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Photos: Vancouver, B.C., 2010

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  1. Vancouver, British Columbia, played host to the 2010 Winter Olympics. (Albert Normandin / Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A couple strolls through Stanley Park on a spring afternoon near the city's main boat marina. One of the city's most visited parks, visitors can also enjoy the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Center and zoo at the park. (Joe Mcnally / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Rowers glide past a line of yachts at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club.It is said that in Vancouver, it is possible to ski in the morning, sail in the afternoon and take a sunset dip in the Pacific. (Mary Peachin / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Planning to soak up some art while in town? Consider staying at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, which is located right behind the Vancouver Art Gallery. The hotel is located on the VIA Rail route for those who plan to travel to the city by train. (Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. The Granville Island Public Market is perhaps the most well-known market in Vancouver. Dozens of vendors offer food-loving tourists and locals produce, seafood, meats, sweets and European speciatly foods. (Robert Giroux / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. The steam-powered Gastown clock blows out clouds of steam during its hourly sounding of Westminister Chimes. Gastown is located in the northeast corner of Vancouver, and is known as the birthplace of the city. (Robert Giroux / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. The Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia is "acclaimed for its spectacular architecture and unique setting on the cliffs of Point Grey," its Web site proclaims. (Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Totem poles and other artifacts are on display at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. The museum, founded in 1949, is world renowned for its collections. (Kevin Arnold / Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. While in the city, check out the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver. The bridge spans 450 feet across and is situated 230 feet above the Capilano River. (Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A totem pole decorates Stanley Park in Vancouver. The park covers about 1,000 acres, and offers residents and tourists a wealth of options, including walking, running or biking the 5.5-mile seawall path, a pitch-and-put golf course and more. (Robert Giroux / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A young girl interacts with a sea otter at the Vancouver Aquarium. Tickets for adults cost $22, $17 for seniors (65+) and youths (13-18), $14 for children (4-12) and kids get in free. (Robert Giroux / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Pedestrians walk by Aritizia on Robson Street, the famous shopping street in Vancouver's west end. In the stretch of three blocks, tourists looking for retail therapy can find stores specializing in shoes, clothes, lingeri, candy, souvenirs and luggage, not to mention hair salons, currency exchanges and restaurants. (Christopher Herwig / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. The Library Square building in Vancouver houses the city's public library. (Danniele Hayes / Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Patrons eat in the dining room of Six Acres, a pub and restaurant located in Gastown. Six Acres is "tucked in the oldest brick building in Vancouver," its Web site claims. (Christopher Herwig / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A traditional pagoda sits on the shore of a pond in the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden in the downtown area of Vancouver. Though Canada's third largest city, Vancouver has historically been thought of as the "terminal city," the end of the line and the last remote town before the continent comes to an end at the Pacific Ocean. (Ross Barnett / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. The Granville Entertainment District is an area in Downtown Vancouver known for its vast assortment of bars, danceclubs and nightlife. The entertainment district is centered on a seven-block stretch of the Granville Mall and immediately surrounding streets. (Tourism Vancouver) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. The H.R. MacMillan Space Centre was built in 1968, and was a gift from the lumber magnate to Vancouver's citizens. If you're visiting Vancouver on a Friday or Saturday night, you can catch laser shows to music from Green Day, Radiohead and Pink Floyd. (Christopher Herwig / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Olympic rings are illuminated in the harbor outside the Vancouver Convention Centre. (Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. The Olympic and Paralympic Village Vancouver is set on the waterfront of Vancouver. (Stephanie Lamy / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. The Richmond Oval, located south of Vancouver, served as the long-track speed skating venue for the 2010 Winter Games. (Ben Hulse / Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Skiers and snowboarders gather on top of Whistler Mountain. Whistler was the official alpine skiing venue for the 2010 Olympic Games. (Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Norway's Johan Remen Evensensoars through the air during the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup skiing event in Whistler, British Columbia, in 2009. The venue was the site of ski jumping events during the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. (Darryl Dyck / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Cypress Mountain hosted the snowboarding and freestyle skiing events during the 2010 Winter Olympics. (Tourism B.C.) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Canada's Mellisa Hollingsworth zooms around a corner during the sixth training run for the World Cup skeleton race in Whistler, B.C., in 2009. (Frank Gunn / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. The Vancouver skyline, Burrard Inlet and Lion's Gate bridge is pictured at sunset. The Lion's Gate Bridge connects North and West Vancouver with downtown. The suspension bridge is 5,890 feet in length. (Robert Giroux / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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By Travel writer
msnbc.com contributor
updated 2/10/2009 10:09:16 AM ET 2009-02-10T15:09:16

The clock is ticking, the venues are ready and athletes, officials and sports-minded travelers are turning their attention to the southwest corner of British Columbia. The 2010 Winter Olympics are now one year away (February 12-28, 2010), and the buzz is building from the streets of Vancouver to the slopes of Whistler.

