From cross-country skiing to snowboarding, there are myriad ways to enjoy fresh powder, and sliding centers are popular for icier pursuits like bobsled, skeleton and luge. Settings of past Winter Olympic Games often offer the best of both worlds. These four destinations will appeal to winter athletes of all stripes.
Whistler, British Columbia
Memories of the 2010 Winter Olympics abound here, including at Whistler Olympic Park, ideal for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, biathlon and tobogganing.
And then there’s Whistler Sliding Centre. Stand beside the track to hear the rumble of an approaching bobsled — some whiz past at nearly 80 miles an hour — or take a ride with a trained pilot.
Prefer hitting the slopes? Located at the base of Blackcomb Mountain, the iconic Fairmont Chateau Whistler has prime ski-in ski-out access. Stay in a newly renovated Alpine Suite, where the luxury digs call for cuddling fireside and gazing at the snowcapped Rainbow Mountains.
When you’re ready to take on Blackcomb’s 8,100 acres of skiable terrain, procure any necessary gear from the on-site rental shop, then board the new 10-passenger Blackcomb Mountain Gondola. At the summit you face a decision: ski the trails there, or board Peak 2 Peak, the world’s first three-cable gondola that links side-by-side Blackcomb and Whistler mountains? Stunning 360-degree views from the gondola reveal terrain with steeps, deeps, chutes and gentle rollers. Once on Blackcomb, 200 trails, three glaciers and 16 alpine bowls, all on a vertical mile drop, await.
After a day of skiing and snowboarding, unwind with a treatment at Fairmont’s Vida Spa, or swap stories with other skiers poolside in one of two outdoor barrel saunas.
Dining in Whistler is a stellar experience in itself. Two unforgettable options: The Chalet at Fairmont Whistler and Bearfoot Bistro. Off-property on the hotel’s golf course, The Chalet is a dreamy, intimate venue where a snow-flanked outdoor fire pit beckons for predinner cocktails. Indoors, the dining room welcomes with fireplace views and a three-course fondue feast.
“Dazzling” best describes the Bearfoot Bistro, where executive chef Melissa Craig prepares delicious meals. Kick things off with champagne, either at the pewter bar, with a rail designed for keeping bubbly perfectly chilled, or in the wine cellar, where guests can saber their champagne. Then enjoy the main attractions — from a personal oyster-shucker to ice cream prepared with liquid nitrogen tableside. There’s also a Ketel One Ice Room (minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit), with some 50 vodkas on ice. Parkas are required.
Other must-dos: learn about Squamish Nation and Lil’wat Nation cultures at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre; visit Audain Art Museum; commune with nature at Scandinave Spa Whistler; and browse the shops of pedestrian-friendly Olympic Village.
Salt Lake City, Utah
The Salt Lake 2002 winter Olympics showcased Utah’s outstanding skiing, snowboarding and, yes, sliding sports. At the Utah Olympic Park’s sliding center, visitors can rev their adrenaline with bobsled, skeleton and luge runs under the guidance of a professional. During the 2002 XIX Olympic Winter Games, the U.S. swept the field in snowboarding, so it’s only natural for visiting athletes to gravitate toward the slopes for half-pipes, tabletops and kickers.
Open on December 7, Deer Valley is the site where freestyle moguls and aerials, and alpine slalom skiing events were held. There are 103 runs for novice, intermediate and advanced skiers, plus six bowls and two chute areas for more extreme skiers. For guests planning to stay a while, Trail’s End Lodge has ski-in ski-out access, a saltwater swimming pool and up-to-four-bedroom accommodations.
With Utah’s 15 world-class ski resorts — Woodward Park City joins the mix this winter — there’s an abundance of excellent skiing. A favorite spot for locals, though, is Snowbird, with its 11,000-foot summit, aerial tram, 11 lifts, and 168 runs that encourage days of downhill and cross-country skiing.
