The opening slalom race of last year’s World Cup in Levi, Finland, was one of only two slalom events that Mikaela Shiffrin did not win. She went on to win seven other slalom events during the 2017-’18 season to become both the slalom and overall World Cup champion, but in Levi, she lost out to Petra Vlhova of Slovakia.
Shiffrin did not let that happen a second time this season. Despite warm temperatures and high winds that caused race officials to delay and lower the start of the course, Shiffrin, racing with bib number 1, managed a flawless and aggressive first run, securing the lead by .14 seconds ahead of Olympic Slalom Champion Frida Hansdotter, and more than .5 seconds ahead of last year’s winner Vlhova.
The second run proved more challenging and slower for all the women who found themselves in the top 5 after the first run. It was Austrian Bernadette Schild, ranked twelfth after Run 1, who posted the fastest time in Run 2. As always, Shiffrin used her second run to take more risk and ski more aggressively, which sometimes pays off but other times leads her to make a costly mistake. It proved to be the latter in this case, with Shiffrin having to make a quick recovery after almost skiing out of the course at the top of the pitch. The little mishap meant Shiffrin finished fifth after Run 2, but her margin of lead after Run 1 was enough to secure the fastest combined time overall, a whopping .58 seconds ahead of Vlhova, and .79 ahead of Schild.
Wendy Holdener of Switzerland, who ranked second overall in the world behind Shiffrin last season, finished the Levi slalom event in fifth, .85 seconds behind Shiffrin.
Shiffrin’s win in Levi means two things. One: She now leads the World Cup standings thanks to the additional WC points she accumulated for her third place in GS in Sölden, Austria at the end of October. Two: Shiffrin is quickly accumulating her very own reindeer herd, having received her third real-life reindeer as a prize in Levi. Mr. Gru, the newest addition to Shiffrin’s reindeer family, will join Sven and Rudolph, reindeers Shiffrin won in the 2016 and 2013 Levi slaloms, respectively.
The next World Cup event for the women will be at Vermont’s Killington Resort on Nov. 24-25, where the women will again face off in the technical events of slalom and GS. Lindsey Vonn and other members of the U.S. Ski Team competing in the speed events will start their season in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Nov. 30.
The men will officially kick off their World Cup season on Sunday with their opening slalom event, also in Levi, Finland. Tune in for results at SKImag.com.