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SENATORS AND CELEBRITIES SWOOSH DOWN THE SLOPES

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Friday's opening of the annual Senators Ski Cup looked like a scene from some Utah travelogue: intense blue skies, balmy temperatures, crisp ski slopes, relaxed and beaming senators, even astronauts on skis.

Held at the Resort Center, the yearly fund-raiser drew nine senators plus a host of Utah celebrities.Former Utah Sen. Jake Garn said the 1994 races could raise $250,000 for Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City.

Counting the previous seven years, this would bring the total to $1,650,000. Garn said the money helps fund the care of children whose families are otherwise unable to pay.

On Friday afternoon, after lunching outdoors in a tent, the skiers rode the lift to the Clementine Run.

Two at a time they swooshed downhill, weaving around the slalom gates, crowds watching as the seconds and hundredths of seconds registered on electronic boards. Announcers' voices and rock music blared from huge amplifiers.

The purpose of the time trials was to balance the five-person teams that are scheduled to compete for the trophy cup today.

During his first trial run, Garn, the event's host, made a spectacular wipe-out, hitting the snow in a shower of white foam. But he quickly completed the run, shrugging off the fall.

"When I announced I was leaving the Senate a couple of years ago, the first reaction (from fellow senators) wasn't, `Jake, we're sorry you're leaving' - it was, `Will you keep the ski cup going?' "

The answer to that, Garn said, "Well, as long as they'll come, we'll hold them."

Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, R-N.Y., said he has been he has been attending the races for three or four years. "Yeah, I do it for comic relief."

Jeffrey A. Hoffman, a veteran astronaut who flew in the recent mission to repair the Hubble space telescope, was one of the stars of the slopes. Hoffman has been in space four times since April 1985 when he blasted into orbit on the same shuttle mission as Garn.

The only member of the House of Representatives present was Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah, whose district includes Park City. He wore a glittery green cap with the words Park City on the crown.

"Last year I won this. I beat all the senators. And they wouldn't let me have the ski cup because I wasn't a senator," he said.