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World Alpine Ski Championships : Heavy Snowstorm Forces Delay of Men's Downhill

February 05, 1989|BOB LOCHNER | Times Assistant Sports Editor

VAIL, Colo. — A relentless, heavy snowfall Saturday forced postponement of the men's downhill in the World Alpine Ski Championships, and although organizers and local merchants lamented lost revenue, the postponement had to be worth more than money to Pirmin Zurbriggen.

The 1988 Olympic downhill champion from Switzerland will now have two more days to mend from back and chest injuries suffered in a training fall Wednesday.

The men's downhill, which is considered the premier event of the championships, is now set for Monday at Beaver Creek.

About 15 inches of snow fell during the 24 hours up to Saturday morning, when officials decided that the accumulated powder, wind and poor visibility would not permit the long, high-speed race to be held.

Although the snow continued to come down throughout Saturday, the women's downhill is still scheduled for today on Vail Mountain. Switzerland's Michela Figini and Maria Walliser will try to hold off the challenges of France's Carole Merle and West Germany's Regine Moesenlechner and Michaela Gerg.

The women's slalom, originally scheduled for Monday, was moved back to Tuesday. That means that both super-G races will be packed into Wednesday--the women in the morning and the men in the afternoon.

The remaining schedule remains unchanged for now.

Vail was relatively busy Saturday with recreational skiers. Ticket-holders who can't wait for the rescheduled men's downhill will receive refunds.

However, Bob Knous, president of the organizing committee, tried to put on a happy face, saying: "It's interesting to note that none of the downhills held in World Championships have gone off as scheduled since 1970. The good news is that there is plenty of snow in Vail and Beaver Creek, while other parts of the world are having a low snow year."

Zurbriggen's teammate, Peter Mueller, winner of the men's downhill in the 1987 World Championships at Crans-Montana, Switzerland, and Olympic silver medalist in 1988 and 1984, had drawn the No. 1 starting position for Saturday--not a good one when there's fresh snow to be skied off the track.

But Mueller also lucked out: There will be a new draw for the rescheduled race Monday.

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