Skiing's "White Circus" has left North America and will set up its tents in Europe for most of the remainder of the winter, which should make everyone except the U.S. ski team feel a bit more comfortable.
Aside from Picabo Street's downhill victory last Sunday at Lake Louise, Canada, Americans failed to take advantage of their home-snow advantage and now must challenge the Europeans in the Alps, cowbells and all. As for the weekend in Canada, the musical accompaniment sounded more like "Send in the Clowns."
After failing to prepare slalom and giant slalom courses properly two weeks ago, forcing cancellation of two women's races, Lake Louise organizers tried to hold a downhill last Saturday, but it was called off less than halfway through the starting order because of a sudden snowstorm. Even though the sun broke through shortly afterward, the downhill was reset for Sunday, meaning a super-giant slalom scheduled for that day had to be scrubbed.
Jan Tischhauser, chief of competition for the International Ski Federation (FIS), blamed the fiasco on operators of the Alberta resort, telling the Associated Press: "We are not satisfied with the support we had from the ski area. What I would have liked is a commitment from the mountain that racing is priority No. 1.
"They decided to do otherwise."
Charlie Locke, Lake Louise's owner, countered: "We've done everything possible to make sure the races were held. We feel the condition of the course was far superior to what had existed at 99% of the races held in Europe."
Noting that his paying customers, the recreational skiers, were more important than an infrequent World Cup race, Locke added: "The problem with racers is they think they are the center of the world."
Actually, they are just that in Europe, and are also catered to when they're at Park City, Utah, home base of U.S. Skiing, and at Vail/Beaver Creek, Colo., which staged the 1989 World Alpine Ski Championships and will play host to that event again in 1999.
On the slopes, the biggest beneficiary of the Lake Louise debacle was Street, the defending World Cup downhill champion from Sun Valley, Ida., who had only the 13th-fastest time in Saturday's non-race, behind leader Warwara Zelenskaja of Russia. In last Sunday's restart, she cut loose, edging Katja Seizinger of Germany and Zelenskaja, who was third.
American Hilary Lindh, who stood second Saturday, finished 13th the next day--a not-so-unfamiliar hard-luck story for the skier from Juneau, Alaska.
Seizinger tops the women's overall standings with 180 points, 56 more than runner-up Street.