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Olympic Travel Planner

Olympic Travel Planner

Travel
By Everett Potter
posted: 02/16/2001

This time next year, Salt Lake City, Utah, will host the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. Here's how to get in on the action and what it will cost you.

Fast forward 12 months to when the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games will be at full throttle on Wasatch powder. More than 2,345 athletes will be competing in seven sports and 78 medal events from Feb. 8-24. The action is expected to draw 1.5 million visitors, not to mention 6.5 billion TV viewers. The Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) has likened hosting the 17-day XIX Olympic Winter Games to presenting 17 consecutive Super Bowls. "We expect to sell about 1.4 million tickets," says Fraser Bullock, chief operating officer of SLOC. "This is obviously a once-in-a-lifetime event for spectators, and it will be the last Olympics in the United States for a long time."

So, given that kind of demand, how do mere mortals get in on the action? The fact is that scoring tickets to a freestyle event or a hockey semifinal is only half the battle. First you have to figure out how to get to Salt Lake City, where to stay and how to get around.

Your biggest challenge will be finding a bed to sleep in. SLOC has identified 34,000 rooms within a two-hour radius of Salt Lake City, according to Bullock. But 20,000 of those rooms have already been allocated to SLOC workers, Olympic officials, sponsors, National and International Olympic committees and such. That leaves 14,000. And many of those closest to the venues have been reserved by CoSport, the official "public package agent" for the Games. So if you have visions of getting a cozy hotel room that's footsteps from the nonstop party on Park City's Main Street, think again. Even resorts that are an hour's drive from any Olympic venue, such as Sundance, Snowbird and Alta, are filling up. In fact, at this point, people in search of reasonable rates are booking rooms in towns as far away as 123-mile distant Wendover, Nev., and Evanston, Wyo., 82 miles away. If you're willing to spend a couple grand, however, you can still get in on what should be a brilliant competitive event next February.

Here's your guide to attending the 2002 Games and having a great time-even if you're not related to Picabo Street or a friend of Bob Costas.

LAY OF THE LAND
With its international airport and proximity to the mountains, Salt Lake City is the ideal location for the Winter Olympic Games. (See map on p. 52.)Park City Mountain Resort, less than 45 minutes from downtown, will host the giant slalom and snowboarding events. Adjacent Deer Valley will have four Olympic alpine skiing events, including the slalom, combined slalom and freestyle aerial and mogul competitions. Four miles from Park City is the Utah Winter Sports Park, a 386-acre, $49-million facility that will host the bobsled, luge, skeleton and ski jumping. Fifty-four miles northwest of Salt Lake City, near the city of Ogden, is Snowbasin Ski Area, site of six events, including the downhill, combined downhill and super G races. Biathlon, cross-country skiing and nordic combined events will be held at Soldier Hollow, 44 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. Hockey games will be played at the most remote venue, the Seven Peaks Hockey Arena in Provo, 51 miles south of Salt Lake.

SCORING TICKETS
Olympic event tickets went on sale Oct. 10, 2000, and, not surprisingly, the hottest seats have been for opening and closing ceremonies in Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City. Other fast-moving tickets are for the freestyle and downhill skiing events, figure skating and the later rounds of hockey games. The first phase of ticket purchasing ended on Dec. 12, and the best chance to get the best tickets was in that first round. The second phase will commence June 2. At that time, you will be able to buy individual tickets directly through SLOC's website, www.saltlake2002.com. If you're set on knowing for certain that you hold tickets to particular events, you have two options: Youan either buy a lodging-and-ticket package through CoSport, or go to the ticketing link at www.saltlake2002.com and click on the "premium" link; you'll pay 25 percent over face value for these premium tickets, but it's either that or wait until June 2 and gamble. While more than 70 percent of the tickets cost less than $100 each (they average $86), all tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies cost $885. There are also high-end tickets for individual events, which Bullock calls "Jack Nicholson-type seats," after the film star's penchant for courtside seating. These precious seats will be offered through an Internet auction that's tentatively scheduled for May.

