ski legs need a rest, the museum offers guests a chance to hold the torch, wear the blue “Smurf” volunteer uniform, check out the Paralympic cauldron and research the history of Whistler, a town that was literally conceived and built with hosting the games in mind.
Of course, the best thing about the glory of the 2010 games was how it brought everyone together under the umbrella of sport, community, friendship and fun. Those themes still live strong in Whistler so don’t be shy, talk to people you meet in the village and step out of your daily routine. Everyone is up here for the same things—Good times, great snow, and a photo by the Olympic Rings.