MOUNT ALLAN, ALBERTA, FEB. 14 -- Pirmin Zurbriggen, Rob Boyd and Peter Mueller will have to wait until Monday to battle one another -- and the mountain.

The men's downhill, one of the glamor events of the Winter Olympics, was postponed this afternoon when winds gusted up to 98 mph at the top of the precipitous Nakiska Ski Resort run. The race was rescheduled for 1:30 p.m. EST Monday.

"There were excessive wind speeds at the top," said Alfred Fischer, alpine chairman of the XVth Winter Olympics. "It was not safe and not fair to the athletes to race with the gusting wind. All the coaches felt it was not fair or safe to run at those wind speeds."

The postponement conjured up images of 1984, when the men's downhill was cancelled for three days before it was run in Sarajevo. American Bill Johnson won the gold medal then but is not here this time. The favorite to win the downhill is Zurbriggen, a quiet Swiss innkeeper's son who generally is regarded as No. 1 in the world.

If the race cannot be run Monday, the downhill portion of the men's combined will be run from a different, lower starting area, and the men's downhill will be rescheduled for Tuesday. The slalom portion of the men's combined will be held Wednesday.

The wind, which bent ski gates almost to the ground, is an important consideration for competitive fairness as well as safety in the downhill. A swirling wind stirs up the snow and decreases visibility, often creating a white-out that makes it impossible for a skier to see. Conditions can change in minutes, which means one skier might face entirely different conditions than the skier who went moments before. And the changes could have a significant effect on a skier's time.

"It was real gusty, then calm for a second, then there would be a big swirl and a white-out," U.S. skier Jeff Olson said. "With the conditions, the skiers could have run into a white-out and gone off the course. What's funny is that this is the best day we've had down here {at the bottom of the mountain}. What can you do? It's Mother Nature."