PACKAGES: SIMPLE BUT SPENDY
If you try to buy individual tickets only to find that they're sold out, don't despair. Hotel-and-ticket packages for all events are still available. While such packages are convenient, they're not inexpensive. Again, these are available through CoSport at SLOC's website. At the high end, one such package, which was still available as of mid-January, included lodging at the Ramada Limited Hotel in Salt Lake City from Feb. 7-10. This deal included two tickets to the opening ceremonies (actual worth: $1,770), two tickets to one men's and one women's cross-country event, and two tickets for one ice hockey match. At this early date, the folks at CoSport can't even determine where you'll be sitting or how good your seats will be. But they can tell you that the cost of your three-night package for two is $6,280. Subtract the tickets to opening ceremonies by coming Feb. 13-16, and you can cut that cost almost in half, when for $3,680, you get tickets to four events: the nordic combined, men's ice hockey, cross-country skiing and figure skating. (Daily continental breakfast and shuttle-bus service are included in the cost for both.) Other properties that are being sold as packages by CoSport include the Park City Marriott, the Sheraton Hotel Airport and the Holiday Inn in downtown Salt Lake City. These represent some of the closest accommodations you're likely to find.

À LA CARTE ACCOMMODATIONS
If you try to book individual hotel rooms in Salt Lake City, Park City or Ogden, you'll quickly find out that accommodations are completely sold out. But that may change. "Rooms are tight now," says Bullock, "but they'll tend to free up as we get closer to the Games and refine our needs." Which is another way of saying that these rooms have been blocked for potential sales to individuals and groups. If those sales fail to materialize, or SLOC sells fewer rooms than anticipated, rooms will come back onto the market. This is akin to the yield management system that airlines use with their seats.

The best link for independent hotel and condo accommodations is VIS, the Visitor's Information Services (www.saltlakeinfo.org). Note that while all of the hotels in Park City have been contracted through SLOC, condos have not, and they make up two-thirds of Park City's accommodations. There are two routes you can take in booking condos: You can call property-management companies to see what they have (those numbers are available through the Park City Chamber & Visitors Bureau at 800-453-1360; www.parkcityinfo.com) or you can try to book directly through individual owners. Little pricing has been released yet, so that option is a bit of a gamble.

RENTING A HOUSE
If you have a large family or a group of friends, renting a house is a viable option. The official broker for Olympic house rentals is Coldwell Banker Premier Realty. Its two sanctioned programs-Home Stay and Home Host-are coordinated in conjunction with UtahHomes.com and are similar to the ones that were successfully organized for the Atlanta Games. In the Home Stay program, the owners vacate their home and it's yours. The home will be outfitted with hotel bathroom and bedroom amenities, and you'll have access to a Guest Concierge Program to arrange dining and transportation. While it isn't inexpensive, it can beat the cost of a hotel and get you far more space. It also offers the ease of one-stop shopping, as well as guarantees the quality of the accommodation and provides a financially secure transaction.

You can do your house-hunting at Coldwell Banker online, at the VIS site (www.saltlakeinfo.org), which offers prices and availability, as well as an instant look at homes via still photos or interactive 3-D tours. Each property features a screen that shows distances to the various Olympic venues. When we checked in December, a three-bedroom basement apartment rental in the town of Lindon was going for $520 per night. That puts you a good 50 miles from Park City, but only five miles from the Seven Peaks Hockey Arena. A seven-bedroom private Fifties bungalow-style home in Salt Lake City was on the market for $1,910 per night. A beautiful wood-and-stone ski house in Park City, with six bedrooms and a formal dining room, was up at $6,180 per night.

Another alternative is the Home Host program, in which you lease a room in a home where the owner is in residence. If you don't mind the company and possibly sharing a bathroom, this option is substantially cheaper. At presstime, a one-bedroom was listed at $469 per night in Park City or $100 less in Cedar Hills, about 50 miles away. One of the more appealing properties we found was a three-bedroom unit within a large townhome in the city of Provo for $541 a night.

GETTING THERE & GETTING AROUND
Airfares have yet to be posted but should start appearing by April. Don't expect any bargains from Delta (www.delta.com), which has a hub in Salt Lake and is a sponsor of the Games. Instead, look to upstarts like JetBlue (www.jetblue.com), which only recently began flying into Salt Lake from New York City and offers fares as low as $99 one way. Don't overlook the other major carriers that fly here either, such as America West, American, Northwest, Southwest, United and TWA. Alas, Salt Lake City is not well-positioned for flying to alternate airports to save money. Fly into Las Vegas and you'll drive nearly eight hours.

