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After skipping North American venues last year due to the pandemic, the World Cup Circuit once again returned to Lake Louise, Alb. and Beaver Creek, Colo. this weekend. The women’s tour held the first speed races of the season at Lake Louise, hosting two downhill events on Dec. 3-4 followed by a super-G on Sunday, Dec. 5. The men’s tour, meanwhile, planned an ambitious schedule of two super-G events followed by two downhill races from Thursday, Dec. 2 through Sunday, Dec. 5.
With Old Man Winter dragging his feet throughout most of North America, weather and snow conditions weren’t looking ideal to pull off this big weekend of racing. Race organizers battled lack of natural snow and 50-degree temperatures in Beaver Creek, Colo. in preparing the famed Birds of Prey track for the men’s speed races, while officials in Lake Louise almost had too much fresh snow to clear from the women’s speed track in Lake Louise.
Nevertheless, all but one event—the final men’s downhill in Beaver Creek—went off without a hitch, making for one exciting weekend of racing. Here’s everything you need to know, from results to analysis to current World Cup standings.Section divider
Women’s Downhill, Lake Louise (Dec. 3-4)
The first women’s downhill event of the 2021-’22 Tour is always highly anticipated because it takes place weeks after the official start to the World Cup in late October, after we’ve already had the chance to watch women compete in multiple technical events.
But anticipation for women’s races in Lake Louise ran especially high this year, with Mikaela Shiffrin making her long-awaited return to the speed track and American fans wondering whether Breezy Johnson, who established herself as the next great American downhiller last season, would be able to build on her fourth place downhill ranking last season.
It didn’t take long for Johnson to prove that her four consecutive World Cup downhill podiums last season were no fluke. As if demonstrating her growth and trajectory, the Jackson Hole, Wyo. nabbed back-to-back second place finishes in the downhill events on Dec. 3 and 4.
“Consistency is not something that every downhiller is blessed with,” Johnson told U.S. Ski and Snowboard after Saturday’s race. “But based on my four podiums last year and these two, I hope that maybe I have that.”
Only Italy’s Sofia Goggia, last season’s downhill champion who missed the final weeks of races in the 2021 Tour due to injury and skied like she had something to prove, skied faster than Johnson to win both races. Austria’s Mirjam Puchner rounded out the podium in third in Friday’s downhill, while Switzerland’s Corinne Suter, last season’s runner-up in the World Cup downhill rankings, finished third in Saturday’s race.
Watch: Breezy Johnson vs. Sofia Goggia Lake Louise Downhill
Shiffrin, meanwhile, found herself in a very unusual position in Lake Louise. Because she hasn’t raced or scored points in a downhill event since 2020, Shiffrin started this weekend’s downhills from the middle of the pack, racing with bib 31 each time.
The three-time Overall World Champion, who claimed her first ever downhill victory in Lake Louise in 2017, skied smoothly and cleanly in both races, but she took a more conservative line than many and finished more than 3 seconds off the winning pace in each event. She finished 26th in Friday’s downhill and outside of the points in 38th in Saturday’s event.
While fans have come to expect her to podium in any race she shows up for, Shiffrin has been vocal about not expecting too much from her return to the speed track. It’s been a long time since she’s raced on the longer skis, and due to a nagging back injury, she hasn’t been able to train for speed as much as planned.
Shiffrin has expressed that she’d like to compete in all four major events at the Beijing Olympics come February, and to prepare for that, she’ll need to start in at least a few downhill and super-G races on the World Cup circuit. But if her schedule becomes too much, or she doesn’t see the results she’d like in speed, she and her team will adjust that game plan.
“It’s still the plan to compete in all or as many events as I qualify in for the Olympics,” Shiffrin said in a press conference prior to Lake Louise. “I’m planning to race everything, but we’ll adjust the schedule from there. We’ll know more a lot closer to the Games.”Section divider
Women’s Super-G, Lake Louise (Dec. 5)
In Sunday’s super-G event, the first of the season, Shiffrin redeemed herself. Starting with bib 18, Shiffrin attacked the more technical super-G course on Lake Louise’s track with more confidence and finished within a second of the winning pace to settle in 6th place.
It was Italy’s Sofia Goggia who once again set the pace, finishing with the fastest time for the third consecutive day in Lake Louise to dominate both downhill events as well as the super-G. Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Behrami, 2021’s World Cup Super-G champion, finished second. Austria’s Mirjam Puchner grabbed her second podium of the weekend by rounding out the super-G podium in third.
“That super-G felt quite a lot better than downhill,” Shiffrin told U.S. Ski and Snowboard after the race. “Obviously the downhills were not super fast for me, so I thought ‘uh, oh, maybe I can’t really pull this off.’ But I still feel quite comfortable on a super-G ski so that’s really positive and makes me feel a little bit better about the weekend as a whole.”
Watch: Mikaela Shiffrin takes 6th in Lake Louise Super-G
With her top-10 finish, Shiffrin led three other American women in the points in Sunday’s super-G, including Breezy Johnson, who finished 11th, and Keely Cashman and Jacqueline Wiles, who finished 29th and 30th, respectively.
While it wasn’t another podium finish, Johnson, who tends to struggle with her timing and reading the line in super-G, can be happy with her skiing in Sunday’s event.
“I think super-G is the hardest event, and I respect super-G skiers so much for that reason,” Johnson said. “I have been working hard on my super-G, and some of my training has been really good…I’m just trying to ski my best, which is what I’m looking for every day.”
