A TEAM of eight British skiers, five men and three women, leave today

for a three-week, nine-race tour of northern Norway as part of their

early season build-up.

Three Scottish men are in the party -- 21-year-old Scott Ballantyne,

from Bearsden, British junior champion in 1989; Alain Baxter, the

17-year-old Aviemore youngster who claimed his place on the British

development squad as top junior in the British championships slalom and

runner-up in the giant-slalom at the British junior championships last

year; and Scottish team member Euan Aitken, also 17, from Glasgow.

All three girls in the squad for Norway are Scottish. Deirdre Angella

and Stephanie Grant, both established development squad skiers, from

Carbridge and Aviemore respectively, are joined by Aberdeen's Scottish

team member Shona Robertson.

This is a crucial year for the skiers, and responsibility for the

development squad -- a transition group which has existed for more than

five years, linking the national team and the British Alpine team -- has

changed significantly with the financial burden now pitched on the

shoulders of the athletes themselves and their respective training group

or national authority.

The early season tour is fortunate in being supported by

Aberdeen-based insurance and financial services brokers Hanson and

Robertson, who are helping with the funding for trainers Nigel Smith and

new coach Jorn Kasine, a former Norwegian women's Europa Cup team coach,

who will accompany the squad and provide much needed back-up.

''This is a great opportunity for these athletes to get their season

off to the best possible start,'' says Alpine director Sarah Lewis.

The tour, which offers the skiers an equal number of slaloms, giant

slaloms, and super-G races over the period, is seen by many as the

forerunner of stronger links with Norway, who host the 1994 Winter

Olympics, and whose skiers have become the dominant forces in the

international World Cup rankings.