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Washington finally notices the Winter Olympics

Note to the tourism promoters: the Winter Games take place in cold weather.

I'm a bit surprised that it has taken Washington State Tourism so long to hop on the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games sleigh. After all, the Winter Olympics opens on Feb. 12, 2010 — that's only seven pages away on my calendar. I received both a Tweet and a press release from Washington State Tourism about the state's new "online resource for Olympics-Bound travelers." In other words, they've added a link to their website about the Olympics.

According to the release, the new ExperienceWa.com/2010WinterGames website will make it "easy for travelers to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games to enjoy a complete Northwest experience by visiting Washington." Sounds fine in theory, but I find the new web page a bit boring. And the link itself is a bit awkward. How about something fun and memorable like www.spendsomemoneyinwashington.com?

The new website does have lots of links, including information about attending the Olympics, transportation options, and border crossing requirements. But it's lacking in any creative, original content that might make a visitor wanna make a run for the border. Whereare the slideshow and the video extolling the attributes of the Evergreen State? Instead, visitors will find five suggested itineraries of featured getaways in Washington. They include the Columbia River Gorge and Mount St. Helen's (4 days); Spokane, Tri-Cities and Yakima (5 days); Mount Rainier (3 days); Cascade Loop scenic byway (4 days); and the North Cascades scenic byway (4 days).

Now if I recall, isn't the North Cascades Highway closed in the winter? And as far as the other trips, who knows what the weather and road conditions will be like during the winter of 2010. Granted, they're forecasting another El Nino, but if it was anything like last winter in the Pacific Northwest, anybody renting a car should have to take mandatory lessons on how to chain up to drive over the passes. The suggested getaways would be great road trips for the Summer Olympics, but if I was in Vancouver or Whistler in winter, I'd probably just stay put or head over to Vancouver Island via the BC Ferries. No chains required.

As expected, the press release includes a statement from Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire: "Washington is proud to be a gateway to the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver," intones Gregoire. "Whether people are just passing through, looking to get away from the crowds or extending their stay in this beautiful corner of the world, ExperienceWa.com/2010WinterGames provides the information they need to have for the best possible stay."

According to Rogers Weed, the new director of the Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development, travelers in Washington spent $15.7 billion in 2008. "We plan to take advantage of the global spotlight on the Pacific Northwest next winter in order to spur more tourism following the Winter Games," says Weed.

The release states that as many as 190,000 tourists, volunteers, staff, and athletes are expected to descend on Vancouver in Februrary 2010, "many of whom will pass through Washington on their way or extend their trip with a visit to the state." They also expect Vancouver residents to "leave the city in search of relief from the crowds."

Maybe I best fix up that spare bedroom.

Sue Frause is a Whidbey Island freelance writer and photographer. You can reach her at sue@suefrause.com.


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