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Heavy snow forces cancellation of men’s downhill at Wengen

Volunteers clear snow off the men’s downhill course of the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup at the Lauberhorn, in Wengen, Switzerland, on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. The World Cup men’s downhill on the classic Lauberhorn course Saturday has been canceled due to heavy snowfall and fog. Organizers say racing is not possible despite earlier deciding to start lower down the hill. (Jean-Christophe Bott / Keystone via AP)
Volunteers clear snow off the men’s downhill course of the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup at the Lauberhorn, in Wengen, Switzerland, on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. The World Cup men’s downhill on the classic Lauberhorn course Saturday has been canceled due to heavy snowfall and fog. Organizers say racing is not possible despite earlier deciding to start lower down the hill. (Jean-Christophe Bott / Keystone via AP)
By Graham Dunbar Associated Press

WENGEN, Switzerland – The World Cup men’s circuit lost one of its defining races Saturday when heavy snowfall forced the classic Lauberhorn downhill to be canceled.

Organizers said racing in Switzerland’s signature ski event was not possible – for the first time since 2004 – despite earlier deciding to start lower down the hill.

Snowfall of up to 45 centimeters (17 inches) overnight continued this morning, and wind gusts around 60 kph (37 mph) complicated work to clear the course.

“Due to the present weather situation and after reviewing the forecast the jury together with the OC (organizing committee) has decided to cancel today’s (downhill),” organizers said in a statement.

Organizers previously said they would not try to race the downhill on Sunday when a slalom is scheduled.

A make-up race is possible on Jan. 27 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, or in March on the Birds of Prey course at Beaver Creek, Colorado.

The Wengen race, in its 87th year, traditionally opens back-to-back downhill classics with the Hahnenkamm race next Saturday at Kitzbuehel, Austria.

It is the fourth men’s downhill canceled this season including both in North America – Beaver Creek and Lake Louise, Canada – due to lack of snow. They found new dates at Val d’Isere, France, and Kvitfjell, Norway, respectively.

The scheduled race lost last month at Santa Caterina, Italy, has not yet been replaced.

World Cup men’s race director Markus Waldner suggested on Friday that Beaver Creek could stage a downhill in the vacant March 10-12 slot, immediately before the men’s and women’s circuits are due in nearby Aspen for the season-ending finals week races.

By Saturday, Garmisch was a preferred option with a decision expected Monday after talks involving local organizers and German TV officials. Garmisch could add a Friday downhill to a scheduled program of downhill on Saturday and giant slalom on Sunday.

Beaver Creek could also be asked to step in if further cancellations in Europe require two races to be rescheduled, Waldner said Saturday.

Only two races in the marquee discipline have been possible this season. Last month, Kjetil Jansrud of Norway won at Val d’Isere, and Austrian Max Franz won at Val Gardena, Italy.

The Lauberhorn race exactly 50 years ago Saturday was the first downhill in the debut World Cup season, won by French ski icon Jean-Claude Killy. Winners since at Wengen, where scenes for the Robert Redford movie “Downhill Racer” were filmed in 1969, include Alpine greats Franz Klammer of Austria, three times, and American Bode Miller twice.

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