Organizers of Denver's attempt to get the 1998 Winter Olympics Thursday chose the Vail-Beaver Creek resort 100 miles away as the site for Alpine skiing and said they are optimistic about their bid even though admitting Colorado is the underdog.

Among other cities bidding for the selection are Salt Lake City; Anchorage, Alaska; the Reno-Lake Tahoe area; Lake Placid, N.Y., and possibly Klamath Falls, Ore.Vail-Beaver Creek, site of the 1989 World Alpine Ski Championships, headed the list of proposed venues for the 1998 Winter Games if the bid by the Denver/Colorado Winter Games Committee is successful. It was not the farthest site from Denver, which went to the Nordic skiing site of Steamboat Springs 170 miles away.

Organizers downplayed the importance of distance, however, because airports are near each area and the Steamboat Springs feeder airport handles regularly scheduled jetliner service.

Mayor Federico Pena told a news conference that the organizing committee, which was just formed last November, had made remarkable progress in such a short time.

"We were the underdog when we began this effort. We have come a long way but we still have a long way to go."

Pena and Roger Ogden, head of the organizing committee, declined to say what Denver's chances are of being chosen by the U.S. Olympic Committee in June as the nation's host site for the 1998 Winter Games.

Vail also would host the bobsled and luge, and might fund the construction of runs for those events, Ogden said. The bobsled, luge and speed-skating facilities are the only ones that would have to be constructed under Denver's bid.

Ogden said Vail Associates, owner of the ski resort, might build the luge and bobsled facilities. Negotiations are under way with the University of Denver on a proposal to build a speed-skating arena, possibly with corporate support.

Steamboat Springs, regarded as one of the nation's premier ski-jumping areas, would host cross-country skiing, biathlon, ski jumping and the Nordic combined events. The International Olympic Committee would have to grant an altitude variance for those events, because Steamboat Springs' 7,000-foot altitude is 1,100 feet above the maximum allowed under the rules.

The Breckenridge resort about 80 miles from Denver would be the site of freestyle skiing competition. Denver would be the site for ice hockey, figure skating, speed skating and curling. Ice hockey and figure skating would be held at McNichols Arena, speed skating at Denver U. and curling at the South Suburban Ice Arena.

The Air Force Academy 60 miles south of Denver, which had been a potential site for the Nordic events, will be recommended as a permanent USOC training site for cross-country skiing.

Ogden said the main criteria in selecting the sites was the possibility of using existing facilities, support from the sport associations, the potential for use after the competition, experience and spectator suitability.