With the 2014 Olympic Winter Games set to take centre stage in Sochi, Russia, fond memories of British Columbia’s time in the limelight are inevitable, not to mention irresistible.
When you’re overcome by nostalgia, though, don’t weep into your red mittens while cradling your Quatchi plush toy. Instead, get out there and enjoy gold medal-calibre experiences that live on in Vancouver, Richmond and Whistler.
That doesn’t just mean playing or watching sports, either: from dining and drinking to shopping and sightseeing, here are the top 10 ways to rekindle that Olympic fire.
1. The Good Old Hockey Game
You can catch superstar Olympians like Canada's Roberto Luongo and Dan Hamhuis in action with the NHL's Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena, the hub for hockey during the 2010 Winter Games (the $5-million LED scoreboard is a spectacle in itself). Tip: be sure to score a customized jersey with your name and number at the Canucks Team Store.
For a pre-game diversion, visit the Vancouver 2010 Gallery at the neighbouring BC Sports Hall of Fame, located at Gate A of BC Place Stadium, featuring iconic artifacts like the huge Canadian flag that players waved after winning men’s gold. Stand on an Olympic medal podium or experience the Immersadome, a 4-D first-person perspective film simulator that captures the rush of bobsleigh and sit-ski.
2. Up Close With The Cauldron
During the Games, a security fence surrounded the Olympic flame burning bright on Jack Poole Plaza at Vancouver Convention Centre. Today, you can view and photograph the iconic cauldron’s four glass-and-steel arms on the waterfront with no barriers.
Stroll along the seafront pathways, or book a public tour of the monumental West Building of the Vancouver Convention Centre. This architectural stunner, which served as the International Broadcast Centre during the Games, is capped with a huge ‘living roof’ lush with native plants, irrigated by an on-site blackwater treatment plant.
Afterwards, relax with a bite at the many restaurant offerings at the Convention Centre, including the swanky Cactus Club Cafe Coal Harbour. Or quaff some 30 local craft beers at the Tap and Barrel.
3. Sweating At The Olympic Oval
The Richmond Olympic Oval hosted long-track speed skating in 2010, but the track’s gone now, which means that you can’t do your best Christine Nesbitt imitation. Don’t fret though; the 47,566-square-metre facility with its dramatic wood wave roof by the Fraser River now offers state-of-the-art public fitness options. Scale the new 12-metre climbing wall, play volleyball or table tennis, or take a drop-in yoga or Pilates class.
Watch for a new on-site museum, the Richmond Olympic Experience, opening in late 2014. Planned highlights at the three-floor extravaganza include a multi-media theatre, interactive displays, Olympic Games and Richmond sporting history exhibits, and simulators that let visitors experience thrills like Olympic ski jumping.
4. TV-Worthy Treats At Grouse Mountain
NBC’s Today Show broadcasted live daily from Grouse Mountain’s Peak Chalet during the 2010 Winter Games. If you’ve ever dreamed of living like Matt Lauer (and who hasn’t?), ride the Peak Chair to the Eye of the Wind turbine and take the elevator up the 65-metre tower to admire the panorama – from the Lions Gate Bridge to Cypress Mountain.
Dino Gazzola, executive chef of the fine-dining Observatory restaurant, also appeared on the show, and still dishes up delicious West Coast cuisine today.
5. Believe The Hype At Cypress Mountain
In 2010, Cypress Mountain came alive with Olympic freestyle skiing and snowboarding. At this three-mountain West Vancouver resort, less than 30 kilometres from downtown Vancouver, you can still tear up the same slopes as Olympians.
Black Mountain and Mount Strachan offer 50-plus downhill ski runs with nine lifts. Hollyburn Mountain has 19 kilometres of groomed trails for cross-country skiers, while snow-tubing and snowshoeing are sure to delight the whole family. At day’s end, relax at the 600-seat cafeteria in the spacious Cypress Creek Day Lodge or opt instead for a tall cold one at Crazy Raven Bar & Grill.
6. It’s All Downhill From Here
While deep snow and heart-thumping terrain are hallmarks of the Whistler Blackcomb experience, powderhounds can take the adventure to a whole other level: ski or snowboard amid its 3,278 hectares of terrain with an Olympian.
With WB’s Ski with an Olympian program, you’ll learn new skills, and hear a few stories, from the likes of Alpine racer Britt Janyk or ski cross veteran Davey Barr, who grew up there and know these mountains intimately. Après-ski, be sure to refuel on oysters and duck breast at award-winning Araxi or sip handcrafted cocktails at Alta Bistro.
Destination BC/Toshi Kawano
7. Nordic Skiing: The Rise Of The Skinny Skis
Instead of ogling those Nordic skiers in their spandex racing suits, why not pump up your heart rate by hitting the Whistler Olympic Park’s cross-country trails? More than one-third of the 2010 medals were awarded here.
Located just outside Whistler in the mountain-encircled Callaghan Valley, the park has more than 90 kilometres of groomed trails for classic and skate skiing, dog friendly trails and even night skiing opportunities.
For even more heart-thumping adventure, try your hand – er, rifle – at the biathlon range. And don’t forget to bring the little ones: there’s tobogganing and snowshoeing for every adventurer, big and small.
8. Slide Into G-Force Greatness
No roller coaster can top the thrill of zooming down the Whistler Sliding Centre’s track, an Olympic legacy venue that offers public bobsleigh and skeleton slides.
With a professional driver steering the way, the bobsleigh ride hits up to 125 kilometres per hour and grabs all four participants with close to 4Gs. With the skeleton, you start one third of the way down the 1,450-metre track and hurtle, solo and head-first, at up to 100 kilometres per hour. Safety training and helmets are provided. If you don’t start now, how will you ever match the speed of Jon Montgomery, Canada’s 2010 gold medal skeleton champ?
9. Dress Like A Champion
For those who treat shopping like an Olympic sport, the Hudson’s Bay Company is once again staging the main event. Fashion fanatics can stock up on the official Sochi 2014 Canadian Olympic Team Collection, from the always-popular red mittens to a red wool duffle coat. Sometimes, it’s not whether you win or lose; it’s how good you look.
10. Our Triumph Is Brewing
Remember how the athletes selfishly kept regular folks out of the Olympic Village in 2010 because they wanted to sleep and not sign autographs? Well, the barricades are gone now, which means locals and visitors alike can hang out in Vancouver’s newest waterfront community. Enjoy a leisurely walk, pop into one of many shops or lounge on a park bench (coffee in hand) to take in the array of vibrant public art.
If you want to make a night of it, be sure to check out the brand new CRAFT Beer Market. Situated in the spacious, wood-beamed Salt Building, this False Creek restaurant has Canada’s biggest draft beer selection, with some 140 beers on tap. Recommended menu items include the West Coast noodle bowl and the dark beer braised beef brisket.