But why wait for the big event (for which tickets are already scarce and pricey)? This winter, you can slap on the skis, skates or snowboard and check out many of the venues yourself. Better yet, if your visit coincides with one of the following events, you can get a taste of what’s to come without the Olympian crowds or high costs. (All prices are in Canadian dollars.)

Snowboarding
The venue:
Thirty minutes from downtown Vancouver, Cypress Mountain has long been known for its easy access and stunning city views. During the Olympics, it will also serve as the venue for the Games’ snowboarding and freestyle skiing events.

Though relatively small — six chairs, 52 runs and 2,010 vertical feet — Cypress dishes up plenty of big-mountain fun with a halfpipe, two terrain parks and rollicking runs like Fork and P.G.S. (sites of the Olympic snowboard cross and parallel giant slalom, respectively). Last year, the resort added a high-speed quad chair and nine new runs; this year, a new daylodge offers relief when it’s time to relax or recharge.

The competition: If you show up February 12–15, you can also watch the world’s best snowboarders compete during the 2009 LG Snowboard FIS World Cup. Whether it’s the mass-start mayhem of snowboard cross, the split-second timing of the parallel giant slalom or the aerial antics in the halfpipe, there should be thrills and spills in equal measure.

The nitty-gritty: Daily adult lift tickets at Cypress are $56–$60 and provide entry to World Cup events. For non-riders, daily event tickets are $10 and include roundtrip bus transportation from West Vancouver.

Nordic skiing
The venue:
A year from now, several hundred cross-country skiers, biathletes and ski jumpers will head to the Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley, 16 kilometers south of Whistler. They’ll be joined by thousands of spectators accommodated in three temporary stadiums to be constructed on site.

This year, though, you’re more likely to have the place just about to yourself. You can ski 55 kilometers of trails, tour (but, alas, not go off) the ski jumps and even take a crack (shot) at the odd-couple, cardio-marksmanship sport of biathlon.

The competition: This season, upcoming events include the IPC Biathlon and Cross-Country World Cup, a precursor to next year’s Paralympics, March 4–7, and the IBU World Cup Biathlon March 11–15. Admission is free.

The nitty-gritty: Adult trail passes are $20 for cross-country skiing, $8 for snowshoeing. Tours, lessons and rentals are available on site.

Downhill skiing
The venue:
Originally conceived in a bid for the 1968 Olympics, Whistler grabbed the brass ring six years ago when Vancouver was named host city for 2010. Now, the Olympic rings themselves are flying as the resort prepares to host the Games’ alpine skiing events.

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The resort will also host the Games’ sliding events (bobsleigh, luge and skeleton), but the best place to test your personal mettle is on the Dave Murray Downhill course. Dropping 3,200 vertical feet in approximately two miles, it’s considered one of the toughest courses on the World Cup circuit, although at mortal speeds, a strong intermediate can handle it.

The competition: Many of the athletes who will participate in the 2010 Paralympic Games (March 12-21, 2010) will be competing in the IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup March 9–14.

The nitty-gritty: Single-day adult lift tickets are $89, with discounts available by ordering online or as part of a lift/lodging package. Click here for details.

Speed skating
The venue:
While many Olympic events in Vancouver will utilize existing venues, the Richmond Olympic Oval, south of downtown, was built from scratch. Overlooking a channel of the Fraser River — and designed to echo the river’s flowing curves — it opened in December and will host the (long track) speed skating events in 2010.

In the meantime, the facility is open for public skating during select hours, which means you can lace up the skates and hit the 400-meter track yourself. And if you really feel the need for speed, public speed skating sessions are offered several days a week. Rental skates and helmets (highly recommended) are available.

The competition: The Oval will host some of the world’s fastest skaters during the Essent ISU World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships March 12–15. Among the highlights will be the Team Pursuit races, which joined the official Olympic roster in 2006.

The nitty-gritty: Daily admission to the Oval is $12.50 (ages 22–65) and $8 (ages 13–21). Tickets for the Championships are $32 per day or $100 for a four-day package.

Rob Lovitt is a frequent contributor to msnbc.com. If you'd like to respond to one of his columns or suggest a story idea, drop him an e-mail.

More on 2010 Winter Olympics | Rob Lovitt

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