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Calgary Awaits '88 Winter Games

October 19, 1986|FRANK RILEY | Riley is travel columnist for Los Angeles magazine and a regular contributor to this section

CALGARY, Canada — Flip the calendar ahead a year and pretend that today is Oct. 19, 1987.

That's what it feels like around Nakiska, the all-new alpine resort where Calgary will host the 1988 Winter Olympics downhill events.

Incredible as it may seem, considering all the unpredictables that can postpone construction deadlines, the Olympic ski facilities are ready a year ahead of time. The result is the kind of enthusiasm you'll find here a year from now with the Olympics only a few months away.

Calgary is inviting you to enjoy a winter holiday and ski the Olympic slopes a year before the world champions arrive. Then you can watch the super stars on TV to see how they handle the slopes you schussed at your own pace.

First Pre-Olympic Runs

Nature has cooperated by staging its own preview. During the first week in October, enough snow covered the upper slope above the Gold Lift to allow Nakiska staffers to make the first pre-Olympic runs.

The sunshine of Indian Summer returned to Alberta for a few days, but the ski season is expected to be under way around mid-November.

Packages are still being put together for this first season to link the completed ski facilities with the hotels, restaurants and night life of Calgary.

The spanking new ski facilities of Nakiska are on Mt. Allan in the Kananaskis Valley, 55 miles southwest of Calgary, about an hour by car or ski bus.

By next summer, Nakiska will be joined by a $35-million, 255-room lodge to create an all-year resort destination that will be used during the Feb. 13-28 Olympics in '88.

Prices Being Finalized

One package being put together will combine accommodations at the Canadian Pacific's Palliser Hotel in downtown Calgary with daily ski bus transportation to the Nakiska slopes. Prices will be finalized soon, but weekend rates at the Palliser indicate the price range you can expect for a ski holiday this season, even if you put your own package together.

The Palliser has 350 rooms and suites, plus exercise facilities to tune up for the slopes. From Sunday through Thursday, doubles start at $125 in Canadian currency. On Fridays and Saturdays, the rates drop by 50%. This lowers the price for a double room to $62.50 Canadian, or about $47 U.S. at the present favorable exchange rate. Small inns and guest houses could be half that price.

Nakiska has also been preparing its lift prices for this season. They are expected to be comparable to such other winter resorts in Alberta as the slopes around Banff and Lake Louise, scarcely two hours by highway from Calgary. Adult lift tickets at Sunshine Village near Banff will be $26 Canadian this season, or about $19 U.S.

30 Runs Prepared

Starting with nature's gift of a great mountain, Nakiska has spent more than $25 million preparing 30 runs of full line skiing for the '88 Olympics and for resort visitors. The slopes are served by a double, a triple and a quad lift.

Championship runs such as the men's downhill have a vertical drop of 3,000 feet, with the pitch varying from a benign 15% to an awesome 70%. The latest technology in snow-making equipment is ready as needed to cover 75% of the 225 acres of skiable terrain. The first celebrity ski meet has been scheduled for Dec. 11.

At the Olympic Park in Calgary, 70- and 90-meter jumps have been built for the Olympics. Near the base of Calgary Tower, the Calgary Olympic Center opened this summer to offer simulated ski and bobsled runs. From the observation platform and revolving restaurant atop the 618-foot tower, there are panoramic views of the city and surrounding mountain ranges. The Saddledome hockey and figure skating rink and the speed skating oval for the Olympics are also now completed.

With its population of more than half a million, Calgary is the largest city in Alberta, showcase province for the splendor of the Canadian Rockies.

Since its settlement as an outpost for the Northwest Mounted Police in 1875, it has become a center of commerce, transportation, culture and tourism. The Calgary Stampede for 10 days in July draws more than 100,000 visitors daily to relive the Old West.

Other Attractions Beckon

As a change of pace from the winter's pre-Olympic slopes, Calgary offers a range of attractions from its Centennial Planetarium and the Heritage Park reproduction of a late 19th-Century village to the zoo and Dinosaur Park, the Glenbow-Alberta Institute Museum and Art Gallery and many campus activities around the University of Calgary, Mount Royal College and the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art.

Theaters and concert halls share after-dark life with nightclub action and the cuisines of many restaurants.

Phones in Calgary and out at Nakiska are already ringing from early morning until late evening with calls from prospective winter visitors. The more than 20 million people who attended Expo 86 were exposed to neon skiers flashing down one side of the Alberta Pavilion's revolving tower to call attention to the Calgary Olympics as the next great world event in Canada.

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