Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics: Mountain Venues

Friday, 12th February 2010 by

The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games start today and Google has treated us to excellent new imagery of many of the venues1, particularly those in and around Whistler, the mountain venue about 120 km north of the city.

Earlier this week Google really pulled out all the stops to give us the first 'Slope View' - ski trail images from Whistler captured by snowmobile - along with trike views of the village and a couple of other venues2.

Whistler Whistler

The brand-new Whistler Sliding Centre can hold 12,000 spectators for bobsled, luge and skeleton events. From the upper and lower start houses athletes will go through as many as 16 turns on the 1,450 m long track. A maximum incline of 20% propels sliders towards the finishing area at speeds of up to 140 km/hr.

Whistler Sliding Centre Sliding Track

Alpine skiing events will take place at Whistler Creekside which will accommodate 7,700 spectators near the finish line. Street View gives us an idea of how steep the course really is.

Whistler Creekside Whistler

One slight concern regarding this venue is the financial status of its owner Intrawest, or more specifically its financiers missing debt payments, which presents the possibility that Whistler may be put up for sale during the Games.

A few kilometres west of the town in Callaghan Valley we come to Whistler Olympic Park, a brand new $117 million CAD venue constructed to host ski jumping and two nordic events, with up to 12,000 people attending each of the three sports.

The ski jump towers are modestly called the 'normal' (bottom) and 'large' (top) hills, but with launch speeds approaching 100 km/h and jump distances up to 140 m, I don't think they're fooling anyone about how utterly terrifying they must be to experience.

Whistler Olympic Park Ski-jumping

Cross-country skiing events start and finish in this area, with the longer races (up to 50 km) taking the tracks off through the surrounding woods.

Whistler Olympic Park

Biathlon events are focused just to the north, with the rectangular area being the firing range where, very shortly after climbing lung-bursting hills, athletes have to swiftly steady their pulse and breathing to be able to shoot straight.

Whistler Olympic Park

Athletes in all these sports will be housed in Whistler Olympic Village a short distance south of the town. Google's new images show the housing mostly complete but the rest of the facility still under construction.

Whistler Olympic Village

The world's media will be based in the Whistler Conference Centre in the centre of town, while nightly medal ceremonies will take place in the new Medals Plaza, which is seen under construction in these images.

Media Centre Whistler

The one weakness of Whistler as a venue is the single access road - the infamous Sea to Sky Highway which often has a cliff on one side and ocean on the other. The province has gone to great expense - approximately $600 million CAD - to widen the road and straighten the more dangerous sections, but bad weather or landslides could easily cause disruption to the thousands of people travelling between city and mountain.


While Whistler has been enjoying near record snowfall, the other mountain venue for these Games has been suffering through one of the warmest Januarys on record. Cypress Mountain is due to host the snowboard halfpipe, ski/board cross and freestyle skiing competitions.

Cypress Mountain Cypress Mountain

While Google's images do show snow, other than at the very top of the mountain, constant rain has currently washed most of it away. A massive effort is underway to transport snow from other areas, with straw bales being used to shape the various features needed for these sports.

  1. Courses and some facilities are mostly complete in the new images, but temporary grandstands and all other infrastructure had not yet been constructed. ↩︎

  2. It's probably also worth noting that the usual Street View icon is replaced by a little skiing pegman on the slopes (which changes to a ski-jumper when being moved), while all Olympic venues are highlighted with a handy torch icon. ↩︎