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Sport is more than the score of the game; it wields, and growingly, an effect on the general modes and means of mankind. This reflection, never out of mind at SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, returns again this week as our cover presents a girl skier poised in blue and a smile for the start of the season.

Skiing is one of the favorite take-part sports of this magazine's readers; perhaps none is gaining converts at a faster rate. Close to 4 million Americans now know something first-hand about the intake of clean air, the quickening of the heart, that come with pushing off downhill—and a beginner can get nearly as much lift as an expert. Social observers list the "rush to the ski slopes" among the most active expressions of the new individual leisure in America.

In this week's issue SPORTS ILLUSTRATED demonstrates a further proposition: skiing by Americans (with the preparation, travel and consumption it entails) has become an economic force. A half-billion-dollar industry in America alone, it is causing a fascinating revival in drowsy old communities. To see what we mean, consider the report by Associate Editor Huston Horn, New Sugar in on Old State, beginning on page 30. To a commonwealth that is rock-proud but earth-poor, skiing has brought a fresh prosperity that is being felt, in Horn's words, "with all the power of a young avalanche."

Some of the facts and figures in the story came prerecorded, thanks to the Vermont Development department, which supplied data on skier spending. But the lively grist of what Horn has to say came from Vermonters themselves, as he and Reporter Nancy Pierce toured the state by car, looking in on bankers, lawyers, liquor salesmen, resort owners—and on ex-farmers turned to selling real estate or running gas stations—all the way up the Vermont snowbelt to Montpelier, where the exploration ended with an evening-long session with Governor Philip Hoff.

A Tennessean by birth and education (Vanderbilt '56), Horn has earlier inspected for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED the hunt set of Virginia (A Rampart of Pedigree, SI, Feb. 11) and the upperclass fight buffs of Kentucky (The Eleven Men Behind Cassius Clay, SI, March 11). Making his first trip through Vermont, Horn had rather expected to find the citizenry on the laconic and taciturn side. "On skiing and what it's doing up there," says Horn, "they are almost as garrulous as Tennesseans on religion, sour mash or politics." Horn finished his Vermont story in time last week to put on his boxing cap and take up (see page 26) the continued story of Cassius Clay.

The coming winter should be a record breaker in the number of Americans caught up in skiing, one way or another, and we will be covering the story with full attention.

Next week's issue will take readers on a guided tour to Innsbruck in the Austrian Tyrol for a preview of the sites and scenes of the Winter Olympic Games taking place there January 29-February 9. Our 18-page tour will include, among other things, an ample section on how to travel to Innsbruck and where to stay—both for readers heading that way soon and for those collecting ideas for the future.

When you get glimpses of Austrians themselves this winter, expect them to be looking content. Austrians love skiing, and they learned, even before Vermonters, how the rush to the ski slopes can be a vital force for change in landscapes that used to be winter-locked.