Former U.S. Ski Team coach Ernst Hager has returned to direct the women's downhill program he guided to success in the early 1980s.

Hager, a native of Austria who now lives and coaches in Olympic Valley, Calif., will replace Markus Murmann, who announced his retirement last week, the team said Saturday."I'm very excited that Ernst accepted our offer," said head women's coach Paul Major. "He has outstanding credentials and is one of the most respected coaches anywhere. He knows our athletes like a father and can come in during the Olympic year and make a real difference."

Hager started coaching in Squaw Valley in 1971 and joined the U.S. Ski Team in 1976. He was named women's downhill coach a year later, continuing through 1984.

American women logged some impressive victories during Hager's tenure, including a second by Holly Flanders in the 1982 World Cup downhill standings, and a World Championship silver medal in combined for Cindy Nelson in 1980.

"I caught the bug again when I worked with the World Junior Team last month" in Norway, Hager said. "I'm very excited about the opportunity. Now our goal will be to try to get a medal in the Olympics."

Hager was the top choice of Major and new Alpine Program Director Dennis Agee to fill the position vacated by Murmann, who left to accept a position as base operator for Air Zermatt in his native Switzerland.