The U.S. ski team's Alpine season of 1987-88 may be over before it's really had a chance to get out of the starting gate.
Judging from early results in World Cup races, this Olympic winter will be a long and gray one for American ski racing enthusiasts, perhaps the worst in more than a decade. Injuries have been a factor, of course, but they have only made a grim outlook turn absolutely dismal.
It's unlikely there will be any miracles at Calgary, at least on snow.
In three men's races so far, the top U.S. placing was Felix McGrath's 29th in a giant slalom at Sestriere, Italy.
The first downhill, Monday at Val d'Isere, France, was a disaster, with the top three Americans finishing in this order: Jeff Olson 31st, Doug Lewis 43rd, Olympic champion Bill Johnson 73rd.
In five women's races, there were just three American point-scorers--Edith Thys 7th in a super-G at Sestriere, Heidi Voelker 15th in a slalom at Courmayeur, Italy, and Pam Fletcher 12th in the second downhill at Val d'Isere, after her 25th the previous day.
The men's situation appears to be as bad as everyone had expected it would be.
For the women, there is at least a glimmer of hope. Debbie Armstrong, 24, gold medalist in the 1984 Olympic giant slalom, is slowly coming back from a knee injury, and Tamara McKinney, 25, a former World Cup champion, hopes to return to the circuit in January fully recovered from a hairline fracture of her left leg.
Both may be able to peak by the opening of the Games in Canada Feb. 13.
Out for the season, however, is promising Eva Twardokens, 22, who had surgery for ligament and cartilage damage in her right knee Monday at South Lake Tahoe.
Twardokens was almost inconsolable after her injury at Sestriere.
"I'm at my peak." she was quoted as saying. "I was ready. I've always wanted to be an Olympian, and Calgary was the perfect place. I worked seven years to get there. . . . And now this had to happen."
Meanwhile, the World Cup goes on. The women will be at Leukerbad, Switzerland, Friday through Sunday, for a downhill, slalom, super-G and combined. The men will be a short distance south in Italy for a downhill Saturday at Val Gardena, a giant slalom Sunday at Alta Badia and a slalom Wednesday at Madonna di Campiglio.
Four ski areas in the Southland--Goldmine, Snow Summit, Snow Valley and Mountain High--continue to operate daily, while in the Sierra, the snowball is starting to gain momentum as additional openings occur.
Wednesday, 10 days before the start of the Christmas-New Year's holidays, 11 Central and Northern California resorts were operating on a limited basis: Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain, Mt. Reba-Bear Valley, Kirkwood, Sierra Ski Ranch, Heavenly Valley, Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley, Northstar, Sugar Bowl and Boreal.
The men's downhill held last Monday at Val d'Isere, France, was taped by GGP Sports for viewing on Channel 7 Saturday at 3 p.m., PST. . . . Olympic gold medalist Debbie Armstrong and ski film maker Warren Miller will be among the guests on "Subaru Ski World With Bob Beattie," on ESPN Sunday at 10:30 a.m., PST. . . . The World Cup women's downhill Friday at Leukerbad, Switzerland, will be shown on ESPN Sunday at 11 a.m., PST.
Vail, Colo., will celebrate its 25th anniversary with a week of festivities, starting Sunday. Among the scheduled events are a torchlight display, a 10th Mountain Division reunion, a Friday afternoon race matching former Olympians and other notables in dual competition, a Christmas tree lighting by former President Gerald Ford and a Saturday night street party. . . . Vail and nearby Beaver Creek have set the dates for the 1989 World Alpine Ski Championships: Jan. 29 through Feb. 12.
Continental Express will begin daily, non-stop service from Denver to Telluride, Colo., Friday, with three flights on weekdays and six on weekends. . . . United Express, formerly Aspen Airways, will fly non-stop to Aspen, Colo., from LAX on Thursdays and Sundays, and from Long Beach on Mondays and Fridays, from Dec. 17 through March 28.
Matti Nykanen of Finland won both the 70- and 90-meter events last weekend in the first World Cup jumping meet of the season at Thunder Bay, Canada. The other jumpers will compete this weekend at Lake Placid, N.Y., but Nykanen will return home and rejoin the tour Dec. 19 at Sapporo, Japan. . . . Josh Thompson of Gunnison, Colo., is in first place overall after three races of the U.S. Olympic biathlon trials at West Yellowstone, Mont. Thompson won Saturday's 20-kilometer event and finished second to Lyle Nelson of Essex Junction, N.Y., in the second 20-kilometer test Wednesday. Willie Carow of Putney, Vt., took Sunday's 10-kilometer chase. The trials will end today.