Sunday, August 12, 2012

Top Winter Olympic Cities

With the London 2012 Olympics coming to a close, the editors and members of VirtualTourist.com have put together a list of "Top 10 Former Olympic Cities Worth a Visit".
The first celebration of the Winter Olympics was held in Chamonix, France, in 1924. Since then there have been 21 Winter Olympic Games held in 18 different cities. The 5 cities selected by VirtualTourist are:

Innsbruck, Austria. Over More than 295 miles (475 km) west of Vienna, the town of Innsbruck has recently gained notoriety as perhaps the second town to hold three Olympics: in addition to the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics, it held the first Winter Youth Olympic Games in January. One rare characteristic of Innsbruck is all nine ski resorts that encompass the Olympia SkiWorld Innsbruck are accessible on just one ski pass, including Olympic venues Patscherkofel and Axamer Lizum. In the non-winter months, the area has the Top of the Tyrol lookout at the summit of the Stubai Glacier, where visitors can see over one hundred 3000-meter peaks around them. While the old town is filled with magnificent medieval buildings, there are also modern wonders such as - the Nordkette cable railway, a funicular that takes you from the city center up the mountainside into the top of the mountain in only 20 minutes. Along the way, passengers can marvel at the various railway stations, designed by Zaha Hadid to resemble natural ice formations along the mountainside.

Albertville, France. Conveniently located along the Great Alpine Road, Albertville is uniquely positioned on the border of France, Switzerland, and Italy, in the middle of France's Rhone-Alps region. Though the 1992 Winter Games were awarded to Albertville, the competitions were held actually spread out between several small alpine towns. This Olympics was most notable for being the first time a unified Germany competed together for medals, as well as the former Soviet Union competing as the "Unified Team." Today, Albertville serves as a great starting off point for any winter sports enthusiast, since as it is located between France's two other Winter Olympic host cities, Chamonix and Grenoble.
For travelers who want to visit in the summer months, Albertville is also an excellent town for cycling, providing a great base camp for mountain routes throughout the region. Albertville was a starting point for one of the mountain stages of the Tour de France this year. In addition to the sporting activities in the region, this area of France is particularly noted for its chefs and cuisine: the Rhone-Alps is home to sixty eight Michelin-starred chefs.

Nagano, Japan. In 1998, the Winter Olympic Games took place in Nagano, Japan, much further south than prior Japanese Winter host, Sapporo. While the majority of events took place near Hakuba Village in the Matsumoto Northern Alps area, other Olympic sites are scattered around the prefecture. In addition to winter sports, there are some great architectural sights in the area: the Zenkoji Temple, a 1,400 year old temple that has long served as the Japan's primary center of Buddhist faith, is located in Northern Nagono. The temple is such an important part of Japanese Buddhist culture that it sees approximately 7 million visitors annually. Another national treasure in the area is the Matsumoto Castle, whose 5-five layer, six 6-story castle tower is the oldest in Japan.

Salt Lake City, Utah. United States hosted its eighth Olympic Games when Salt Lake City, Utah, and its surrounding ski resorts hosted the Winter 2002 Olympic Games. Visitors today can check out the Utah Olympic Oval on the western side of the city, or head east and hit Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley, and Snowbasin Ski Area, where former Olympians have competed for gold. In the last ten years since the Olympics, Park City has also become a major destination since it began hosting the Sundance Film Festival every January, so the city's historical Main Street now has modern eateries, nightclubs, and world-class spas. While Salt Lake City is a well-known winter destination, it's also becoming a much more popular summer spot for hikers and mountain bikers. Travelers with an interest in these sports couldn't find a destination better than Utah - Southern Utah contains some of the most picturesque terrain in North America, including the state's five national parks: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands.

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Few Olympic cities can provide the variety of experiences that are available to visitors in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. While some natural occurrences were already ready for the games, like the amazing trails and conditions of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, the city also made numerous green improvements in preparation for the Games. The city extended its SkyTrain rapid transit system to downtown Vancouver. In addition to seeing the Olympic Cauldron at English Bay in the West End, travelers can also bike or walk around West End's Stanley Park, North America's third largest urban park, with spectacular bay views and greenscape. In Vancouver, travelers can even try their hand at some of the Winter Olympic Sports.
At Whistler Sliding Centre, the public can test bobsleighs and skeleton rides on the same track used by Olympic athletes.

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