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World Cup downhill cancelled due to blizzard

LAGHI CIME BIANCHE, Italy (AP) – The inaugural World Cup downhill at the storied Matterhorn mountain will have to wait at least one more day after a race Saturday was cancelled because of heavy snowfall and strong winds.

Race organisers called off plans for the men’s downhill soon after 6am local time at the new Gran Becca course that starts in Switzerland and finishes in Italy.

Another men’s downhill is scheduled Sunday on the high-altitude course that has yet to see a race because of weather issues, although a practice run was completed Wednesday under clear blue skies.

Back-to-back race weekends for men and women last year were cancelled because of warm temperatures. This year’s races were scheduled two weeks later into November to seek more winter-like weather.

Natural snow has fallen in abundance since organisers last month provoked criticism from environmental activists and an investigation by local public authorities for excavating snow at a nearby glacier to help prepare the course.

The 3.8-kilometre Gran Becca was designed by Swiss former racer Didier Defago, the Olympic downhill champion at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.

It starts near Zermatt at an altitude of about 3,700 metres and crosses the border to finish in Italy at Laghi Cime Bianche at 2,835 metres.

The International Ski and Snowboard Federation hopes the races can boost Alpine ski racing and tourism earlier in the winter and extend the season.

A volunteer removes a gate on the ski slope after an alpine ski, men’s World Cup downhill training was cancelled due to heavy snowfall on the new ski course “Gran Becca”, between Zermatt in Switzerland and Cervinia in Italy on Thursday. PHOTO: AP