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180 days to go – My trip to Whistler

August 16, 2009

Living in Vancouver makes it very easy to miss out on, or not pay attention to, the activities and goings on outside of this one city.  There is so much happening here that I find I am mostly content with experiencing Vancouver 2010 on my doorstep.  However, that was never a goal for this blog, to only experience the Vancouver part of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games.  So today was my day to go to Whistler.  I started at the Whistler Olympic Park, which is hosting all the Nordic events.

Ski jumps at Whistler Olympic Park

Ski jumps at Whistler Olympic Park

What qualifies as a Nordic event?  I learned the answer to this today while touring the ski jumps.  Nordic events all take place on skis, and the binding-boot arrangement is such that the heel is left free to move, unlike in Alpine events where your heel is locked down.  Nordic events include: ski jumping, cross-country, biathlon, and Nordic combined (ski jump and freestyle cross-country) for the Olympic Games and cross-country skiing and biathlon for the Paralympics.  I was surprised to learn that 30% of the Olympic medals and 50% of the Paralympic medals will be awarded in Nordic events, though the Medal Plaza is actually in the Whistler village, not at the Whistler Olympic Park, in the Callaghan Valley.  That is a lot of medals!

The venue is amazing.  Currently it is free to visit.  You can see the cross-country stadium, the biathlon stadium and the ski jumping infrastructure (“ramp” seems inadequate!).  And for a small fee (I think it is $10 for adults, $8 for teens and $6 for children) you can go on a tour of the ski jumps.  Yes, I ‘jumped’ at the chance!  The tour involves a ride up a lift into the trees at the top of the jump area, followed by a wonderful and informative tour that leads you right out to the jumping area of the ‘125’ jump (the big one!).  Pretty well every question you could have about ski jumping is answered.  What is the angle of the jump they take off of?  -11 degrees!  It’s downslope! So the jumpers don’t end up in the parking lot (or the ambulance, hopefully!).  How fast are they going when they take off?  Somewhere between 80 – 110 km per hour on the big jump.  What is a pinch test? They actually test the snug-ness of the jumpers suits to make sure they aren’t too flappy.  If they were flappy or baggy they would catch more air and fly further.  The whole premise of ski jumping now is that they fly like flying-squirrels, catching the air and using it to keep them aloft longer!  There is way more information, but I will try to cover it in an upcoming post.  Now, if you would like to go visit the jumps you’d better get a move on!  The ‘Olympic overlay’ team will be coming in soon (September or October, I can’t quite remember) to start building all of the temporary infrastructure (for example, a five story media tower at the bottom of the jumps) when that happens it will all be closed to the public essentially until after the Olympics.  So scoot!  Get up there and see it while you can!  First tour is at 11am!

The '125' jump.  A Port Coquitlam company that builds roller coasters built these structures!

The '125' jump. A Port Coquitlam company that builds roller coasters built these structures!

Yes, they are very steep! Whistler advantage? The trees block some wind!

Yes, they are very steep! Whistler advantage? The trees block some wind!

I also went past the cross-country ski area and the biathlon area (the dog didn’t like that place much).  The do have a ‘biathlon experience’ available as well, where you get to “try your hand on the Olympic biathlon range.”  You get to try five shots (with guidance from a certified instructor) with an authentic .22 calibre biathlon rifle.  I wish I could have done this!  But as I mentioned, my dog didn’t like this very much, so I didn’t get too close (thank goodness for zoom lenses!).

Biathlon targets (12x zoom, darn dog :) )

Biathlon targets (12x zoom, darn dog 🙂 )

Continued on my way to the Whistler Village after my stop at the Olympic Park.  It was busy in Whistler today! (I am not sure if it is ever quite, but…).  Got there on a Crankworx (mountain biking competition) day and on Cheese-rolling day.  I had intended to see the cheese rolling but unfortunately wasn’t there at quite the right time to catch one of the races, but it was a fun place to be.  Decided that the dog and I needed lunch more than cheese rolling so that’s what we did.  After lunch it was off to the Whistler Sliding Centre.

The Whistler Sliding Centre is hosting all of the bobsleigh, luge and skeleton competitions, and it is a crazy thing to see.  I knew that the sliders got way up the sides of the walls.  I didn’t know that the walls are vertical!!  If you would like to visit the Sliding Centre it is currently open to the public Thursday through Monday from 10am to 5pm; guided tours at 1pm.  But once again, the Olympic overlay (temporary infrastructure) will start construction in September or October, so everything will be off-limits to the public from then on, so if you’re interested, get going!!

Corner at the Whistler Sliding Centre

Corner at the Whistler Sliding Centre

Things that I didn’t know about sliding sports.  1) the finish line is uphill!  A lot up hill! OK, well not quite, the official finish line is just slightly uphill from the final turn (where they’re going the fastest), but where their sleds (bobsleigh, luge or skeleton) all go up a steeper hill from there to the ‘take out area’.  2) From what I was told, Whistler is the fastest track in the world.  The competitors (not sure what event) will be going a max speed of somewhere around 150km per hour! 3) As sleds are taken of the track, the pass from the icy track, to an ice landing in the take out area, they are then placed on a scale in the take out area for weighing and then placed onto a vehicle or trailer to be brought back up the hill (or away at the very least).  The take out area at Whistler is quite small, really only 3 sleds fit, so the staff will be working quickly to clear the space! 4) Tonnes more I didn’t know about sledding but I will try to cover some of that in further posts as well.

So that was most of my day.  I did try to stop by Whistler Creekside, where the Alpine events will be held, but apparently it’s not too obvious from the bottom (I was told this, and feel better about myself as I couldn’t find it easily).  I also missed where the Whistler Medals Plaza is being built.  I did here a local story regarding it, but I’ll save that for when I have a photo to include.  Basically this means I need to go back.  I’d like to see whatever there is to see of Whistler Creekside, the Medals Plaza (maybe more of it will be completed by then, it’s still under construction), I would like to do the Peak 2 Peak gondola ride between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, as well as the new Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre.

There is still so much to do at Whistler!  But I managed to jam quite a lot in today, so I am feeling happy and contented (and slightly more pin-rich, got a Whistler pin and a bob-sleigh pin, no I can’t resist!).  I hope that you all have a chance to visit before things are closed of for construction, but if  not, keep your eyes open for the next round of tickets coming in November.  Until tomorrow, thank you and merci!

7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 17, 2010 7:11 am

    Hi there! I was wondering if I could post one of your pictures above on our website, the one named “Corner at Whistler Sliding Centre”.


  2. July 5, 2010 12:12 pm

    Wow those ski jumps are amazing! I wonder how strict the criteria is for using them in regular ski season?
    Thanks for the info and photos!

    • 2010vanfan permalink
      July 5, 2010 12:23 pm

      Thanks so much for all of your comments Sarah! I really appreciate getting them. You’re actually helping me relive it all right now which is pretty cool. Sorry I’ve been slow in replying, I’m on a bit of a tour right now in Europe and sometimes don’t seem to have nearly enough time!

      Thanks again, and I look forward to hearing from you,


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