While booking your airfare, you might as well book a rental car, too. Because venues and lodging will be spread out, SLOC is encouraging that route. At the venues, drivers will have a choice of park-and-ride or park-and-walk facilities. There will also be a long-haul bus program that can be scheduled in advance.

THE SYDNEY EFFECT
Finally, if prices seem high at this point, don't dismiss an Olympic vacation altogether. "A lot of people in the lodging community here are theorizing that the Olympic year will be similar to Y2K," says Melissa O'Brien, communications manager for Park City Mountain Resort. "They think that prices for lodging will drop significantly around November when property owners realize that the $6,000 a night opportunities are limited to sponsors and other groups willing to throw down that kind of cash. Like Sydney, people here think that just before the Games will be the best time to get the most affordable packages."

The bonus for SKI readers is that with all the non-skiing visitors coming just to spectate, on-slope traffic is actually expected to be down during the Olympics. In other words, you can catch freestyle or downhill in the morning and then take that inspiration to uncrowded slopes at Snowbird or Solitude in the afternoon.

Travel Hit

Only 258 athletes competed in the first Winter Olympics, held in Chamonix, France, in 1924. Next year, almost 10 times that number will descend on Utah. Source: SLOC.rrange dining and transportation. While it isn't inexpensive, it can beat the cost of a hotel and get you far more space. It also offers the ease of one-stop shopping, as well as guarantees the quality of the accommodation and provides a financially secure transaction.

You can do your house-hunting at Coldwell Banker online, at the VIS site (www.saltlakeinfo.org), which offers prices and availability, as well as an instant look at homes via still photos or interactive 3-D tours. Each property features a screen that shows distances to the various Olympic venues. When we checked in December, a three-bedroom basement apartment rental in the town of Lindon was going for $520 per night. That puts you a good 50 miles from Park City, but only five miles from the Seven Peaks Hockey Arena. A seven-bedroom private Fifties bungalow-style home in Salt Lake City was on the market for $1,910 per night. A beautiful wood-and-stone ski house in Park City, with six bedrooms and a formal dining room, was up at $6,180 per night.

Another alternative is the Home Host program, in which you lease a room in a home where the owner is in residence. If you don't mind the company and possibly sharing a bathroom, this option is substantially cheaper. At presstime, a one-bedroom was listed at $469 per night in Park City or $100 less in Cedar Hills, about 50 miles away. One of the more appealing properties we found was a three-bedroom unit within a large townhome in the city of Provo for $541 a night.

GETTING THERE & GETTING AROUND
Airfares have yet to be posted but should start appearing by April. Don't expect any bargains from Delta (www.delta.com), which has a hub in Salt Lake and is a sponsor of the Games. Instead, look to upstarts like JetBlue (www.jetblue.com), which only recently began flying into Salt Lake from New York City and offers fares as low as $99 one way. Don't overlook the other major carriers that fly here either, such as America West, American, Northwest, Southwest, United and TWA. Alas, Salt Lake City is not well-positioned for flying to alternate airports to save money. Fly into Las Vegas and you'll drive nearly eight hours.

While booking your airfare, you might as well book a rental car, too. Because venues and lodging will be spread out, SLOC is encouraging that route. At the venues, drivers will have a choice of park-and-ride or park-and-walk facilities. There will also be a long-haul bus program that can be scheduled in advance.

THE SYDNEY EFFECT
Finally, if prices seem high at this point, don't dismiss an Olympic vacation altogether. "A lot of people in the lodging community here are theorizing that the Olympic year will be similar to Y2K," says Melissa O'Brien, communications manager for Park City Mountain Resort. "They think that prices for lodging will drop significantly around November when property owners realize that the $6,000 a night opportunities are limited to sponsors and other groups willing to throw down that kind of cash. Like Sydney, people here think that just before the Games will be the best time to get the most affordable packages."

The bonus for SKI readers is that with all the non-skiing visitors coming just to spectate, on-slope traffic is actually expected to be down during the Olympics. In other words, you can catch freestyle or downhill in the morning and then take that inspiration to uncrowded slopes at Snowbird or Solitude in the afternoon.

Travel Hit

Only 258 athletes competed in the first Winter Olympics, held in Chamonix, France, in 1924. Next year, almost 10 times that number will descend on Utah. Source: SLOC.

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