Mikaela Shiffrin, the U.S. Ski Team ace, doubled down on the perfect Blackjack hand on Sunday, nailing her 21st World Cup slalom win as a 21-year-old. With the victory, Shiffrin continues her remarkable early season, building on her lead in the slalom standings—along with her lead in the overall standings. With a win margin of a full .73 seconds, she fired up an already raucous crowd on Sunday, as the World Cup made a triumphant return to the East Coast over the weekend.
Best estimates put the cheering crowd at nearly 16,000, at times, at Killington, Vt. If that figure holds, it’ll be the highest fan turnout for any World Cup staged in the U.S., men’s or women’s, surpassing all but the 2015 World Championship men’s downhill at Beaver Creek, which drew some 20,000. Talk about pent-up demand: The Killington races were the first World Cup stop in Vermont since 1978, and the first return to New England in 25 years.
The U.S. Ski Team’s Mikaela Shiffrin, no stranger to Vermont slopes, finished fifth in Saturday’s race, a GS. France’s Tessa Worley, starting eighth, took advantage of smooth conditions on a rapidly deteriorating course to finish second in the first run, then fended off first-run winner Nina Loseth of Norway to claim the win by a decisive .80 seconds. Rounding out the podium was Italy’s Sofia Goggia, 1.11 seconds back.
Defending GS champ Lara Gut of Switzerland, the pre-race favorite, skied out in the first run after hitting a rough patch near the top of the course.
Shiffrin, who admitted she was unusually nervous on the morning of the East’s first World Cup in 25 years, skied what appeared to be a somewhat tentative first run, finishing 10th, then laid down a solid second run to climb into fifth. Eastern race fans were expected to return in force on Sunday to cheer her on in the slalom, where she’s a clear favorite to win.
Saturday’s weather conditions had to remind Shiffrin of her days as an East Coaster (she lived for a time in New Hampshire and graduated from Burke Academy). Temperatures hovered in the mid-30s, and for a time dense fog appeared to threaten the second run.
But the fog lifted just in time to afford good visibility to the later runners in the flip-30 second run, and by race’s end it was snowing steadily, buoying the spirits of the big crowd of Eastern skiers as O.A.R. took the stage behind Killington’s K-1 Lodge.
“I like tough conditions,” said Worley after notching her ninth career GS win. “It makes me feel like I need to fight more, and I know I ski fast when I fight. Sometimes it was bumpy, but I enjoyed it even though the weather wasn’t quite the best.”
The size of the crowd impressed her too. “You could feel the energy. Yesterday someone told me they were expecting 5,000 or more, and actually it was three times that. It was awesome.”
The Superstar course, with its steep final pitch plunging dramatically into the finish, proved excellent for viewing. Killington and its army of volunteers drew high praise from race officials for pulling off the early-season race.
Like Saturday’s GS, Sunday’s slalom will be broadcast on NBC at 3 p.m.
Photo: More than 15,000 spectators turned out to cheer Mikaela Shiffrin and her teammates at the first World Cup Race in the East in 25 years, which would make it one of the best attended races ever on U.S. snow.
Photo Credit: Courtesy USSA