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Today's opening of the FIS Folksam World Cup will be unlike any held before it. This nordic event will be a chess game played on skis. Strategy will play as much a part as overall strength and style.

That's because of the course, says Alan Ashley, chief of competition. Snow conditions, principally the lack of it, made it necessary to redesign the course. Instead of using all the available terrain on and around the golf course, the five-kilometer track was squeezed down to fit only on the course itself.Also, in order to keep the track snow covered, trucks had to haul in snow from other areas. Snowbird, one of the closest resorts with a surplus of snow, began sending in truckloads of snow on Friday after the plea went out from event organizers. Each truck, reported Snowbird officials, brought four tons of snow to the golf course. Crews worked well into the night Friday, shoveling snow onto plastic tarps and then pulling the snow to areas around the track that needed it most.

It is now, said Ashley, a spectator's dream. Originally, there was to have been two 5K loops, but the lack of snow caused crews to concentrate on one loop. Therefore, spectators will have a better view of the race and be able to see each competitor more often.

Ashley said the redesigned course is moderately difficult, with some uphill sections, but more into challenging technical turns and straights. This race, he said, will be won by smartest and the strongest, not just the strongest skier.

Actually, many of the skiers said Friday that they preferred the new layout.

"It's not so radical," said Dorcas DenHartog, a Park City skier and a member of the U.S. Team. "There are a lot of nice turns and rolling hills. It's a challenging course. I think it's going to make for a more interesting race."

The favorite is Gunde Svan of Sweden. He is winner of four Olympic gold medals and holder of the overall World Cup title five of the past six years.

For the women, the favorite is Elena Vialbe, 22, of Russia. She had a son two years ago and missed the '88 Olympics, but last year she literally ran away with the women's World Cup title.

The Soviets will present the overall strongest contingent of racers. Expected to be strong, too, will be the teams from Finland, Sweden, Norway and Canada.

The schedule is for the women to start with a 5K classical race at 11 a.m. Saturday, followed by a men's 15K classical at 1:30 p.m. On Sunday, the men will start with a 4-by-10K relay, followed by a women's 15K free technique.

Cost of admission is $5. But if spectators want to take the bus, the $5 round-trip fare includes a complimentary admission.

The UTA will have four pick-up points _ the Doubletree Hotel downtown, the University of Utah football stadium, Skyline High School, and Brighton High School. Buses will leave at 9:30 a.m. from the Doubletree and Brighton, and at 9:45 a.m. from the U. of U. and Skyline. For information call 287-4636.

Friday, skiers and coaches used to the time to test track and snow conditions, and to work on wax selection for the Saturday start.

Under the nordic format, skiers will start one at a time, 30 seconds apart on Saturday, with the lesser seeded skiers starting first and the highest last. Spectators will be able to tell, by numbers worn by the skiers, those skiers that are able to make up time and in many cases pass other skiers.

The U.S. men's team is led by first-year member Greg Stone, 24, of Ketchum, Idaho, winner of the American Airlines Super Series, and Audun Endestad, 36, of Fairbanks, Alaska, who has had the best overall results.

The women's will be led by six-time national champion Nancy Fiddler, 33, of Crowley Lake, Calif., and DenHartog, a member of the 1988 U.S. Olympic Team.