Victoria-based Helijet will offer charter flights from Vancouver to the Olymp

Traveling to the Olympics-or not

The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olypmics countdown is on. Opening ceremonies take place on February 12, when tens of thousands of Olympic athletes, coaches, officials and organizers will be joined by hundreds of thousands of spectators at the BC Place Stadium in downtown Vancouver and the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort.

If you're heading to Whistler by car, allow plenty of time. It's just 90 miles from Vancouver, but the Sea-to-Sky Highway is the only direct route between the two points and the trip could take up to three hours-or longer if it's snowing. The highway has undergone a major expansion and improvement project, but there's only so much you can do with a road bound by the water on one side and the mountains on the other.

Vancouver officials are strongly recommending that fans with tickets take the Olympic bus network. (There's little public parking around the Whistler venues, and permits will be required for certain sections of the highway during peak travel times.)

For those who'd prefer to fly, Victoria-based Helijet will be offering helicopter charter flights between Vancouver and Whistler, as well as expanding the hours of its regular scheduled services between Victoria and Vancouver. Flight restrictions are being put into place for the games, but it will still be possible to travel among event venues by air with prior permission.

The area's floatplane operators will also continue regular service, with additional security measures in effect. Vancouver Harbour Air, which bills itself as the world's largest all-seaplane airline, and Seattle's Kenmore Air Harbor can also arrange sightseeing tours before and after the Olympics.

Fractional ownership firm Flexjet, meanwhile, has introduced the 2010 Gold Edition jet card, which gives buyers 25 hours of flight time on Bombardier business jets plus access to Olympic athletes and events. Starting at $122,900 and available in limited quantities, the Flexjet Gold card includes tickets for two to the closing ceremony, the men's hockey gold medal game, the figure-skating gala exhibition and three speed-skating gold medal races. The card also includes a three-night stay at Vancouver's Sutton Place Hotel, Olympic-certified VIP ground transportation and other perks.

Or, if you aren't inclined to brave the cold or the crowds, you could just stay home. For the first time, the Olympic Games are being broadcast entirely in HD.

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