While Americans across the country were still digesting their turkey dinners, Alpine World Cup racers were back in the start house over the weekend. With the women’s World Cup tour stopping in Killington, Vt., for the second slalom and GS races of the season, and the men simultaneously racing in their first speed events of the season in Lake Louise, Alb., the 2019-20 World Cup season is officially underway. And that means two things: Mikaela Shiffrin is already zeroing in on multiple World Cup crystal globes, and the American men are working their way towards the downhill podium. Here are the highlights form this weekend’s races.
Women’s Killington Giant Slalom, Nov. 30
Italy’s Marta Bassino skied to her first World Cup victory in Saturday’s giant slalom, finishing 0.26 seconds ahead of countrywoman Federica Brignone and 0.29 seconds ahead of Mikaela Shiffrin.
Because of high winds, race officials were forced to move the planned start to a lower reserve start before the first run, making for a shorter GS course that didn’t leave much room for error or recovery before the women already found themselves in the finish area. The result was an exceptionally exciting race that saw a lot of rankings change between the first and second run.
Shiffrin’s first run was solid but not aggressive enough, landing her in fifth, 0.41 seconds behind Bassino who skied the most fluid and direct line of Run 1. Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, a regular contender for the GS podium, finished just 0.23 seconds behind Bassino. A big surprise in Run 1 was France’s Michelle Gisin, who started with bib number 16 yet skied an impressive run that put her in third. France’s Tessa Worley finished the first run just 0.06 seconds faster than Shiffrin, slotting into fourth. Italy’s Federica Brignone, who won last season’s Killington GS, finished her first run in seventh place, behind Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg.
Of the top-three racers of Run 1, only Bassino followed up with a strong enough second run to secure her first ever World Cup podium, while Brignone and Shiffrin were able to claw their way up to second and third, respectively, thanks to fast second runs. Brignone finished Run 2 with the fastest time of the day, moving her up from seventh to second overall.
Shiffrin’s third place finish is an improvement from last season, when she narrowly missed out on a podium finish in Killington’s giant slalom by landing in fourth.
“I think I was pushing a little bit too hard in the wrong way, so I was a little bit harsh on the skis,” Shiffrin told U.S. Ski and Snowboard after the race. “Second run I was trying to still be really aggressive but a little bit softer on my edges, and I felt much smoother and more flowy. I felt pretty good with my skiing in both runs, so I’m pretty happy with the day.”
Shiffrin’s third place in Saturday’s GS combined with her second place finish in the season-opening giant slalom in Sölden, Austria also means that Shiffrin heads into the next GS event wearing the leader’s bib in the discipline.
Read more: Shiffrin Wins First World Cup Giant Slalom Globe
New Zealander Alice Robinson, who bested Shiffrin in the Sölden GS, made a quick comeback from a knee injury to compete in Saturday’s GS but crashed and did not finish the first run.
American Nina O’Brien had a successful race, finishing in 28th place to continue to collect World Cup points in the discipline after also finishing in the top-30 in the Sölden GS. American teammates AJ Hurt, Keely Cashman, and Storm Komhaus either did not finish the first run or did not qualify for a second.
See full women's Killington GS results here.
Women’s Killington Slalom, Dec. 1
American spectators who braved wind and cold on Sunday to watch Shiffrin vie for her fourth consecutive Killington slalom victory were handsomely rewarded—not only did Shiffrin secure her 42nd World Cup slalom victory, she won Sunday’s race by a staggering 2.29 seconds ahead of Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova.
A near perfect first run left Shiffrin in the lead by an impressive 1.13 seconds. Vlhova, Shiffrin’s main rival in slalom last year who has struggled to get off on the right foot so far this season, skied a solid first run that put her in second, 0.61 seconds ahead of Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener.
Difficult course conditions caused some minor upsets in Run 2, with icy patches and significant ruts leading many racers to miss, straddle, or crash out of the course. Sweden’s Anna Swenn Larsson, who showed promise last season and finally clinched her first podium finish in Levi, Finland a few weeks ago, managed to dig in her edges and climb from ninth to third place after an impressive second run. Holdener lost her second-place rank after straddling the second gate in Run 2, disqualifying her.
Despite a bumpy course that did its best to buck both Vlhova and Shiffrin, both managed to hold on to the finish and Shiffrin was somehow able to extend her lead over Vlhova by another 1.16 seconds, bringing her overall winning margin to a whopping 2.29 seconds.
“That was really a rough ride, that run,” Shiffrin said after the race. “I thought I was going to fall every single gate. I was really on the limit. But it was fun, and this crowd is so amazing. They were taking me down the hill again.”
Shiffrin is now two for two in slalom this season and will head into the next slalom in St. Moritz on Dec. 15 in St. Moritz, Switzerland wearing the leader bib.
See full Killington women's slalom results here.
American Men Notch Two Top 10 Finishes in Lake Louise Downhill
On Saturday at the Lake Louise World Cup downhill, Americans Steven Nyman and Travis Ganong tied for 10th place, 1.31 seconds behind the winner, Thomas Dressen of Germany. Dressen, who had a season-ending injury last season at Beaver Creek, achieved the upset win with a 0.02 second advantage over Italian Dominik Paris, one of the day’s favorites. Swiss teammates Carlo Janka and Beat Feuz tied for third place, 0.26 behind Dressen.
“It’s still my best result ever at Lake Louise, and starting the year with a top-10 is nice, but I had higher expectations and I’ll look for bigger things in the future,” Nyman said, according to the U.S. Ski Team. “There’s a lot more to come, and I’m looking forward to Beaver Creek for sure.”
Americans Bryce Bennett, Ryan Cochran-Siegle, and Jared Goldberg also finished in the top 30 on Saturday. Bennett was 23rd and 1.84 seconds behind Dressen. Cochran-Siegle and Goldberg tied for the 30th spot, 1.97 seconds behind the winner.
Full Results: 2020 Men’s Lake Louise Downhill
On Sunday, Ganong finished 12th overall in the super-G, 1.37 seconds behind the winner, Matthias Mayer of Austria. Paris returned to the podium again in second place and 0.40 seconds behind Mayer, while there was yet another tie for third position by Austria’s Vincent Kriechmayr and Switzerland’s Mauro Caviezel. The two were 0.49 seconds behind Mayer.
Full Results: 2020 Men’s Lake Louise Super-G
The men’s FIS Alpine World Cup Tour continues on to Beaver Creek this week and SKI will be there. Follow us on Instagram for behind-the-scenes looks at the event.
Jon Jay contributed to this story.