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In the tracks of the Olympians.

In the tracks of the Olympians

Who gets to use all the facilities before and after Calgary's Winter Olympic Games? With the games less than three months away (February 13 through 28), must you resign yourself to watching them on television, or can you get closer to the action? The answers are a "good news/bad news' proposition.

The good news: skiers, skaters, and others who'd rather participate than spectate will find wonderful opportunities to follow in the tracks of the Olympians. Now through early January and again after the games, you can ski an Olympic downhill course or glide along a cross-country trail, hurtle down an icy bobsled run, circle the speed-skating oval, even learn the rudiments of luge racing and ski jumping.

The bad news for would-be gamesgoers is that downtown hotel rooms are fully booked, and the only tickets remaining at our press deadline were mainly for first-round events-luge and bobsledding, hockey, ski-jumping, and alpine and cross-country skiing. Nevertheless, if you act fast, you still can snare tickets. One central agent is now handling all sales: Olson Travelworld, Ltd., in Culver City, California, at (213) 670-7100. Read on for lodging help.

On the trial of the Olympians

Most Olympic sites will be open to all through December and into early January. Public operations resume in March.

Here are activities at each site (see map on page 53). All area codes are 403. Prices are in U.S. funds; the Canadian dollar is worth about 78 cents U.S.

Canmore Nordic Centre, 60 miles west of Calgary via the Trans-Canada Highway, grooms 56 kilometers of cross-country trails for racers and recreational skiers. Trail use is free.

The roomy day lodge has a cafeteria but no rentals--rent ski gear in Canmore.

The center opens to the public no later than December 1, remains open until January 4, then reopens on March 10. Day lodge hours are 8 to 4:30 weekdays, 9 to 5 on weekends; a night-lighted trail is open until 9:30. For snow conditions and a race schedule, call 678-2400.

Nakiska at Mount Allan is 54 miles southwest of Calgary via the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 40. It boasts 30 well-designed runs served by four chair lifts, including two fast "quads.' All-day lift tickets cost $20.

It opens no later than December 5, closes for Olympic activities between January 4 and March 6, then reopens through April. Hours are 9 to 4 daily.

Top elevation is 7,312 feet, with a vertical drop of 3,012 feet. But locals say Mount Allan gets less snow than other ski resorts in the Rockies. During last season's dry winter, snow-making machinery kept Nakiska open.

You'll find plenty of rental gear, a large ski school, two day lodges, good auto access, and 40 kilometers of machine-groomed ski-touring trails. Kananaskis Village is 2 1/2 miles away, with shuttle service from three new hotels, which have shops and restaurants.

For more information, call the resort at 591-7777. For a taped local snow report, call 270-8680; for a province-wide report, call (800) 661-8888.

Icy sky conditions or Olympic closures could send you to other resorts--Mount Norquay in Banff, Sunshine Village west of Banff, Lake Louise farther northwest. For details, call Travel Alberta, (800) 661-8888.

Both Nakiska and the Canmore Nordic Centre are part of a 1,600-square-mile reserve known as Kananaskis Country. It also includes three provincial parks, but for ski tourers that's just the beginning. Kananaskis offers one of North America's finest cross-country trail networks, through spectacular mountains. But it's little known outside Alberta. You'll find 300 kilometers (nearly 190 miles) of trails groomed by state-of-the-art track-setters, day lodges and information centers, plowed access roads and parking. Everything is free.

For trial maps and other details, write to Kananaskis Country, 1011 Glenmore Trail S.W., Suite 412, Calgary, T2V 4R6, or call (403) 297-3362.

Canada Olympic Park, 7 miles west of downtown Calgary on the Trans-Canada Highway, has ski jumps, bobsled and luge runs. It's open daily 10 to 10; runs are lighted at night.

Take a 1-minute luge ride ($7.70) on the lower, safer half of the course. Bobsled rides (two passengers with experienced driver and brakeman) cost $38 per person for the shorter run, $77 for the longer, which reaches speeds of 85 mph; both last about a minute. You can take a ride 4 to 6 P.M. weekends through January 24, then again in fall 1988; to reserve a space, call 286-2632.

Through mid-December, and starting again in fall 1988, introductory courses covering downhill skiing, ski-jumping, nordic combined (ski-jumping and cross-country racing), and luge racing are offered both midweek and weekends. Four-session courses cost $46 to $77, less for children.

Guided tours of the site cost $3.80 for adults, $1.55 for ages 12 and under; they're offered 9 to 5 daily through January 24, then permanently after April 5.

Olympic Hall of Fame is open 9 to 5 daily, with displays, artifacts, photographs, a film. Admission is $2.30 for adults, $1.55 for seniors and children. It's open through January 24, then from April 5. For details and reservations, call 286-2632.

University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive N.W., has an indoor speed-skating oval as big as two football fields. Within the oval are two additional ice surfaces: one for hockey, one for ice-skating. You're welcome now through December 23, then again after March 1. Admission is $1.55 for adults; speed skates rent for $2.20. For a schedule of public skating hours, call 220-7890.

Stampede Park in downtown Calgary includes the Saddle Dome, site of most Olympic hockey matches. It's also home to the Calgary Flames of the National Hockey League; every game's a sellout. Free 1-hour guided tours can be arranged on weekdays only; call 261-0405.

What about accommodations?

New hotels and expansion of existing lodges have added 800 new rooms in the Rockies, both in Banff and Lake Louise as well as closer to Calgary. But the region is fairly well booked now through the games. Again, however, would-be visitors who act quickly can find lodgings, perhaps in private homes.

One piece of good news: officials told us that blocks of prebooked rooms in Calgary hotels should open up as late cancellations occur. For help, call the Olympic Housing Bureau at 262-6630.

Nongames visitors will find lodgings through the region more available again in March and early April--still time for a late-winter vacation--but reserve now. Another central reservations bureau is helping find accommodations; call Summit Vacations, Ltd., in Banff at 762-5561.

Consider old favorites like Chateau Lake Louise, remodeled and expanded with 125 new rooms, or Banff Springs Hotel (250 new rooms), both in the Rockies, about 2 hours' drive west of Calgary.

The popular Post Hotel in Lake Louise has added 50 rooms. And three new hotels (420 rooms) have opened at Kananaskis Village, a mile or so from Mount Allan, site of the downhill ski events.

Photo: Roadside view of Nakiska ski runs, on Mount Allan, halts threesome headed down Provincial Highway 40 for cross-country skiing in Kananaskis Country

Photo: Bold graphics on roadside signs help direct auto travelers to Olympic sites, in this case to downhill ski events at Nakiska

Photo: Tight squeeze: visitor on tour of Canada Olympic Park, just west of Calgary, tries two-man bobsled. With its fiberglass hood off, sled is in the shop for repairs

Photo: All five Olympic sites are within little more than an hour's drive of Calgary's city center

Photo: Downhillers wave from the high-speed quad chair lift that begins near Nakiska's main day lodge

Photo: Heading for recreational trails, ski-tourers leave Cammore Nordic Centre, site of Olympic cross-country events
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Title Annotation:Calgary, Alberta
Date:Dec 1, 1987
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