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August 02, 2018

Hot spots in the cold

Chill out in these five Winter Olympics cities that offer more than snowy fun

NUR SYAHIIDAH ZAINAL

AS FORMER hosts of the Winter Olympics, the following cities each offer an incredible variety of winter activities for adventurers of all ages and fitness levels.

Between them, all the snow sports imaginable are available — from the classics, such as skiing, tobogganing and snowboarding, to the more unusual ones such as ice climbing, snowkiting and ski biking.

However, while the slopes might be these cities’ calling card, having a great time does not always involve strapping on a pair of skis or a snowboard.

For those who need a break from the action, these cities also have a plethora of delightful nonsporting wintertime activities.

Sapporo, Japan
Hosted the Winter Olympics in 1972

If larger-than-life snow and ice sculptures are your thing, don’t miss the Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido’s capital, which has illuminated sculptures, snow slides, an ice skating rink and live music performances.

Another popular attraction is the Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival, which boasts ice slides and a skating rink, in addition to horse rides around the lake.

Experience ice fishing by catching some wakasagi (Japanese pond smelt), a local speciality. Either fish out in the open on the ice, or if you want a bit of protection from the cold, from inside a vinyl tent.

There are restaurants nearby that will help cook your catch — for a small fee — once you are done.

Innsbruck, Austria
Hosted the Winter Olympics twice, in 1964 and 1976

From skiing and tobogganing to ice climbing and ski touring, there is something for everyone in Innsbruck. Get into the Christmas spirit at the Altstadt Christmas market in the fairytale-like setting of Innsbruck’s Old Town.

Sip on hot mulled wine, pick up some Tirolean handicrafts or enjoy the strains of festive music by street musicians, as you take in the twinkling fairy lights on a towering Christmas tree.

Visit Ambras Castle, a beautifully preserved Renaissance-style castle housing Europe’s oldest collection of arts, armouries and books.

Head to the 16th-century Hofkirche and be wowed by the life-size bronze figures standing guard over the tomb of Emperor Maximilian I.

Pyeongchang, South Korea
Hosted the Winter Olympics in 2018

The Pyeongchang Trout Festival is a must. Catch fresh trout through a hole drilled into the ice, while those up for a bigger challenge can try to fish using bare hands.

Other activities include sledding, snow rafting and ATV (all-terrain vehicle) riding.

Have a memorable temple stay at Woljeongsa Temple, a complex of 60 temples and eight monasteries located in a forested valley. Enjoy a scenic walk along forest paths lined with thousand year-old fir trees, or take part in a myriad of activities including temple tours, tea ceremonies, meditation and a formal monastic meal ritual.

Caffeine lovers will not want to miss out on visiting Gangneung Coffee Street for a hot cup of java. Besides hosting a coffee festival, the area also has places of interest such as a coffee museum, coffee factory and barista academy.

Turin, Italy
Hosted the Winter Olympics in 2006

Enjoy the impressive display of Christmas lights around Turin during the winter months, even as you make your way to the renowned Teatro Regio.

Catching the opera during the winter is a must, so the 18th-century opera house — known for being the debut venue of opera classic La Bohème in 1896 — is the best place to be.

Film buffs, head to the Museo Nazionale del Cinema and feast your eyes on a well-curated collection featuring historical cinematic devices, such as magic lanterns, as well as film posters, movie reels, books and cinematic props and objects.

Art lovers, explore Impressionist works by Renoir, Manet and Matisse at the Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli; or those by the Old Masters, such as Rembrandt and Tintoretto, at the Galleria Sabauda.

Vancouver, Canada
Hosted the Winter Olympics in 2010

Embark on a craft beer adventure in Vancouver and try some of the city’s best handcrafted brew. Tours usually include a behind-the-scenes visit, a beer flight and transport between stops.

Go ice skating downtown at the Robson Square open-air skating rink, which has a dome-like roof and no walls. Skating is free if you have your own skates, or you can hire skates and helmets at a minimal fee.

Chug along on the Bright Nights Christmas Train in Stanley Park and enjoy the holiday lights, displays and live performers along the 14-minute route. Join thousands of people in the Polar Bear Swim and welcome the New Year by jumping into icy cold water in English Bay. The more adventurous can take part in a swim race.

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