Finally, after a seven-month hiatus, the FIS Alpine World Cup returns Saturday, Oct. 26 to Sunday, Oct. 27 with both the men’s and women’s first races of the season taking place on the Rettenbach glacier in Sölden, Austria.
The 2018-19 World Cup season, marked by neck-and-neck competition on the men’s side and record-breaking performances from 2019 overall world cup champion Mikaela Shiffrin, will be a difficult one to top, but that won’t keep Shiffrin and her teammates from trying. And with many podium-favorites having retired after last season, new up-and-coming talent on the U.S. Ski Team making their World Cup debuts, and major contenders making their come-backs from injuries, the 2019-20 season will be one to watch. Here’s a what you need to know going into the 2019-20 FIS World Cup circuit.
Women’s Giant Slalom, Sölden, Oct. 26
On Saturday, reigning overall, super-G, GS, and slalom champion Mikaela Shiffrin will face off against the best women technical skiers in the world and aim to top her 2018 Sölden GS results, a hard-won third place in difficult conditions that Shiffrin was nevertheless disappointed with.
But with giant slalom contenders Petra Vlhova from Slovakia, France’s Tessa Worley, Italy’s Federica Brignone, and Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg hot on Shiffrin’s heels all last season, Saturday's GS will be far from a gimme for Shiffrin. Four U.S. Ski Team ladies will be joining Shiffrin in the Sölden start gate on Sunday, including Nina O’Brien, AJ Hurt, Keely Cashman, and Storm Klomhaus, who will be making her World Cup debut.
Men’s Giant Slalom, Sölden, Oct. 27
After two years of unfavorable conditions which led to cancellation of the men’s races in Sölden, race officials are optimistic that the men will have prime course conditions for their GS start on the Rettenbach on Sunday, Oct. 27. American Tommy Ford, who ranked ninth in the world in GS at the close of last season, and U.S. Ski Team veteran Ted Ligety, who holds the record for most victories in Sölden’s GS (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014), headline the list of six American men starting in Saturday’s race. With multiple top 10 finishes under his belt, Ford will be gunning for the podium this season, while Ryan Cochran-Siegle and young up-and-comers River Radamus, Nick Krause, and Brian McLaughlin will look to build upon last season’s successes by consistently placing in the top 30 to score World Cup points.And with eight-time overall champion Marcel Hirscher now retired and out of the running, the top podium spots in GS and slalom are there for the taking. Keep an eye on Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen and France’s Alexis Pinturault, who finished second and third, respectively, in GS points behind Hirscher last year and will be racing to fill the void left by the Austrian this season.
Beyond Sölden: 2019-2020 World Cup Overview
From Sölden, the men and women will make their way to Levi, Finland, for the first slalom event of the season. The highlight here will be watching Shiffrin face off against Vlhova and Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener, who both gave Shiffrin a run for her money in slalom and finished second and third, respectively, behind Shiffrin in overall slalom points last season.
From Levi, the men will head to Lake Louise in Canada on Nov. 27-Dec. 1 for their first speed events of the season. Watch for American Bryce Bennett, who will be gunning for the podium after finishing ninth in the downhill standings last season. With Norwegian downhiller Aksel Lund Svindal now retired, the men’s speed races—which were among the closest and most exciting last season—will only be more competitive this season.
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After stopping in Killington, Vt., on Nov. 30-Dec. 1, where Shiffrin will hope to defend her winning record in the slalom and redeem herself from a fourth-place finish in GS, the women’s circuit will also head to Lake Louise for the women’s first downhill and super-G races. If you only watch one World Cup race this season, make it the women’s downhill in Lake Louise and see Shiffrin begin her journey towards a downhill Globe.
Though Shiffrin burst onto the World Cup scene as a technical racer, throughout the past two seasons she’s been steadily climbing the ranks in the super-G and downhill events, and after causing a major upset by winning the super-G Globe in 2019 and consistently placing in the top 10 in downhill, Shiffrin proved that nothing is outsider her wheelhouse, making her a serious contender for the downhill Globe this season if she continues to start in the discipline. And with downhill superstar Lindsey Vonn now officially retired, it will be exciting to see which ladies will take advantage of the opening.
Besides Shiffrin, there’s other major U.S. talent to watch in the women’s speed events. Alice McKennis, who placed fifth in the PyeongChang Olympic downhill and won bronze at the 2018 World Cup in Åre, Sweden, returns to World Cup racing after being sidelined with a knee injury last season. Also watch American Alice Merryweather, who consistently scored points last season by placing in the top 30 in downhill. Unfortunately, downhillers Laurenne Ross and Breezy Johnson are likely to miss this World Cup season due to injuries.