The Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games may be over for another four years, but its dramatic coverage has given us a taste of curling, freestyle skiing and speed skating. Canada is one of the giants in winter sports and in the 2018 Winter Olympics finished third in the medal table with 11 golds, eight silvers and 10 bronze medals (a grand total of 29 medals).
It should come as no surprise that the country has hosted the games on two separate occasions; in 1988 in Calgary and in 2010 in Vancouver. The Winter Olympics could also be coming to Canada in the near future if Calgary wins a bid for the 2026 games.
If you’ve been inspired by the recent games in PyeongChang and have booked winter flights to Calgary or somewhere else in Canada, there are lots of former Olympic venues and other destinations where you can try your hand at the sports you’ve been watching on TV. Take a look at some of the venues where you can get a taste of the Winter Olympics in Canada.
WinSport Canada Olympic Park
In the mid-1950s the Canadian Olympic Development Association (CODA) was formed and they made three unsuccessful bids to host the Winter Olympics– 1964, 1968 and 1972 Games. In 1981 they were awarded the right to host the 1988 Games and CODA bought a community ski hill on the western outskirts of Calgary called Paskapoo in 1984 to become the Canada Olympic Park.
The park went on to hold the bobsleigh, luge, ski jumping and freestyle ski events during the Games and to this day it is one of the few Olympic Parks to not only remain relevant but thrive, as it is a regular stop on the World Cup circuit for bobsleigh and skeleton.
The WinSport Canada Olympic Park not only has a ski and snowboard hill that you can go on for nearly five months of the year but lift-accessible mountain bike trails and lots of other summer activities. It boasts mini golf, North America’s fastest zip line, summer bobsleigh and Free Fall, a type of bungee jump.
Dale Oviatt, a communications manager at WinSport Canada Olympic Park, says, “The facilities at Canada Olympic Park attract nearly 1.2 million visitors each year, including teaching 30,000 people each year to ski or snowboard; 5,000 children at summer camps and 25,000 school children each summer.”
There is also a four-rink hockey facility, including a 3,000-seat international arena, along with a public and a high-performance gym.
Talking about why you should visit the Olympic Park, Dale Oviatt adds, “Canada Olympic Park is Canada’s hub for winter sports. Of Canada’s 225-member team that competed in PyeongChang, 171 of them trained or competed at WinSport’s facilities at Canada Olympic Park or Canmore.
“Not only do you get the opportunity to see the venues from the 1988 Games, there is a good chance you may see one of Canada’s Olympians or one of the hundreds of international athletes that train here. Where else can you join one of our professional drivers for a bobsleigh ride down the Olympic sliding track, reaching speeds of up to 100 km/h in the winter time and 80 km/h in summer? In winter time, expert skiers can drop into our Under Armour Superpipe, which is the only halfpipe in Canada that is built to Olympic specifications.
“WinSport can be a fun visit for the entire family any time of year. In addition to the facilities and attractions, WinSport has to offer, a summer visit wouldn’t be complete without a stop to our partners at Skyline Luge, which is a gravity-based ride down a 1.8-kilometre track.”
Whistler Sliding Centre, Whistler Olympic Park and the Whistler Athletes’ Centre
Locations: 5 Callaghan Valley Rd (Whistler Olympic Park), 4910 Glacier Lane (Whistler Sliding Centre), 1080 Legacy Way (Whistler Athletes’ Centre)
Whistler Sport Legacies, a not-for-profit organisation that help grow winter sports such as bobsleigh, ski jumping and cross-country skiing, manage three 2010 Winter Olympics venues: the Whistler Sliding Centre, Whistler Olympic Park and the Whistler Athletes’ Centre. All three venues are worth a visit during your Canadian holiday and the Olympic Park and the sliding centre offer you the chance to try Olympic sports such as bobsleigh, skeleton and Nordic skiing throughout the winter season (usually the end of November until early April).
Whistler Sliding Centre
The Whistler Sliding Centre, located above Whistler Village on Blackcomb mountain, was once the venue for the bobsleigh, skeleton and luge events in 2010, and is the fastest ice track in the world.
If you’re an adrenaline junkie you can try the public bobsleigh and skeleton. You can either ride in a 4-person bobsleigh that is steered by a trained pilot and reaches speeds up to 125+ km/hr, or you can ride solo on a skeleton sled, head first, with speeds up to 100km/hr.
The sliding centre also offers introductory, one-time sport sessions for novices who want to try bobsleigh, skeleton and luge, coached by the resident head coaches, as a pathway to get into the sports as an athlete.
In February and March 2019 the Whistler Sliding Centre will host the Bobsleigh/Skeleton World Championships.
Whistler Olympic Park
Located about 30 minutes south of Whistler Village in the Callaghan Valley, it was the Nordic venue of 2010 for cross-country skiing, biathlon, Nordic Combined and Ski Jumping, as well as Para-Nordic/cross country and biathlon.
Now it offers cross-country skiing for all levels, from novice to high-performance athletes. You can access over 90 kilometres of cross-country ski trails (both for skate and classic skiing) and can even have lessons. You can even try the exciting sport of biathlon, which involves marksmanship and cross-country skiing.
