With the Sochi Winter Olympics underway, it’s time for us all to dust off our fantasies about being a great Olympian and cheer on our favorite competitors and teams. While we may never make the national team, we can still enjoy skiing or boarding the same runs as Lindsey Vonn, Picabo Street, Lindsey Jacobellis, or Kelly Clark. So grab your board and skis, and book a trip to one of North America’s Olympic host towns for a skiing or snowboarding trip fit for an Olympian!
Vancouver, home of the last Olympic Game in 2010, is blessed with mild climate, gorgeous scenery and little snow. Visitors will want to head up to the nearby mountain village of Whistler, where the games were held, to enjoy skiing or snowboarding at Whistler Olympic Park, or to try a skeleton ride. Before leaving Vancouver, check out the trendy Kitsilano neighbourhood for shopping and some of Canada’s best sushi restaurants, head downtown to see the Olympic Cauldron and historic Gastown, or visit the whales at the Vancouver Aquarium.
While rumours had it Salt Lake City won its Olympic bid with bribes, it doesn’t stop it from being a great vacation destination for any outdoor enthusiast who also loves their history. Try a historic ghost tour, visit Temple Square, or find out about your family history at the genealogy library while in town. Then rent a car to begin the circuit of Olympic sites that surround the city. Hit the mountains to ski or snowboard at Snowbasin or Deer Valley Resort, try bobsledding at Utah Winter Sports Park, or cross-country ski at Solider’s Hollow.
Want to combine your mountain ski trip with a big-city vacation? Host city of the Winter ’88 Olympics, Calgary is a busy and bustling metropolis located less than an hour from the Rocky Mountains. While in town, take a bobsled or luge ride and visit the museum and ski jumps at Canada Olympic Park, or head downtown for creative restaurants, winter theatre festivals, and a 360 panorama of the city from the top of the Calgary Tower. Then drive out to the mountains where dozens of resorts and scenic towns offer fantastic powder for skiing and snowboarding, gorgeous alpine lakes, wildlife viewing opportunities, and annual ice-sculpture competitions.
A winter activities resort town since the 1920s, Lake Placid was home to the Olympic Games in 1932 and 1980. Still a popular tourist destination, Lake Placid is full of Olympic history (rumoured to include a ghost at the Olympic Speed Skating Oval), and a training site for many US-based Olympians headed to Sochi this month. Visitors can take part in multiple winter festivals, ski or snowboard at Whiteface Mountain, or ice-climb frozen falls or cross-country ski backcountry trails. A perfect retreat for ski enthusiasts that want some peace and quiet, this small town specializes in offering Adirondack hospitality in accommodations that range from luxurious resorts to quaint lodges.
Looking for an atypical holiday in California? Head towards the California-Nevada border to Lake Tahoe, home to Squaw Valley, the site of the 1960 Olympics. Visitors can stay either in Tahoe City or at the Squaw Valley Village, built specifically to host the Olympics in the hopes they would bring more tourism and Vegas gamblers to the region. Activities in town and the village include the annual Alpine Glow Winter Festival, an Olympic museum, or visiting one of the many shops or cafes. Squaw Valley Mountain offers skiers and snowboarders hundreds of runs from Beginner to World-class, and a spa and yoga studio to relax in after a long day on the hill. Visitors can also add something new to the typical resort vacation and try some night skiing or a dogsled ride, or head to one of several casinos on the Nevada side of the lake.