The Olympic Experience – For the Rest of Us
I spend most of my professional life as an insider in skiing. But when it comes to the Olympics, I’m nobody. I know nothing about luge. Have no interest in figure skating. Can’t raise enough cash to get into a hockey game. And no one in curling knows – or cares – who I am or who I work for.
The Olympic rings in Whistler Village. People lined up forever to get their picture taken on the rings.
So it was as a total outsider that I spent the last nine days of my life at the biggest event in the world: The 2010 Winter Olympics – thanks to Whistler Blackcomb and its Industry House. The fine folks at the mountain (including Ryan Proctor and Michelle Leroux) rented a multi-million dollar house during the entire Olympics and invited all ski and snowboard media: Freeskier, Skiing mag, Ski, Snowboard mag, Snowboard Canada, SBC Skier, ESPN, Powder, etc., etc., etc. Funny vibe with everyone there, but friendly, and the hospitality was ridiculous thanks to the afore-mentioned and our house babysitter/manager, Steph. Not sure she knew what she was getting herself into when applying for the job. There was wine tasting from Inniskilin, food from Bob’s BBQ, and a fridge stacked with literally nothing but Kokanee and Vitamin Water.
Let’s face it, there are really no events in the Olympics (YET!) that we at Freeskier cover. Racing is cool, moguls are cool, snowboard halfpipe is cool, but the people who really care about who’s winning those events are probably watching them on TV already. Instant gratification.
The famed Raising of the Flags
My mission was two-fold: 1) see what it’s like to experience the Olympics (in my home nation, no less) and 2) ski my ass off on my favorite mountain in North America.
Part fo the wine/champagne cellar at the Bearfoot Bistro
So here’s how it goes down:
The Olympics are split into two geographical areas: Vancouver and Whistler. Vancouver has all the hockey games, curling, skating, moguls and snowboard events. Whistler has all the luge, skeleton, bobsled and ski racing events. I spent my whole time in Whistler.
Moguls event down in Cypress (Vancouver)
You could pretty well only get to Whistler from Van via bus (2.5 hours). The road was closed most of the time to cars as there was nowhere to park in Whistler anyway.
Deadmau5 rocks out in the Whistler Village.
Even though it wasn’t the easiest place to get to, the Whistler Village was out of freaking control all day. The sheer amount of people in the Village was unprecedented, which meant restaurants and bars were filled to the roof. As an added international touch, some countries had a “Nation House” in the Village. The Jamaicans (all one athlete) had the Beagle, the Swiss had the Mountain Club in Town Plaza, Slovenia had the Mountain Club in the Westin, etc. Each brought some of that country’s flavor to the bar or restaurant. For instance, when you went to the Swiss house, you were greeted with cheese on a platter. You could also count on athlete sightings at each respective house. When an athlete from that country won an event, the House went off! Very nice touch.
What’s an Olympic party without some Dom Perignon?
The interesting thing, though, is that although the village was packed with tourists (and Canadian flags), no one had their ski gear! Which meant the mountain was absolutely empty. So lesson to be learned from the Olympic experience: GO THERE AND SKI. It’s a bitch to get to, you can barely walk around the village, but once you’re on a lift, holy freaking hell you’re in for a treat. The second day I was in Whistler, a foot fell in the Alpine, and we got fresh tracks all day on lines that are usually destroyed by 10am. If you’ve never been to Whistler, you might not know just how amazing this is, but for those who have, you better be drooling right now. Knee-deep on Harmony Bowl all day. Shin-deep on Peak chair. No lines, no battlingâ€¦ it was like cat skiing but you didn’t have to wear a beacon. We only got fresh pow one day, but the next two days were still top-notch as the sun broke and there were freshies still to be found.
Industry House Manager, Steph, at the Spyder party. Nice hat.
Getting into the actual events in Whistler wasn’t easy. You could generally find a ticket, but with airport-level security getting into each event, and massive crowds battling for prime spots, it wasn’t as cake as finding fresh pow. The good news is: no matter where you walked around the town, you could either hear or see the Olympics on somewhere. Massive screens showed live events at the bottom of Whistler mountain where crowds gathered to watch the events, and the Olympic fever in the air made it feel like you were right there, watching ol’ Bode win medals.
Lindsey Vonn is awarded her gold medal for downhill
The other big draw each night was the medals ceremony at Medals Plaza. The Plaza was a big outdoor venue with a massive stage, amazing sound, and a podium. Each medal event had its turn, as gold, silver and bronze medalists were called to the stage to receive their hardware and their moment of pride for their country. The flags were raised and the winning country’s anthem was played. When a Canadian or American won, the place went off. After each ceremony, a band or DJ would play. The festival vibe was alive and well, and got things going each night. Check a little video from the night Deadmau5 played:
And that brings us to the nightlife portion. As I said in one of my earlier blog entries, most of us are not Olympic athletes, and we need entertainment in the evenings. As usual, the best party town in skiing did not disappoint.
Partying with Spyder’s Chad Buckridge at Paul Oakenfold
Remember how I said this was an outsider’s perspective? Well, that wasn’t entirely true for the whole thing. Staying at the Industry House had its perks. We were treated to a 5-star dinner at Bearfoot Bistro where we learned how to sabre champagne, sampled vodkas with Mike Douglas in the ice room, and ate within steak-throwing distance from Benny Benassi and the owner of Kettle One (thanks Tourism BC). We were treated to $21 martinis at the Fairmont hotel by the fine folks there (thanks Fairmont). We partied at the GLC (base of Whistler) in kicking distance of Queen Latifa (thanks Tourism Whistler and Whistler Blackcomb). And then there was the Spyder party at Garf’s where we danced while Paul Oakenfold played to a couple hundred other people (thanks Spyder). WSSF has long been known as the ultimate party experience, but the Olympics may have matched it with star power. A little less champagne spraying this time around, but not much less.
Industry House announcement for the night’s party.
1. Get to Whistler.
2. Shred with no one around.
3. Get tickets to medal events and watch amazing athletes do what they do best.
4. Apres with celebrities.
5. Watch medal ceremonies and top-notch DJs.
6. Party all night.
7. If you aren’t too hungover, get up and do it again.
Safe to say this was one of the most memorable weeks of my life, and there is still time for you to go to the Games. So take some vacation days, ditch your homework, and get to it. Bring your skis and I promise you won’t be disappointed.