Dangerous snow surface forces World Cup ski race to stop

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — A men’s World Cup slalom race was stopped Thursday after 19 skiers started on a course that was muddy rather than white with snow and ruled too dangerous to continue.

The French team said Victor Muffat-Jeandet — an Olympic bronze medalist in the combined event four years ago — broke his right ankle when he skied out. There was no assessment if he will miss the Beijing Olympics that open in four weeks.

Race organizers were criticized by skiers including overall World Cup champion Alexis Pinturault for allowing the race to start on a soft surface that quickly degraded.

“Today was just too much @fisalpine,” Pinturault, a long-time teammate of Muffat-Jeandet, wrote on Twitter toward the International Ski Federation. “i’m just irritated and have a heavy heart for my friend.”

In warm temperatures, the Crveni Spust course was hosting its second race in three days. Some skiers trailed more than three seconds behind leader Sebastian Foss-Solevaag on the fast-softening snow.

In a strong gesture crossing the finish line, Swiss racer Luca Aerni repeatedly tapped one finger to his helmet seeming to suggest it was unwise to race.

“These are no World Cup conditions,” two-time World Cup slalom champion Henrik Kristoffersen said after his run. “It is dangerous in some parts. Marco (Schwarz) and Loïc (Meillard) said the grass is coming through. For the spectators, I think, it looks weird.”

Skiing’s governing body said the race was stopped because of “the unfavorable conditions and in the best interest of safety and fairness.”

Organizers allowed the race to start even though they consulted with skiers on Wednesday when the previously scheduled race was postponed by a day.

“It’s weird they have to ask the athletes,” said Kristoffersen, adding that only half of the top-ranked slalom racers wanted to start. “FIS needs to have enough knowledge to know how things are for a ski racer, for a coach, when you decide whether it is good enough to race or not.”

Veteran downhill racer Johan Clarey of France posted on Twitter: “Hey @fisalpine, are you still the boss in your own worldcup tour?”

The same course hosted a women’s slalom on Tuesday, won by Slovakian standout Petra Vlhova, though creating a fair racing surface then might have been at the cost of having a subsequent race.

“If the women hadn’t raced two days ago, then maybe we would’ve had a chance,” Kristoffersen said. “But they worked with salt too much. The snow is completely dead, it’s unstable, it’s weak.”

Men’s slalom racers will get another chance on Sunday in Adelboden, Switzerland. The classic giant slalom at the resort is set for Saturday.

On the women’s circuit, one of the most vibrant — and richest — races of the season scheduled for next week was moved from Flachau to Schladming in Austria because of rising numbers of COVID-19 cases near Salzburg.

The annual night slalom under floodlights pays more than 62,000 Swiss francs ($67,000) to the winner compared to 45,000 Swiss francs ($49,000) for all other women’s World Cups. The race, now in Schladming, is scheduled for Tuesday.

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More AP skiing: https://apnews.com/hub/skiing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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