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Travel Services Cut Costs in Canadian Rockies : 15-passenger vans link visitors to hostels and lots of outdoor fun.

August 15, 1993|LUCY IZON

Two transportation services can help travelers tour the Canadian Rockies inexpensively.

The Rocky Express is operated by True North Tours in association with Hostelling Alberta. Its 15-passenger van departs Banff International Hostel every Sunday morning at 8 through October, for a six-day tour.

For about $108 U.S., passengers are provided with transportation to a variety of activities each day and then to a different hostel each night. Some activities, such as hiking, wildlife viewing and cliff-diving, are free; others, such as riding, rafting and cycling, have a fee. At the hostels, accommodations average $6-$12 per night for a bed in a bunk room. All hostels have kitchens so guests can prepare their own meals, if they choose.

On the first day, the group travels to Lake Louise, stopping for a hike at Johnson's Canyon. The 100-bed hostel is the most modern in the Rockies ($14).

The following day, the van heads up the scenic Icefield Parkway. Passengers spend the night at the 30-bed Rampart Hostel ($6), known for its outdoor sauna.

The third day is spent at the Athabasca Glacier and Columbia Icefields. Passengers who don't mind frigid waters can cliff-dive at Horseshoe Lake. The night is spent at the three-cabin, 40-bed Athabasca Hostel ($6).

On the fourth day, passengers can raft the Fraser, float down the Athabasca River, tour the town of Jasper or visit nearby lakes. The night is spent at the riverside, 24- bed Maligne Canyon Hostel ($6).

On day five, the group goes on to Edmonton, where passengers can visit the world's largest shopping center (with indoor bungee jumping). Edmonton's 50-bed hostel costs $9 a night.

The final day starts with viewing buffalo at Elk Island National Park. The group continues to Calgary, host of the 1988 Winter Olympics. The 114-bed, centrally located Calgary hostel costs $10 per night.

The Rocky Express service is available to all travelers. For booking information, contact Hostelling International/Southern Alberta, 203-1414 Kensington Road N.W., Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 3P9, tel. (403) 283-5551.

It is also possible to travel between hostels in the Canadian Rockies using another 15-passenger van service, the Pika Shuttle. Hostel-to-hostel fares average $2.50-$5.50.

For a free publication called "Canada on a Budget," contact Hostelling International/Canada, 1600 James Naismith Drive, Suite 608, Gloucester, Ontario K1B 5N4, Canada, tel. (613) 748-5638.

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