We were up again early to head off to the Callaghan Valley to the Whistler Olympic Park, but first we had a spot of snowshoeing to do along the Medicine Trail with guides from Canadian Snowmobile.
I’ve never snowshoed before and I actually loved it – quite gentle walking through mature forest scenery, but with a super-informative guide and a nice breakfast back at their on-mountain base. It was really cool. They also have a snowmobile and dog-sledding operation here, and we got to meet some of the dogs – most were a husky+greyhound cross breed – think small, furry, stocky greyhound with those strange light blue eyes. Very friendly though. It was nice to be back in the mountains with real mountain people who have a real passion about what they do.
After the snowshoeing, we transferred to another bus and travelled further up the Callaghan Valley to the Olympic venue for the Nordic events – XC skiing, Ski Jump and Biathlon. Last winter I had the chance to ski some of the XC course, and climb to the top of the 90m ski jump – those guys are nuts by the way. From the top of the ski jump, you can’t see where you land… it just contours away from you. Anyway, I digress. We were here to watch the Ladies 4 x 5km XC Relay – 16 nations were competing (sadly no team from the UK). The format is relatively simple – the first skier from each team completes a circuit of the track skiing classic style, before handing over to the 2nd team member who then does the same. The 3rd and 4th skiers in each team ski a slightly different circuit, this time in free style (more of a skating technique, and much faster). It’s a real sprint relay, with a lot of climbing and subsequent downhill (which if you’ve ever tried to turn a fast, sharp corner on skinny XC skis, makes for an amusing spectator thrill at the corners). The ice maidens from Norway powered to victory – the 4th skier even had time to stop and collect a massive Norwegian flag before skating the last 200m, watched on by the King of Norway no less. The venue was jam-packed and it was a really amazing thing to watch. Canada was last unfortunately….. but got the biggest cheer. Lots of Russians in the same track suit about – very odd.
After the event, we jumped on a bus (all the transportation ran super-efficiently) back to Whistler Village for a bite to eat at Earls Restaurant. Luckily we’d booked a table – the whole of Whistler Village was crazy busy with lots of restaurants jam-packed. In fact I’ve never seen so many people walking around in Whistler – loads in National Team uniforms. There were so many things to go and see and do in Whistler Village – lots of the nations had their own ‘houses’ promoting their country – ie: go to the Swiss House for fondue, Jamaica House for some reggae etc. Big video screens with live Olympic events were everywhere. Wherever you turned there was a stage with live music or a media event going on – the place was just buzzing, all day and all night.
At night we had tickets to the medals ceremony in Whistler’s Celebration Plaza – a special venue created for the games. We watched several medals being handed out – it was very, very well done, with a live video stream from the medal ceremonies down in Vancouver too. We watched the Norwegian ladies get their Gold medals, and then went nuts for the Canadian bobsleigh team medals. Very noisy! Then it was on to the pub for a few beers and finally over to Caramba for some food.
Whistler Experience Day 3: Fresh Tracks, Epic Skiing and more ice hockey!