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February 12, 2010



Watching the world’s best athletes competing at the Winter Olympic Games or Paralympics can’t help but inspire you — to get off the couch and take your own game to the next level. If you are lucky enough to be in British Columbia, Canada, get motivated to pursue your own outdoor adventures in Vancouver and Whistler. Fortunately, these three activities are open to anyone visiting the winter wonderland – double check operation dates during the Games! I have ranked these activities according to level of exertion – gold medal requiring the most effort, of course!

Biathlon – Give it a try!

As a sport, biathlon is arguably right up there with the toughest. Combining endurance, tactical skill and precision shooting, the goal of each biathlon race is the same: to get to the finish line on cross country skis in the quickest time possible, during attempts to hit five small targets at the shooting range. You can learn the basics and try them yourself in a relaxed setting at Whistler Olympic Park in the beautiful Callaghan Valley — the site of the cross-country, biathlon, Nordic combined and ski jumping events.

There are also lessons in skate skiing and snowshoeing at Whistler Olympic Park, 5 Callaghan Valley Road. Call 604-964-2454 or toll free 1-877-764-2455. The Park is closed to the public until March 1, 2010. ‘Til then, check out Lost Lake Park in Whistler.

Grouse Mountain Zipline

For a two-hour taste of the adrenalin rush that Olympic athletes experience as they fly over the snow, experience a 80-km-an-hour zip across the peaks of Grouse and Dam Mountains on the brand new cable lines suspended over the slopes. At Air Grouse you can even get it all caught on film by staff photogs. Open weekends and tours run daily, on the hour, between February 12-28 and March 6-14; $105 for a two-hour circuit. A 15-minute drive north from downtown Vancouver, Grouse Mountain will also be the site of NBC’s Today Show for live Olympic broadcasts, so be on celebrity watch!

Sno-Limo Mountain Ecotouring

At Blackcomb Whistler and Grouse Mountain, I discovered the Sno-Limo was a perfect way to enjoy the mountain air and get a thrill after my muscles were fatigued. I needed a rest but still wanted to enjoy the mountain. This snow-gliding experience is perfect for non-skiiers, those with limited mobility and athletes who want to let someone else do the steering for a change.
Your guide will help you into the sled, belt you in, then control the direction and speed of the descent. My limo drive was a college student from England who offered me tips on Whistler nightlife while he steered me towards a great spot to view snowboarders doing stunts. A blanket is provided for your legs, but dress warmly! Packages $125-$495 at Whislter/Blackcomb; at Grouse: $29 -$299. Customized itineraries are also available.

Karen Kefauver is a freelance writer based in Santa Cruz, California. A multimedia journalist, she specializes in stories on adventure travel and endurance sports. All photos courtesy of Karen Kefauver

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