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Just like we have favorite ski trails—arcing mid-day turns down Killington’s Needle’s Eye; getting those end-of-day face shots on Alta’s High Rustler—World Cup skiers have their favorites too.
And least favorites as well, although they tend to steer away from negative language. As GS ace Tommy Ford says, “Gotta like them all because it doesn’t matter if I like the course, I still need to race there.”
Here’s a look at a few U.S. Ski Team veterans’ favorite — and not-so-favorite — race courses.
U.S. Racers’ Favorite World Cup Courses
For the women tech skiers on the team, the choice is easy: the Killington World Cup slalom and giant slalom. Why?
“It’s the whole atmosphere,” said Mikaela Shiffrin, who has won the Killington slalom five times. “The hill itself is really quite great. But it’s the crowd. It’s home. It somehow feels more special. And it’s Thanksgiving, the start of the holiday season. Everything combined makes it quite a special race.”
Watch: Mikaela Shiffrin nabs 5th consecutive Killington slalom victory
For the men, they will get their own U.S.-based slalom and GS races when the White Circus comes to Palisades Tahoe February 25-26, 2022, with speed races at Aspen the following weekend.
“Doesn’t get better than a home crowd,” said Ford.
If not home, Ford likes the Alta Badia World Cup GS in Italy for its terrain.
“It is a steep, winding trail, typically prepared with care,” explained Ford. “Volunteers and staff are enthusiastic, and it’s surrounded by Dolomite towers and walls.”
For speed skiers, Ryan Cochran-Siegle and Bryce Bennett like the downhill at Val Gardena, Italy—a race where the two American speed skiers scored their first World Cup podiums (Bennett with the win last year, and Cochran-Siegle taking second in 2020).
Watch: Bryce Bennett wins 2021 Val Gardena downhill
The course is prepped well, “with smooth yet dense snow that allows the ski to engage well,” Cochran-Siegle explained. “The built-up terrain top to bottom flows spectacularly, culminating in the most enjoyable experience to ski on Tour.”
Bennett was more succinct in describing his love of the Val Gardena DH: “Big jumps!”
Speed skier Breezy Johnson prefers to not have favorites. “Got to love ‘em all to win them all,” she said.
Watch: Breezy Johnson takes third in 2021 Crans Montana downhill
That said, she loves interesting courses with “fun crazy features,” like “the corkscrew turn in Crans Montana’s World Cup downhill, the airplane turn in Aspen, waterfall chute in St. Anton, and the weird sidehill-into-a-rolly-turn in Garmisch.”
Two of Johnson’s seven World Cup podium finishes have come in the Crans Montana and St. Anton downhills (the other five at Lake Louise and Val d’Isere), and she’s won a few NorAm super-Gs and downhills at Aspen.
Not-So-Favorite World Cup Courses
Johnson does not mince words when it comes to her least favorite World Cup course: Bansko downhill in Bulgaria.
“Sorry, it’s boring,” she said, adding, “hard and very steep but not much else.”
For Cochran-Siegle, the Hahnenkamm in Kitzbuhel might be ski racing’s most legendary downhill, but it poses challenges for the 2022 Olympic silver medalist. Of four starts down The Streif, Cochran-Siegle’s best finish was “a greatly disappointing 38th to go with three DNFs.”
One of those DNFs was the result of a crash where he suffered a season-ending neck injury in 2021.
Watch: Ryan Corhan-Siegle crashes in 2021 Kitzbuhel downhill
“As the most notorious and celebrated downhill track on the World Cup circuit,” he said, “my hope one day is to overcome the piste that has eluded me scoring World Cup downhill points thus far.”
But there’s hope for the fast Vermonter. For half the race in 2021, Cochran-Siegle was in podium position.
As for Bennett, the 6’7” downhiller is not a fan of “any new DH course [created] in the last six years.”
“They all suck,” he stated. “[They are] over-engineered and over-developed. The classic DH tracks just make sense . The old timers knew how to make downhill courses.”
When it comes to tech races, Shiffrin has found success on just about every course she has skied. But the Flachau slalom is one race that she does not look forward to “from a challenging perspective.”
Why? Because the course is prepped with manmade rollers that “can be really, really sharp,” explained the slalom phenom.
Watch: Shiffrin settles for 3rd in 2020 Flachau slalom
“I tend to take my foot off the gas a little bit too much in order to stay safe when I’m going over that terrain,” she added. “Some of the other girls, when they ski it, they kind of throw themselves down the hill.”
It has made her realize that she can ski the Flachau course more aggressively.
“I know it now,” she said, “so at least I have something that I can shoot for when I’m there.”
Despite the challenge, the four-time overall World Cup champ has finished on Flachau World Cup slalom podium nine times, with four wins.
And, she added, “the atmosphere is pretty sweet.”
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