For après-ski, just hitting the scene is SeventyOne, on the west side of the Cliff Lodge near the Snowbird Center. This American bistro’s decor pays homage to Snowbird’s 1971 launch. Get there via the resort’s new pedestrian bridge.
Other must-dos: wander Park City’s Main Street, with a stop for cocktails at the Eating Establishment; savor a four-course dinner at Fireside Dining, accessed via snowshoe or horse-drawn sleigh; tour the Natural History Museum of Utah; drink in the craft brewery scene; and float in the geothermal waters of Homestead Crater.
Whiteface Mountain, Lake Placid, New York
The Winter Olympics have been held twice in Lake Placid, 1932 and 1980. A presence since then has been the Mt. Van Hoevenberg Olympic Bobsled Run, where professional drivers and brake-men can take sliding sports fans for the half-mile ride of their lives. More high-speed adventure awaits at the skeleton and luge tracks. Something to look forward to next fall is the unveiling of a 7,000-linear-square-foot mountain coaster that will follow the path of the renowned bobsled run.
There’s also the ambience unique to the Adirondack region. Sheer beauty. A great way to take it in is on the Cloudsplitter Gondola. You can also reach great heights at the Olympic Jumping Complex, where this fall a new glass-enclosed elevator was unveiled. It transports visitors to the observation deck of the 120-meter jump, with dazzling panoramas of the Adirondack High Peaks. Keep an eye out for zip-liners going extreme on four runs, with speeds reaching up to 60 mph.
The observation deck is also ideal for catching skiing in action. Whiteface packs in a lot of variety, with 283 skiable acres, 86 trails, 11 lifts and a 3,430-foot vertical drop. Freestyle, cross-country, snowboarding, biathlon — there’s all that and even speed skating on the Oval Track or Mirror Lake in Lake Placid.
Visitors have multiple accommodation options at Whiteface, including Lake Placid Lodge or Whiteface Lodge. Just six miles out of town, The Point at Saranac Lake is an intimate resort, where winter activities include private cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice-skating, curling and ice fishing on Upper Saranac Lake. The Saturday snow barbecues are not to be missed.
Other must-dos: hiking High Gorge Falls; fly-fishing on the Ausable River; river-rafting the Hudson River Gorge; and window-shopping in charming downtown Lake Placid.
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
The Winter Olympics came to Squaw Valley in 1960. The resort, now known as Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, has been a favorite with skiers and snowboarders ever since.
Last season saw nine months of snow at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows. This year new offerings — lifts, events, activities, dining and bars — help visitors make the most
of every moment on the powder. Don’t miss the Treeline Cirque chairlift; the $10 million detachable quad chair zooms up to Sherwood Ridge in just five minutes.
Treeline Cirque is arriving just in time, as next year the U.S. Freestyle Moguls National Championships happens March 19 to 22. A nod to Squaw Valley’s Olympic past, the event will see mogul skiers competing on the historic Red Dog trail. Some U.S. Olympians will be showing off their skills as they look to add more titles to their resumes.
Thrills are in store for visiting skiers with Alpenglow Expeditions’ new backcountry skiing option, taking guests by special permission on single-run tours of the area encompassing the Tram Ridge zone beyond Broken Arrow. Three-hour snowshoe tours through Shirley Canyon are also on tap.
After a day of snowboarding and skiing, the place for making après-ski memories here is the Tram Car Bar on the Olympic House deck. The restored ’70s-era Squaw Valley tram cabin will feature cocktails at the ready, as well as views of Tram Face in the background and the Aerial Tram zipping past. A three-minute walk away is Plumpjack Squaw Valley Inn, with its own views of the Sierra Nevadas.
This article originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of Marin Magazine.
Bekah Wright’s work has appeared everywhere from the L.A. Times to TV Guide and Bon Appétit. Beyond freelance travel and entertainment writing, she’s the senior editor of Parentology. That news site’s focus on tech and innovation recently saw Bekah joining Greta Thunberg and US youth activists during Washington, DC’s Climate Week. Inspired by these young leaders, she’s striving to pick up the slack on the adult-end of climate control.