Pekabo Street will be back on the mountain soon

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The Independent Online

The sun-filled window offers Picabo Street a tantalizing vista: a steep hillside where barren ski runs break up clusters of leafless trees.

The sun-filled window offers Picabo Street a tantalizing vista: a steep hillside where barren ski runs break up clusters of leafless trees.

The sight from the Park City Mountain Resort makes Street restless and giddy, like a 3-year-old eyeing a bucket of candy.

"It's going to snow soon!" she says, smiling broadly with flushed cheeks. "You know, from the time the leaves fall until it snows, I'm the devil."

That's hard to believe, considering things have been heavenly lately for America's spunky downhill skier.

Street is ready to get back on skis for the first time since she broke her leg and blew out her knee in the 1998 Nagano Olympics.

"Eeeeeeeee!" she shrieks, excited about the prospect of skiing again. "I can't even believe it!"

No doubt, the 28-year-old star is past those depressing months that followed her accident. These days, life is great.

Last summer she bought a chalet that overlooks Park City.

"It's a 7 1/2-acre (3-hectare) piece that gives me some elbow room," Street said. "I can see everyone coming from up on a hill. I have a view, like I always promised myself I would."

She has a new job as director of skiing at Park City Mountain Resort, which renamed an expert's trail, Clementine, to Picabo's Run to honor its famous employee.

Although she can't compete yet, Street will serve as hostess when the men's and women's World Cup slalom and giant slalom races are held in Park City from 18-21 November.

And undeterred by the crash at Crans Montana and her 20-month rehabilitation, she has got big dreams of racing the downhill in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah.

"I'd like to carry the flag during the Olympics,that would be gravy."

Then there is Plan B.

If the high-speed downhill or super-G prove too difficult, even for America's most decorated woman downhiller, Street said she is considering giant slalom, which places greater emphasis on technical precision.

"Obviously, my long boards get first choice," she said. "If they don't work, then I'll revert to shorter skis. But I'm going to try to get on the downhill skis, if I can, because I like them."

Street broke her left femur and ripped ligaments in her right knee, tumbling down the Swiss mountain on 13 March 1998. Last March, surgeons removed a metal plate that had been attached to mend the bone.

Street said exercises needed to regain her strength were demanding. So was trying to forget about the accident.

"I don't dream about it anymore," Street said. "I don't really have flashbacks at all anymore, either. I haven't seen the video in a long time, which helps. I'm moving forward."

She's tough, but Street admits she's got limits.

"That's something that people misinterpret about me," she said. "I'm not inhuman. I'm not fearless. I just recognize the fear, categorize it and replace it with the task at hand."

This fall, that means getting on skis again.

"I'm 85 percent, maybe 90 percent, and getting myself ready every day," she said. "I just need a little more time. I'm about a month away right now."