Furthermore, at Whistler Olympic Park you can try snowshoeing (with access to more than 40 kilometres of trails) and tobogganing, as well as Olympic sightseeing on the venue of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. The park has a full-service Day Lodge, a sport school and rental shop as well.
The Whistler Olympic Park is still the national training centre for ski jumping and Nordic skiing combined.
Whistler Athletes’ Centre
Part of the Olympic Athletes Village in 2010, the Whistler Athletes’ Centre is still used by athletes for short and long-term lodging and off-hill conditioning.
The centre has a 4,000 sq. ft. strength/conditioning gym, a 5,000 sq. ft. gymnastics hall, recovery/regeneration rooms, testing rooms and a 1,300 sq. ft. community gym ‘Hub’.
The gym ‘Hub’ can be used by local residents and visitors alike. A visit to the athlete’s centre will give you a fantastic insight into how Olympians lived during the games in 2010.
Location: Whistler, British Columbia
Whistler Blackcomb was built on an Olympic dream and after failing with a bid for the ‘68 Games, the resort realised a five-decade-long dream when it hosted events for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Winter Olympics.
Being one of Canada’s most celebrated mountain resorts, it made an ideal backdrop to the Winter Games’ alpine events with the famous Dave Murray Downhill hosting the men’s ski events and the Wild Card and Lower Franz’s providing the venue for the women’s events.
Today the resort is one of the country’s most popular skiing destinations with its legendary terrain, deep snow and record-breaking gondola, which is the longest continuous lift system in the world. All a huge draw for skiers around the world!
Whistler Blackcomb is not only famed for its convenient ski-in/ski-out lodging; its five-star dining, spas, shopping and nightlife are also renowned.
The Olympic Oval
Location: Calgary, Alberta
The Olympic Oval, a covered ice skating rink, is located on the University of Calgary campus. Over the university’s 50-year history, one of the key legacies of the Faculty of Kinesiology has been its leading role in bringing the 1988 Winter Olympic Games to Calgary.
The faculty’s drive and vision ensured the success of the Games and, ultimately, created a permanent legacy for the university; the Olympic Oval. As a direct result, the faculty was able to develop a world-class environment for both basic and applied research, an excellent teaching and learning environment for undergraduate and graduate students, and superb training facilities for coaches and athletes at the varsity, community and Olympic level.
The University of Calgary, says, “The Olympic Oval is hallowed ground. It is the Home to the Fastest Ice in the World and it’s a unique facility (one of only four covered Ovals in North America). This is the same ice that much of the Canadian Olympic team trains and competes on.”
If you want to test out the fastest ice in the world there are public sessions available and these sessions will resume in June or July. A single pass for adults (18-54 year-olds) are $7 CAD or for youths/seniors (6-17-year-olds and 55+) are $4.75.
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia
Known at the time as Canada Hockey Place, the Rogers Arena served as the venue for the pinnacle of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic events: the hockey tournament.
The venue saw Team Canada’s men beat old foe Team USA in the gold medal match in front of a packed out stadium of 18,000 people.
Now the Rogers Arena is the home of the Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey League, whose season usually runs from October to June.
If you would like to explore this iconic Winter Olympic venue you can go on tours of the Rogers Arena to get a behind-the-scenes look at one of the premier sports and entertainment facilities in North America. During the tour, you will experience first-hand the “cathedral of hockey” and learn about the Canadian women’s and men’s hockey teams that fought their way to victory during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
Try curling with the Vancouver Curling Club
Location: Hillcrest Centre, Vancouver
The Vancouver Curling Club (VCC), which was established in 1912, is located at the Hillcrest Centre, the venue that hosted the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games curling competitions.
There are eight sheets of ice to master the art of curling and the fact that the Vancouver Curling Club has over 1,400 members shows the popularity of the sport in Canada. There are lots of learning to curl events run by the club so that you can try your hand at the iconic sport.
Ann from the Vancouver Curling Club says there are many benefits to the sport of curling, “There are many benefits to the great sport of curling: it’s fun, great exercise, people of any age or ability can play, its affordable and social – a great way to meet new people and play with friends. Curling is likened to chess on ice and really appeals to people who love strategy. If you were inspired by the Olympics, there is nothing better than to experience the game in an Olympic venue!
“VCC prides itself in providing a great curling experience. Whether through rental of ice where the basics of delivery and sweeping are taught by an accredited coach; followed by gameplay or through one of our 25 leagues. Curling brings people together, to create community and build a healthy lifestyle.”
Big White Ski Resort
Location: Kelowna, British Columbia
The Big White Ski Resort is regarded by many as Canada’s favourite family resort for skiing and snowboarding and on average 24 feet of Mother Nature’s finest, dry, champagne powder (smooth, dry snow) falls annually.
The resort boasts more than 118 runs, five powder bowls and plenty of sunshine, which is why it is consistently voted one of the top ski resorts in the world. It is also Canada’s largest ski-in ski-out village with over 17,000 on-mountain beds.
