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Bobsled, See Pink Snow and Get a Glimpse
of the 2010 Olympics in One Vacation
Written by Julie Stone
histler, the ski resort town about an hour drive north of Vancouver in the Canadian
Rockies, is fulfilling its long, out standing dream: to host the Olympics. In 1960,
after four Vancouver businessmen had returned from the Olympic Winter Games in
California’s Squaw Valley, they envisioned Whistler as the perfect place to host the
next winter games. The town then built itself up as a ski destination, but unfortunately
lost the 1968 bid. With the announcement of the 2010 games in Vancouver, though,
Whistler’s Olympic dream finally became a reality. With only 18 months to go, Whistler
is getting ready for the more than 20 events. For those who want to experience this
mountainous land before the athletes and the media circus decend, the small town
offers many summertime activities.
The Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games will take place February
12 to 28 and March 12 to 21, respectively, and there’s been much progress to get the
town ready for the games. With the completion of the Whistler Olympic Park and the
Whistler Sliding Center specifically for the games, both venues are now open to tourists
to get the first sneak peek.
Whistler Olympic Park is the first Olympic venue to hold cross-country, ski jumping
and biathlon in one site. Self-guided tours of the future game site are now available —
as well as disk golf. (There’s no better bragging right than playing a goofy ass sport on
the future site of an ancient, worldwide, sporting event.)
Just completed in December 2007, the Whistler Sliding Center is where the bobsleigh,
luge and skeleton competitions will be held. At its longest, the trek measures at 1,450
meters long (just under one mile), it is one of two sliding tracks in Canada, the other
being in Calgary. After the Olympics, the WSC will be used for passenger rides, inviting
any willing souls to take a long, steep bobsleigh ride down the slope.
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For more adventure in the summer, Whistler Mountain turns in the snowboards
and skiers for mountain bikers. For everyone from the beginners to the experts, there
are trails along the side of the mountain to accommodate all levels. One important
note, watch out for bear poopie and, better yet, watch out for the bears. Huckleberries
grow along the side of the trails that the furry ones love to eat.
For those who consider mountain biking more of a spectator sport, Kokanee
Crankworx, Whistler’s premier mountain biking festival that will be held from August
9 thru 17, will seem like paradise. Turning out large crowds each year, the celebration
combines live entertainment and music, riding competitions and demos. New for
2008 are the Giant Slalom and the Ken Quon Cross Country competitions. Less
competitive of a sport, yet thrilling all the same, ziptrekking is one of the most popular
activities in Whistler.
Zipping between two mountains over a gushing river and being connected by
only a cord and a latch feels safer than it sounds. Or maybe it’s the scene that
calms any fear? Fully guided tours bring more than 500 brave little tourists up a
day to the open-air tree houses for lift-off. Or zip-off.
The lines can each up to 6,500 feet long, 650 meters high and zippers can
reach speeds up to 50 miles an hour, which means this is one of the most
adrenaline-pumping activities to do in Whistler in the summer. But in the middle
of the line, when gravity slows just a bit to let the rider enjoy the surrounding
scenery, the rushed feeling dissipates and all there is to do is just sit back and
enjoy the views.
Whistler’s first designer boutique lodging, Adara Hotel,
integrates urban chic design with a warm, mountain
cabin feel. With only 41 rooms, it’s an exclusive stay
centrally located among shopping, restaurants and
nightlife in the town.
Modern, sleek and yet woodsy, the rooms include
a floating fireplace, a custom-built log headboard, a
walk-in rain shower in the bathroom, rooftop pool and
spa with spectacular mountain views. All interior décor
was carefully considered for its inclusion. Each piece
was selected by three Pacific Northwest designers: Niels
Bendtsen, Brent Comber and Erich Grinder.
There’s a 24-hour concierge service with very friendly
staff — they’ll even valet a guest’s bike. The staff, like most
of Whistler, is employed by young, attractive Brits and
Australians who work just to be able to live in Whistler for
the great outdoor activities. At anytime, the lobby, or any
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place in the town, is filled with cute foreign accents that
enhance the diverse Whistler culture. (When is the United
States going to be part of this commonwealth thing?)
PEAK 2 PEAK GONDOLA
When the Whistler Blackcomb Peak 2 Peak
Gondola opens in December 2008, it will be the longest
unsupported span for a lift of its kind in the world at 1.88
miles. Connecting the peak of Blackcomb Mountain with
the peak of Whistler Mountain, snowboarders, skiers
and visitors alike will easily be able to go from one top
to the other.
The gondola is by far the safest place to spot a bear
at 1,427 feet high. It’s also the most expensive lift to be
built in the world at a cool $51 million.
What’s priceless, though, are the views. Not only
of the town below and the surrounding mountains, but
also the colored snow blanketing the mountains. In very
girly fashion, some of the snow on top of the mountains
is colored pink.
“The pink snow is really an alpine,” says mountain
host Reno Stradiotto “Biologists refer to it as a halophilic
algae. Halophilic meaning that it loves the cold. I’m told
that one teaspoon of that red melt holds over a million
red cells. So you can see they’re tiny; they’re microscopic
… But they’re in such great numbers you can see the
bloom very readily.”
Whether it’s for the view of pink snow or the need for
speed on the zip lines, Whistler is one of Canada’s lesser
known, but oh so worthy, summer vacation destinations.
With its preparations well on their way for the 2010
Olympics, this mountain town offers many glimpses into
the next big gaming event. We’ll just tell the bobsledders
to watch out for bear poopie.
Don’t worry about eating the pink snow at
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