Men's Downhill at Snowbasin: Strobl Wins Gold

An avalanche in Wolverine Bowl set off by a ski patrol bomb. Photo courtesy of Jim Plehn.On March 31, 1982, a massive avalanche tumbled down California’s Alpine Meadows, killing seven people in the most devastating slide ever to hit a ski resort. Why nobody has written a book about this until now is a mystery to us. But when California-based writer Jennifer Woodlief—a former lawyer, Sports Illustrated reporter, and author of a biography of skier Bill Johnson—stumbled across the now 28-year-old story, the book deal was inevitable. A Wall of White: The True Story of Heroism and Survival in the Face of a Deadly Avalanche, comes out in paperback this February.The story, much like the avalanche it documents, starts out slow, adding layers and building momentum. And then, suddenly, it comes crashing down. What Twilight novels are to teenage girls, A Wall of White is to skiers: an engaging tale with a heroic, made-for-Hollywood ending. (Woodlief is currently in negotiations to sell the story to a film studio.) It wasn’t all tragedy: A woman named Anna Conrad was rescued after spending five days buried in a building collapsed by the avalanche. To report the story, Woodlief conducted extensive interviews with the victims’ families, the rescuers, and the lone survivor. “The hardest part of it all,” Woodlief says, “was the initial reluctance of people to talk to me this long after the incident. I had to persuade them that I wasn’t going to exploit them or sensationalize what happened to them.” Sure, the cover and title are a bit dramatic, but the story inside is a painstakingly researched tale that’s been waiting to be told for nearly 30 years. [$25;]Click to the next slide for an interview with Woodlief and Conrad...

Snowbasin, Utah Feb. 10, 2002 (AP by Rob Gloster)--Fritz Strobl, long overshadowed by more illustrious Austrians, took advantage of a big mistake by teammate Stephan Eberharter to win the Olympic men's downhill Sunday.

Strobl, a 29-year-old police officer who had never won a medal in a major international competition, was the sixth Austrian to win the downhill in the 15 races since Alpine skiing made its Olympic debut in 1948.

The lanky Strobl covered the 1.9 miles down the dizzyingly steep Grizzly course in 1 minute, 39.13 seconds. After seeing the giant scoreboard at the finish area, he thrust both arms high in the air.

Lasse Kjus of Norway won his fourth Olympic medal, finishing second in 1:39.35. Eberharter, the pre-race favorite who has clinched this year's World Cup downhill title, was third in 1:39.41.

Even without the injured Hermann Maier, Austria dominated the event as usual--with three skiers among the top six finishers. Since the inception of Olympic Alpine skiing, Austrians have won 16 of the 46 men's downhill medals.

The top American was 21-year-old Marco Sullivan of Tahoe City, Calif., who came from the 31st starting position to finish ninth. No other U.S. skier cracked the top 15.

Racers were cheered at the bottom of the course by flag-waving, cowbell-ringing fans, many of whom arrived after the start of the race because of massive traffic backups leading to the ski area.

Eberharter, skiing ninth, got a fast start, but had trouble controlling his skis halfway down the course. His time was the best up to that point, but his lead did not last long.

The next skier was Strobl, who had a nearly flawless run. His skis bit into the snow, made icier and faster by injections of water. When Strobl's time was posted, Eberharter hardly blinked.

Three skiers later, Kjus sped past Eberharter into second place. Kjus was the silver medalist in the downhill at the 1998 Nagano Olympics.

Men's Downhill

February 10, 2002, Snowbasin, Utah

1. Fritz Strobl, Austria (1:39.13)
2. Lasse Kjus, Norway (1:39.35)
3. Stefan Eberharter, Austria (1:39.41)
4. Kjetil-André Aamodt, Norway (1:39.78)
5. Claude Cretier, France (1:39.96)
9. Marco Sullivan, Tahoe City, Calif. (1:40.37)
16. Daron Rahlves, Sugar Bowl, Calif. (1:40.84)
27. Jake Fiala, Frisco, Colo. (1:41.84)
29. Scott Macartney, Remond, Wash. (1:41.86)