Talking about the resort’s links to the Winter Olympics, Mason Buettner, Communications Manager at the Big White Ski Resort, says, “Big White Ski Resort is home to Olympic Gold Medallist, Kelsey Serwa, who won gold in Women’s Ski Cross at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Take a lap down our golden run, Serwa’s, which was actually named after Kelsey’s grandfather who co-founded Big White Ski Resort back in 1963. Kelsey also won a silver medal in the Women’s Ski Cross at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. We’ll be hosting a homecoming party for Kelsey before the end of the ski season, but details are yet to be determined.
“We also sponsor Olympic athletes Tess Critchlow and Ian Deans. Tess placed ninth overall in Women’s Snowboard Cross at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics and Ian travelled to the games as an alternate for the Canadian Men’s Ski Cross team.”
Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame
Location: Calgary, Alberta
If you would like to learn about Canada’s sporting heroes, you should head to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame as it shares the achievements of the country’s sporting icons and legends.
The award-winning museum has 12 galleries and dozens of interactive experiences, including an 11-minute feature film highlighting great sporting moments. The hall of fame has the largest collection of Olympic and Paralympic artefacts in Canada and 657 people have been inducted over the years, representing 66 sports and spanning 150 years of Canadian Sport history.
Marina Montgomery, who is the Communications and Marketing manager at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, says, “It is an opportunity for people who weren’t able to be on-site for the Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. Olympic & Paralympic years are to celebrate the accomplishments of our people!”
Lake Louise Ski Resort
Location: Lake Louise
From humble beginnings back in 1938, when wealthy British industrialist, Sir Norman Watson built Temple Lodge on the east side of Whitehorn Mountain (the beginnings of the Lake Louise Ski Resort) it has become one of the most popular skiing destinations in Canada.
The resort could now also be a potential destination for the Alpine events should Calgary win its bid for the 2026 games.
Jasper Johnson, the communications manager at the Lake Louise Ski Resort & Summer Gondola, talks to us about some of the major alpine events that have taken place at the Lake Louise Ski Resort.
“The FIS Alpine World Cup Downhill & Super G are held at Lake Louise during the last weekend in November (Men’s) and the first weekend in December (Women’s). You can easily get a taste of the speed that skiers travel on a downhill course, and get a very real idea of what the Olympics might look like in Lake Louise.”
Banff Sunshine Village
Location: Banff, Alberta
Banff Sunshine Village is one of Canada’s premier ski resorts. Founded in 1938, the resort is located high in the Canadian Rockies on the continental divide. At Sunshine, skiers and snowboarders get a thrill from the fact that they can ski two provinces in one day and annually can enjoy upwards of 30 feet of natural, soft, cold smoke powder.
As a resort, Sunshine feels miles away from everyday life but it’s an easy hour and a half drive from Calgary International Airport.
Kendra Scurfield from Banff Sunshine Village shares her reasons why anyone looking to have a go at some of the Winter Olympic sports should head to the resort.
“Banff Sunshine Village celebrates the spirit of winter, for 90 years the resort has been a place of inspiration for people to enjoy the great outdoors and recreate outside.
“In 1985 & 1986 Sunshine hosted the Women’s World Cup downhill. These two events helped generate excitement and volunteers for Calgary’s 1988 Winter Olympics.
“In 2010, Sunshine Village in part with the IOC built a lift for spectators to view the downhill Olympic races which were being held in Whistler. After the Olympics, the chair was moved to Sunshine and is now our Strawberry Express.
“Throughout time, Sunshine has been a training base for winter sport athletes. Speed skaters, cross-country skiers, downhill racers, x-cross athletes, Slopestyle competitors, and more have honed their skills, training at high altitude. (At 7,200 ft. Banff Sunshine’s Sunshine Mountain Lodge is Canada’s highest full-service boutique hotel.)
“Many more athletes – including Marc McMorris, Olympic Gold Medal-winning snowboarder – found their passion for winter sports at Sunshine and in the Canadian Rockies.
“Banff Sunshine Village is a winter paradise that truly allows guests to discover the magic of the Canadian Rockies while enjoying the rush of skiing and snowboarding. Famous for being home of Canada’s Best Snow, our soft, natural snow, makes Sunshine a favourite for skiers and snowboarders of all levels.”
Other Olympic Venues in Canada
– Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver – The Pacific Coliseum is the largest building within the Hastings Park complex and it was the official venue for the short track speed skating and figure skating during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
– Cypress Mountain, West Vancouver – The Cypress Mountain was the location used in the 2010 Games for the freestyle skiing and snowboarding events.
– BC Place, Vancouver – The stadium was not used as a competition venue, but was used instead for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2010 Olympic Games. Now the stadium is the home of the Vancouver Whitecaps football team.
– Montreal Olympic Park – Montreal hosted the 1976 Summer Olympics and today you can visit the Olympic Stadium, Olympic Pool and the Biodome as they are all located at the park to see where the athletics, swimming and cycling events took place.
Image Credit: Big White Ski Resort, daveynin, Michael Nugent (flickr.com), kallerna, Tim Hipps, lululemon athletica (Wikimedia).