It’s hard to believe that four years have passed since the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, but as the games kicked off in Sochi today, the excitement level was quickly raised again when 220 Canadian athletes walked into the stadium at the Opening Ceremonies.
But you don’t need to travel to Russia to experience the adrenaline rush of winter Olympic sports. In fact, many of the Games’ past host cities offer plenty of ways for you to learn about, or even try, winter sports for yourself. Here are six Winter Olympics host cities we recommend visiting:
St. Moritz, Switzerland
St. Moritz in Switzerland is host to the Winter Olympics in both 1928 and 1948, and also hosted the 1934, 1974 and 2003 Alpine Skiing World Championships. Every winter it hosts the “White Turf” horse race on the frozen Lake St. Moritz, but is also well known for it’s skiing, snowboarding, hiking trails, and nearby there is also the world famous Cresta Run toboggan course.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Hosting the 19th Olympic Winter Games in 2002, Salt Lake City featured 10 more events than any previous games. Within an hour’s drive of this city there are eight world famous ski resorts, the most renowned being Park City. It is here that the annual Sundance film festival takes place, and it’s also at this resort that visitors can check out the Olympic Park; once used for Nordic jumping, bobsleigh, luge and skeleton in the 2002 Games and now a training and competition ground.
No, we’re not talking about the beer. We are in fact, talking about Japan’s fourth largest city which hosted the Winter Olympics in 1972. 35 nations competed for world titles in Asia’s first ever winter Olympics. Today, over 2 million visitors each year turn up at Sapporo, not to compete in Olympic sports, but to marvel at the week-long annual Sapporo Snow Festival. The festival features around 400 unbelievable snow and ice sculptures, as well as musical entertainment and traditional food.
Another city that hosted the Winter Olympics twice, Innsbruck welcomed athletes first in 1964 and then again in 1976. This picture-perfect Austrian city is worth a visit even if just to wander the quaint streets. It’s also ideal for extensive winter sports as well as plenty of scenic hiking in the summer.
Squaw Valley, California
President Nixon officially opened the Squaw Valley Winter Olympics in 1960, when 30 nations competed in just 4 sports: biathlon, ice hockey, skiing and skating. Located a stone’s throw from the panoramic Lake Tahoe in California, Squaw Valley is an outdoor-lover’s paradise with a huge ski area, breathtaking views and plenty of summer activities to make the most of California’s infamous sunshine.
Vancouver, British Columbia
The host city of the the 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver welcomed 82 nations in 2010 to compete in 7 Olympic sports right here in our home and native land. While in the city, be sure to head down to Coal Harbour and see the Olympic cauldron for yourself, then catch a game of hockey at Vancouver’s Rogers Arena to cheer on the Canucks. We recommend renting a car and driving the infamous Sea to Sky drive up to Whistler where you can tour the sliding centre, and enjoy the fresh powder at Whistler Blackomb.