VAIL, Colo. (AP) _ Bill ''Sarge'' Brown, whose globetrotting efforts were instrumental in luring the 1989 World Alpine Ski Championships to Vail and Beaver Creek, came perilously close to missing the event entirely.

Just 13 days before the official start of the championships on Jan. 29, Brown was hospitalized in intensive care with internal injuries suffered in a collision with another skier.

But the 66-year-old Brown insists he'll be back on the slopes, directing the grooming of race courses for the championships. And those who know him have no doubt he'll do as he says.

There is too much at stake, he says, to rest his battered ribs and aching kidney right now.

''We have to prove to the world we can put on a better world championship than anybody ever has,'' said Brown, who as managing director of slopes and trails at Vail and Beaver Creek will be the chief of race for the championships.

Vail's bid to host the championships began six years ago when Aspen, a rival Colorado resort which had lobbied for the 1987 championships, suddenly withdrew. Vail picked up the baton and, with only five weeks of preparation, nearly won the 1987 award that went to Crans-Montana, Switzerland.

Aspen, the only previous American site for the world championships (1950), unexpectedly pulled out after Marvin Davis, who had purchased a managing interest in the resort, balked at the cost.

As soon as the votes were in for the 1987 championships, Vail began its campaign for 1989 in earnest.

Brown, former Vail Valley Foundation president John Horan-Kates and Vail restaurateur Pepi Gramshammer formed a team that traveled the world for the next two years.

Their major obstacle was overcoming international skepticism that Colorado, whose voters had rejected the 1976 Winter Olympics, would actually want the world championships.

The group began wooing International Ski Federation (FIS) delegates, with Brown taking the difficult task of winning over the Eastern bloc.

Brown and Gramshammer eventually spent eight days in the Soviet Union, meeting with Soviet sports officials.

Brown, a 24-year veteran of the Army, struck up a friendship with Valeri Gleikh, a Moscow Sports Department official and a former fighter pilot. By the end of the tour, Brown and Gleikh had exchanged home phone numbers. ''I guess we spoke the same language,'' Brown said.

Horan-Kates said the group's main achievement was in ''making friends. We wanted them to know we were genuinely interested in hosting the championships, and that we were determined to do it right.''

When the FIS met at Vancouver, British Columbia, in June 1985 to choose the 1989 world championship site, Vail won on the first ballot - and by the widest margin ever. The two years of friendly persuasion had paid off.

The next 3 1/2 years of detailed planning will come to an end on Jan. 29, when about 500 of the world's best skiers from more than 40 countries will begin the 15 days of competition.

The cost of staging the event is estimated at $10 million, but the anticipated economic benefit to Vail and the state is expected to exceed $60 million.

Moreover, the event - considered more prestigious by skiers than the Olympics - should help boost Colorado's image as a winter-sports capital and, officials believe, will put the state back in contention for a future Olympics bid.

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