And then came Phil, starting 15th. In the first run he had started in the 20th spot, and the course had begun to break up under the pounding, showing sharp gouges and ruts left by previous skiers. This time it was not as choppy. Staying low, snapping his shoulder against pole after pole as he charged through the turns, Phil clocked a faster interval time than Stenmark.
Now the crowd hooted and whistled. Rising sound followed Phil as he flashed down the hill. When he crossed the finish, there was an expectant lull in the cheering. He'd come down in 52.56. When the announcer declared him the winner in 1:47.15, the mountainside fairly shook with sound—American sound.
The next day it looked for a time as if twin lightning might strike again. After the first run of the giant slalom Steve was in 11th place, Phil in second—but a bit more than a full second behind Stenmark. Alas, another miracle was not to be. Past the midway point on his second run, Phil skidded, fell momentarily onto one hip, then righted himself. But he had lost too much time. Stenmark took first place with a 2:32.36, followed by another brother act, Christian and Heini Hemmi. When the event was over Phil had finished eighth, and his brother was 14th.
In the women's competition, Lise-Marie Morerod, the striking Swiss slalomist, all but locked up the overall World Cup with a narrow giant slalom victory over Canada's Kathy Kreiner and—a delightful surprise—Abbi Fisher, 19, of South Conway, N.H., who finished third. In the other women's race the petite French 16-year-old, Perrine Pelen, won her third slalom of the year.
As the World Cup troupe left Sun Valley, there were still three weeks of racing ahead. There would likely be more rain, more acrimony, more scheduling chaos. And for Sun Valley this winter would forever be remembered as one of nature's crudest blows. But anyone who witnessed the performances of the Mahre twins—and basked in the radiance of their smiles—could not help but believe that hope springs eternal, that life can be beautiful and that, sometimes, very good things come in twos.