It's a good thing for the U.S. Ski Team that the Winter Olympics are still more than two months away.
The women's squad, which has the talent to win a medal or two at Albertville, France, in February, got off to a slow start last weekend at Lech, Austria, and in the process lost one of its leaders, Kristi Terzian, who suffered minor cartilage damage in her left knee. She underwent arthroscopic surgery Wednesday and will be off skis for four to six weeks, according to Dr. Richard Steadman, who performed the operation at his clinic in Vail, Colo.
Terzian, 24, formerly of Sanger, Calif., tore up her right knee in the summer of 1990 and missed last season. The previous winter, she set an American record by scoring points in 17 World Cup races.
"There's no question this will again impede her training," Tom Kelly, U.S. Skiing communications director, said from Park City, Utah. "She'll begin rehabilitation immediately at home in Park City and should be back before the Games. But the big question now is whether she'll be able to regain enough of her form to make the Olympic team."
Terzian's specialties are the slalom and giant slalom, which are set for Feb. 19-20 at Meribel. Each nation is permitted to enter only four skiers in a race, and at the moment, Julie Parisien, 20, of Auburn, Me.; Diann Roffe, 24, of Potsdam, N.Y.; Eva Twardokens, 26, of Santa Cruz, and Heidi Voelker, 22, of Pittsfield, Mass., seem to have the edge.
In the two World Cup slaloms at Lech, which got the races because of a snow shortage at the original site in Italy, the only U.S. placings in the top 30 were Parisien's fifth and Twardokens' 19th on Saturday, and Voelker's 12th on Sunday.
Said Kelly: "Roffe just didn't ski well either day, but her best event is the giant slalom."
Roffe will get a chance to prove it this weekend at Santa Caterina, Italy, where a World Cup giant slalom and super-G are scheduled. The latter race will also provide a test for Edith Thys, 25, of Squaw Valley, who finished second in a World Cup super-G last season at Furano, Japan.
Four Southland ski areas--Bear Mountain, Snow Summit, Snow Valley and Mountain High--are operating daily with 10 to 30 inches of mainly machine-made snow.
Mammoth Mountain reported 12 to 52 inches on its slopes Wednesday and is in perhaps the best shape of any resort in the Sierra, where (from south to north) Mt. Reba-Bear Valley, Kirkwood, Sierra Ski Ranch, Heavenly, Mt. Rose, Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley, Northstar, Tahoe Donner, Donner Ski Ranch, Soda Springs, Sugar Bowl and Boreal are also open.
Elsewhere, Jackson Hole, Wyo., and Deer Valley, Utah, both plan to begin their seasons Saturday, meaning the Rocky Mountains will then be in full swing.
Switzerland's Vreni Schneider, the 1989 overall champion, tops the World Cup women's standings with 180 points after winning Saturday and finishing second to Spain's Blanca Fernandez-Ochoa on Sunday. The latter is second with 160, followed by two-time defending champion Petra Kronberger of Austria, who has 140. . . . The first women's downhill will be held on the weekend of Dec. 14-15 at Veysonnaz, Switzerland, which got the races originally planned for snow-short Arosa.
The men on the World Cup circuit will be competing this weekend in a giant slalom and downhill at Val d'Isere, France, then go to Sestriere, Italy, for a slalom next Tuesday. . . . The downhill, which will be held on the old course at Val d'Isere rather than on the new one designed for the Olympics, should provide an indication of whether A.J. Kitt, 23, of Rochester, N.Y., will be a medal threat at the Games. . . . Alberto Tomba of Italy and Paul Accola of Switzerland share first place in the World Cup men's standings with 360 points apiece. Ole Christian Furuseth of Norway is third with 142.
Three California skiers--Hank Fleck of Los Angeles, Mary Gorman of Yosemite and Ben Yamamoto of Sanger--will compete in the 1991 Miller Lite NASTAR Finals for recreational racers next Wednesday through Dec. 15 at Snowbird, Utah. . . . The U.S. Pro Tour starts this weekend at Alpine Meadows. . . . The U.S. Disabled Ski Team will hold its first race of the season next Thursday during National Handicapped Sports' ski week at Breckenridge, Colo.