Spotlight On The 2006 Winter Olympics
Editor's Note: Unlike the 2002 Winter Olympics, xcskiworld.com lacks an army of "insider" sources for the 2006 Games from which to provide exclusive information to make attending and watching the Games a snap. We were really proud of the hundreds of comments from readers thanking the site (and the American XC Skiers association) for the 2002 help. For 2006, what we've had to do is cobble together bits and pieces of information from various sources...and also engage in some individual trial and error (at considerable personal expense we might add!). The end result is this exclusive resource for the English-speaking XC world on what you'll need to know to visit Pragelato come February 2006.
All readers are encouraged to pass along additional information as you come upon it in the coming months. It's a pretty small XC world after all and we can all help each other from time to time.
The Basics: 2006 Olympics
The 2006 XC venue is the small village of Pragelato located pretty much due west of Torino (aka "Turin"...depends on who is drawing up the map as to actual spelling) in the mountains bordering France. Pragelato is not (repeat, NOT) a large or even medium size urban area and any available lodging has generally long been snapped up by national teams as well as the 2006 organizers. If you can find something, you will pay through the nose...best to forget about it.
Making things even more interesting is that Pragelato is within 15-20km of several other Olympic venues with predominantly just two-lane mountain roads serving all these areas. Advance word from Italy is that many roads will be closed throughout the Olympics with official and local bus transport the only way to get into restricted areas.
In two words...good luck. It's still possible to find places to stay in the mountains surrounding Pragelato, but it almost certainly will not be cheap. You also may find that you have the best luck renting a place on the east side (downslope) side of the XC venue because you'll have much harder access to skiing for yourself due to road closures. Thus these places are less in demand.
The American Cross Country Skiers (AXCS) has sourced two English-speaking rental agencies that we will refer members to on a request basis. Both agencies had available rentals in the Pragelato region as of late summer 2005. No promises now. If you are a member, simply email AXCS and we'll provide the contact info.
Note: One perfectly viable option on lodging is to stay further afield and "commute" for individual XC events. You may spend several hours on trains, buses, and/or rental car getting to Pragelato...but the savings would be getting a nice place to stay at a reasonable price.
Event Tickets and Venue Access
Again, the operative words would be "good luck". Many XC events have sold out allocations in various countries due to sheer popularity of XC in Italy as well as packages with other sports that included XC tickets. You can get around this obstacle by doing a Web search for international ticket brokers or by having a friend in another country see if they can source tickets for you. As of early Fall 2005 tickets on-line had not reached scalping prices, but this could change in coming months. Ironically, the steep cost and limited availability for housing may very well end up driving down the cost of event tickets late in the game so folks willing to gamble on places to sleep may find last minute deals for tickets.
One thing that is for sure from all early reports is that access to Pragelato is going to be interesting with local roads completely closed (that's what folks tell us) and limited exclusively to Olympic charter buses. To date, xcskiworld.com has been unable to source specific info on when and where Olympic buses will be picking folks up, schedules, and other info but we continue to keep eyes/ears peeled and will appreciate any help from readers.
The bottomline from many sources xcskiworld.com has contacted is that Pragelato is going to offer good viewing for XC events, but is unlikely to offer the incredible spectating of the wide-open 2002 Soldier Hollow venue. Further, the European spectators will be far more "into" the entire scene and thus far more likely to arrive early, stay late, and pack the trailsides. For North Americans spoiled by the large, albeit often somewhat bemused, crowds in the spacious Soldier Hollow set-up for 2002...be ready for a different kind of experience. Very cool mind you...but certainly different.
Since most xcskiworld.com readers are from North America we'll focus on trans-Atlantic air travel although the basics here are the same from anywhere else in the XC world.
As of October 2005 flights are filling into Torino in the Olympic window and in coming months they will likely book out completely in many cases. Torino is easily the most convenient airport for a quick Olympic trip, but in terms of availability (and possibly price later in the game) you may be better off trying Milan, Geneva, or airports even another step in distance away. Your ground travel would be more so flying in/out further afield isn't for folks short on time, but for those with comfortable windows and a desire only to just get a peek at the Olympics, you could do well to aim wide.