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Sample Olympics yourself: Whistler resort offers shot at near-Olympic glory

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By Sharon Wootton
The legacy of the 2010 Winter Olympics and the Paralympic Winter Games lives on at Whistler.
The British Columbia ski resort, annually praised by ski, snowboard, outdoors and travel magazines, always seems to be ahead of the pack in opportunities for snowriders.
Expect more accolades as the operation takes full advantage of the Olympics-quality venues to give the rest of us an Olympics sampler.
Earn a better appreciation of the stamina and skill needed for the biathlon at Whistler Olympic Park, the first venue to include all three traditional Nordic sports at one site: cross-country, ski jumping and biathlon.
Visitors can combine skate skiing with target shooting on the biathlon shooting range under the guidance of a certified instructor.
While the park challenges your stamina and skill, the Whistler Sliding Centre challenges your nerve.
You remember the skeleton competition, don't you? That's where you ride (a concept that normally includes a brake and steering system) a sled -- head first -- down a frozen track with curved sides.
It's just you, the ice, the slider (a very small sled) and some subtle shifting of your body mass.
Oh, by the way, expect a few g-forces and speeds up to 60 mph. Sounds like fun, eh?
You'd rather not lead with your head? Starting next month, visitors can join a bobsled team and launch themselves down the Olympic track. No, you don't get to steer. We'll leave that to the expert driver. But you might get to fly about 85 mph and experience the adrenaline-driven fight-or-flight response.
Of course, there's nowhere to run.
Whistler Blackcomb offers other Olympic-sized experiences and tosses in a bit of tech, too. It's launching a smart phone app with trail maps. You can track runs using GPS and measure your total vertical drop and distance covered.
The top-ranked ski resort in North America, as judged by many magazines and their readers, has fresh snow on the peaks and meteorologists predicting above average snowfall this season.
Since Whistler averages more than 34 feet (last year it hit 51 feet, its second deepest accumulated snowfall), good times are in the forecast for Nov. 24, opening day.
For more information, go to
Winged art
Photographer Betty Udesen and mixed-media artist Alisa Lahti have their creativity on display in the "Birds and Paradise" exhibit through Nov. 19 in Lake Forest.
It's a colorful and whimsical approach in the Gallery at Towne Center on the lower level of Lake Forest Park Town Centre, 17171 Bothell Way NE, Suite A-141.
For more information, go to or call 206-417-4645.

Virtual birds. It's the thrill of the chase brought to you by the National Audubon Society -- on the Internet. Audubon's "Birding the Net" campaign coincides with the release of the movie "The Big Year" and challenges people to find birds online through Nov. 7.
In the movie, the three characters hunt down birds across the country, trying to set a record for species sighted in a single year.
Who would have thought … a movie … on birds not created by Alfred Hitchcock.
To play and possibly win a prize, go to Audubon on Learn where to find animations of birds flying a cross home pages, perching on mastheads, and flocking to birdhouses, and how to install animations on personal Websites and blogs.
Collect and trade "bird cards" which feature recordings of birdsongs, bird facts, and video.
It's an innovative and fun way to introduce more people to birding.
Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or

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