American ski racers returned to Europe Wednesday, less than a week after they flew home to avoid any potential terrorism and two days after the start of the World Alpine Ski Championships.
Apparently satisfied with the additional security precautions being taken by the International Ski Federation, U.S. Skiing officials sent 12 of the originally named 21 team members to Saalbach-Hinterglemm, Austria, and will leave it to men's Coach Ueli Luthi and women's Coach Paul Major to decide which of the remaining eight events to enter.
"Life goes on when there's a war," Major told the Associated Press, while refusing to reveal details about the athletes or their travel and lodging plans. "And hopefully our athletes can do well for the troops in the Gulf."
Tom Kelly, spokesman for the U.S. Ski Team in Park City, Utah, also avoided naming which skiers made the trip, saying only: "There will be Americans wearing starting bibs in several of the remaining races.
"Obviously, the four men's slalom specialists did not go to Austria, because their race has already been held. The men's super-G is also history. And it's unlikely our women downhillers will be able to get in the required training runs."
The men's slalom was won Tuesday by Austrian-born Marc Girardelli, representing Luxembourg, as 1988 double Olympic gold medalist Alberto Tomba of Italy finished fourth.
Wednesday, the host Austrians picked up their first gold medal when Stefan Eberharter, 21, won the super-G in 1:26.73, beating runner-up Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway by 1.54 seconds. Girardelli, the World Cup overall leader this season with 176 points, was 16th.
Veteran U.S. racer Felix McGrath was scheduled to compete only in the slalom, so he stayed home, Kelly implied. And promising downhiller Tommy Moe has an injured ankle that figured to keep him sidelined.
In reality, the best American chances for a medal are with A.J. Kitt in the men's downhill Sunday, with Eva Twardokens in the women's giant slalom on Feb. 2 and with Jeremy Nobis in the men's giant slalom on Feb. 3, closing day. Nobis, promoted recently from the B team, finished seventh in a World Cup giant slalom on Jan. 15 at Adelboden, Switzerland, the highest American men's GS placing in two years.
Adelboden was the final men's warm-up for the World Championships, since the classic Lauberhorn races, scheduled for last weekend at Wengen, Switzerland, were canceled after Gernot Reinstadler, 20, of Austria was killed in a downhill training accident.
There is no race in the World Championships today. The women will make their third downhill qualifying run, the men their first. Competition resumes Friday with the women's combined downhill, followed by their regular downhill Saturday.
Petra Kronberger of Austria is favored to dominate the women's events. Kronberger has virtually clinched her second consecutive World Cup overall title by piling up 276 points, 184 more than runner-up Carol Merle of France.
ESPN will show taped highlights of the first two men's races today at 4:30 p.m., PST. Weekend action will be included in "Wide World of Sports" on Channel 7 Saturday at 4 p.m. and in a 90-minute special on Channel 7 Sunday at 9 a.m.
Snow Summit will play host to the U.S. Pro Tour this weekend, and everyone is still chasing Bernhard Knauss, who has led the pack since the first race of the season.
The Austrian defeated Phil Mahre of Yakima, Wash., in the slalom final last Sunday at Mt. Bachelor, near Bend, Ore., and has 320 points, with earnings of $64,500. Ove Nygren of Norway, who won Saturday's giant slalom, is second with 207 points, four ahead of Mahre.
Slalom qualifying is scheduled for Friday at the Big Bear Lake resort, with the giant slalom set for Saturday and the slalom for Sunday. Race time is 11 a.m. each day.
While man-made snow is enabling Snow Summit, Bear Mountain, Snow Valley and Mountain High to continue operating daily in the Southland, a dwindling snowpack has caused conditions to deteriorate further in the High Sierra.
Mammoth Mountain reported only six to 16 inches on its slopes Wednesday, June Mountain 24 inches.
Farther north at Lake Tahoe, Heavenly Valley, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows are also using their snow-making equipment to help fill in bare spots, and claim bases of 12 to 40 inches.
While snow has been plentiful throughout most of the Rocky Mountains, Sun Valley seems to be in sort of a Banana Belt this winter, with an 11- to 20-inch base and only the Warm Springs side of Baldy open. However, the drought hasn't affected the lodge at the Idaho resort, which went ahead and played host to its annual Duchin Cup Celebrity Ski Invitational, co-sponsored this year by Ski magazine and Johnnie Walker, Tuesday through today.
As an alternative to Tahoe, Brian Head, Utah, has 43 inches of powder and packed powder, and is within about the same driving range. . . . Jon Lawson of Irvine may have set some kind of record at Bear Mountain on Jan. 10 when he skied nonstop off the new Big Bear Express high-speed detachable quad chairlift for 40 runs totaling 50 miles, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Good 'N Fruity Snowboard Jam Series, which visited Snow Summit last weekend, will be at Snow Valley this Saturday and Sunday, offering lessons and demonstrations to the public. . . . There's a similar affair at Mammoth Mountain Sunday, courtesy of Gotcha Sportswear.