While his native Scottish Highland ski areas basked in classic alpine weather overhead yesterday, Alain Baxter forced his way through the thick Swiss fog on Wengen's Lauberhorn to finish seventh in the World Cup Slalom.

Despite the reduced visibility and very tough, long, and un-dulating courses, the Cairngorm skier maintained his remarkable improvement, going one better than his eighth place in Madonna, Italy, before Christmas, and setting another new mark for Britain's best World Cup Slalom finish.

He started the race lying an unprecedented twelfth on this year's World Cup Slalom order, and can now expect an improved start number in the top 30 for next weekend's second ''classic'', on the Hahnenkamm in Kitzbuhel.

Racing from No.38 on the first run, he recovered after straddling his own ski stick early on the course to set the eighth quickest time.

For a season which has seen the Aviemore skier always learning new experiences at each of the three preceding World Cup Slaloms, this was the first time he had cracked the top 10 on a first run, and subsequently the first time he had to attack the second course racing from among the last 10 racers on the second course.

He kept his composure after being held in the start gate for a matter of minutes and skied a tight and aggressive line in the poor visibility to finish an aggregate 2.63sec. behind the winner, Austria's Benjamin Raich.

Raich, who won on the same course in 1999, lead the first clean sweep of all top five slalom places by a single nation as his compatriot Rainer Schoenfelder took second 1.29 adrift.

''Alain has no-one to fear at the moment. He is skiing as well as anyone in the world as he proved toda,'' said Baxter's coach Christian Schwaiger. ''Conditions were very tough and he skied well and made no real mistakes. We are testing new skis this week and if we can find a pair that are rocket fast then it could be even better in Kitzbuhel.'' Leading results:

Men's Slalom - 1, B Raich (Austria) 54.29 seconds, 50.13, 1min. 44.42sec; 2, R Schoenfelder (Austria) 54.68, 51.03, 1-45.71; 3, M Matt (Austria) 55.18, 50.89, 1-46.07; 4, F Seer (Austria) 56.34, 50.39, 1-46.92; 5, K Albrecht (Austria) 56.11, 50.75, 1-47.86; 6, M Kunc (Slovakia) 55.12, 51.80, 1-46.92; 7, A Baxter (Britain) 55.88, 51.17, 1-47.05; 8, A Bachleda (Poland) 56.17, 50.89, 1-47.06.