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Olympic excess

The fastest, bottom corner of the course

Took a tour of the Sliding Centre, where luge, skeleton, and bobsleigh events happen.  This was illuminating, and not only because it was very brightly lit.  I had to wonder why flash photography was verboten when the lights are so bright, and the luge athletes aren’t looking where they’re going anyways.  They memorize the course, because looking up slows you down.

The luge course is absolutely a feat of engineering.  A km and a half long, a four story drop just into the first corner, and athletes reaching speeds around 158 km/hr and hitting 5Gs.  However, the infrastructure to do this is hyperbolic. A building the size of an arena is for refrigeration- just to cool the course and allow ice to be built.  Pipes for the ammonia coolant run from the building the length of the (km and half) concrete and steel structure of the course.  The entire course is not just brilliantly lit, roofed for safety (so no one goes flying out of the track), wired for electronic speed and start/finish sensors that measure thousandths of seconds, but because the sun can change the quality of the ice, or snow can interfere, the whole course has blinds (not unlike roll-down window shades) to cover the open side, which if needed, will be vigorously manned by a large workforce who will roll them up for the cameras as riders pass, and then pull them back down to protect the precious (hand-groomed! and “spritzed”!) course from the elements.  Seriously. Continue reading Olympic excess

I was expecting chaos, mayhem, and frantic over-budget preparation, but Whistler is ready.  What construction is still on is placid and small-scale.  In fact, the only work-related phrases I overheard were “ahead of schedule, almost done, let’s take a break”, and “totally primed.”  Whistler is almost holding its breath for the onslaught, I think, but it sure seems ready.

My steez here was to find out what my job description was, and to sort out a place for my bro and I to live during the Games.  Done, and not done.  I’ve been chewing through my cell minutes, driving to and fro the breadth of Whistler, studying maps and knocking on doors.  Sigh.  I’ve learned a great deal, and am very glad I made this mission.  It’s invaluable to learn the town so well while I can still drive everywhere and park everywhere, and I wangled my way through the front line of security at the Athlete’s Village to meet the right people and get a sense of what I’ll be doing Games-time.

Accommodation on the other hand… I was parking in different neighborhoods and knocking on doors, randomly- a very humbling experience.  I was forcing myself to knock on the doors of the really nice homes, too, since I’ve learned from hitchhiking that the prosperous are often very nice and generous- perhaps those attributes contribute to prosperity.  People were unfailingly nice to the strange mendicant on their doorstep in the dark, generous with advice, and I got to hear many peoples’ opinions of their neighbors, neighborhoods, and the Games.  Continue reading

Off to Whistler


Made a headlong dash for Whistler this weekend.  Going to Whistler before the Games was something I “had to do”, but when the time came, I had a lot of resistance and put it off and put it off.  Oh well, we made it out, feeling unprepared and leaving too late, but as long as it gets done.

After an eight hour drive shared with my friend on thankfully bare roads in the passes, a fantastic meal in Van that included seafood and Bailey’s ice cream, and a sleepover on a king sized bed, I was off for Whistler solo.

I’m so glad for Stanley Park.  It really is a jewel in the city, and somehow that abundant lushness dampens the buzzing of frantic city energy, if just for the moments of passing through it.  Even the token postage stamp of a forest that it is still puts the rat race in perspective, as the canopy dwarfs the traffic and the bucked up windfall on the side of the road reminds of the strength of natural forces.  Then you roll out of that reprieve onto the threshold of Lion’s Gate bridge, rather a beautiful sample of engineering.

The Sea to Sky is finished now.  There’s a little bit of falling rock remediation happening still, but the new highway is a far cry from the last time I drove it- in white knuckled terror trying to keep the speed of traffic in an endless narrow lane on a wildly curving road all construction zone with high-hoes swinging over traffic and equipment perched on the edges of cliffs and rocks with only the Pacific behind them. Continue reading Off to Whistler