View the full results from the women’s Lake Louise super-G here.Section divider
Men’s Super-G, Beaver Creek (Dec. 2-3)
Despite 50-degree temperatures and a lack of natural snow, the first men’s super-G races of the season went off on Beaver Creek’s famed Birds of Prey track on Thursday, Dec. 2 and Friday, Dec. 3. American fans showed up in droves to cheer on a stacked team of U.S. speed skiers, including Ryan Cochran-Siegle, Travis Ganong, Bryce Bennett, and Steven Nyman.
Cochran-Siegle, who finished tenth in the last men’s speed event in the Lake Louise downhill after coming back from a neck injury sustained last season, was favored to lead the Americans in both the Birds of Prey super-G and downhill.
But it was veteran Travis Ganong who stunned home crowds by skiing into third place in the Dec. 3 super-G and claiming his first World Cup podium since 2017. Ganong’s pace was just 0.37 seconds off the winning pace set by Norwegian Aleksander Aamodt-Kilde, and only 0.03 seconds behind four-time Birds of Prey super-G winner Marco Odermatt from Switzerland, who settled into second place.
Watch: Travis Ganong’s third-place super-G run
Ganong’s run was a significant improvement from his skiing in the previous day’s super-G, in which he finished 22nd behind teammate Cochran-Siegle in 19th.
“I felt pretty great out of the gate today, skied tactically on the top, and really felt my flow right away,” Ganong told U.S. Ski and Snowboard after the race. “Yesterday [Dec. 2] I also skied well, but messed up the tactical section and today I nailed it. So today I’m stoked to be up there with the top guys.”
Teammates Bryce Bennett and Steven Nyman were among many competitors who struggled to find a good snow feel on the mostly artificial snow of the Birds of Prey track. While they managed to successfully finish both courses where more than a dozen others did not, they did not make it into the points in Thursday’s or Friday’s super-G.Section divider
Men’s Downhill, Beaver Creek (Dec. 4)
Capitalizing on his victory in Friday’s super-G, Norwegian Aleksander Aamodt-Kilde skied an impressively fearless and fast run in Saturday’s Birds of Prey downhill to once again finish on top of the podium. Austria’s Matthias Mayer finished second while last season’s World Cup Downhill Champion Beat Feuz from Switzerland rounded out the podium in third.
Watch: Aleksander Aamodt-Kilde wins Birds of Prey downhill
But American Ryan Cochran-Siegle wasn’t far off the podium pace. Starting with bib 2, he skied a solid and smooth run that ultimately was good enough to land him in the top-10 in 6th place. It was the best result of the day among the American men, though Steven Nyman (18th), Bryce Bennett (22nd), and Travis Ganong (24th) all managed to finish in the top-30 to collect World Cup points, resulting in a strong showing for the men’s U.S. speed team in Saturday’s downhill.
While Cochran-Siegle, who ranked 14th in the world in downhill last season and 10th in super-G, was pleased with his stronger skiing in Saturday’s downhill, he’s hungry for more top-3 results to build on his three World Cup podium finishes last season.
“I’m definitely more of a confident skier when I have results behind me and I feel like I can let loose a little bit, so overcoming that is a challenge,” Cochran-Siegle said after the race. “[On the World Cup] we all ski at a high level, it’s just about who can maximize from top to bottom.”
Cochran-Siegle and his teammates were hoping to improve upon their results in Sunday’s downhill event, but the final race of the weekend was cancelled due to high winds. The next chance for the men to prove themselves on a speed track will come Dec. 15-18 in Val Gardena, Italy.
View the full men’s Beaver Creek downhill results here.Section divider
Current World Cup Standings
Now that both the men and women have multiple Worlds Cup tech and speed events under their belts this season, the World Cup standings are starting to take shape and predictions about which racers have a real shot at World Cup titles—and Olympic medals—are less of a shot in the dark. Here’s where things stand after the races in Lake Louise and Beaver Creek this weekend.
Women’s World Cup
Despite two lackluster results this weekend, Mikaela Shiffrin currently leads the women’s overall rankings with 405 points. She also leads the standings in GS thanks to her win in Sölden. Shiffrin’s main rival for the overall title, Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, did not compete in the Lake Louise events, so she now trails Shiffrin in second place with 340 points. Thanks to her triple victory this weekend, Italy’s Sofia Goggia now sits in third, with 315 points. Goggia also now leads the downhill standings with 200 points to Breezy Johnson’s 160 points.
Next up on the women’s World Cup circuit are two super-G races in St. Moritz, Switzerland. It’s not yet clear if Shiffrin will compete in those events, but either way, expect the World Cup standings to change as Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Behrami will surely look to capitalize in her best discipline on home snow. We can also expect Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova to start in her first speed event in an effort to vie for more World Cup points to count towards her overall ranking.
Men’s World Cup
Thanks to three podiums in Beaver Creek this weekend on top of a victory in the opening GS in Sölden, Switzerland’s Marco Odermatt leads the World Cup overall standings with 346 points. He also leads the men’s super-G standings with 180 points. Austria’s Matthias Mayer is currently ranked second in the overall standings with 310 points. Mayer also leads the downhill standings with 180 points. Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt-Kilde, who gained two victories in Beaver Creek (one in super-G, one in downhill), finds himself in third in the overall standings with 229 points.
American Travis Ganong is currently ranked 13th in the overall standings with 81 points, though he’s now sitting in 8th place in the super-G standings thanks to his third-place finish in the Beaver Creek super-G.
Ryan Cochran-Siegle is the next American man to rank in the overall standings. He currently sits in 16th overall with 78 points and ranks 6th in downhill with 66 points.
Next up on the men’s World Cup circuit is a stop in Val d’Isere, France for the next GS and slalom races of the season. American fans may see the return of GS specialist Tommy Ford, who’s still recovering from a season-ending injury sustained at the end of the 2021 World Cup season.