Resi Stiegler (Jackson, WY) celebrates in the finish at last year's Aspen Winternational after landing in 11th place.
ASPEN, CO (Nov. 26, 2015)—The snowflakes are lightly descending upon Aspen as the sun works its way through the clouds. It’s Thanksgiving Day in Aspen and it’s no surprise it feels magical here. This year, when the Audi FIS Ski World Cup swings through America, Aspen will feature one women’s giant slalom and two slaloms—one rescheduled from Levi.
This added slalom gives reigning World Cup slalom champion and Soelden World Cup giant slalom opener second place finisher Mikaela Shiffrin (Eagle-Vail, CO) a very good chance to land on the podium multiple times. It also gives the winningest female in ski racing history, Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO), a chance to snag some early season World Cup points that will set her up for a season in which she’s the favorite for the overall. Vonn recently told Pat Graham of the Associated Press that her ankle is ‘100 percent’ ready for the World Cup in Aspen. With last year’s overall champion Austria’s Anna Fenninger on the sidelines with an injury and runner-up Tina Maze of Slovenia taking the season off, Vonn and Shiffrin are poised to contend for the overall title.
At Soelden, Shiffrin told reporters that Vonn as the “best bet” for the overall, and in a recent interview with USA Today she echoed that sentiment. “For sure, I see Lindsey as leading the charge because she has the experience and knows how to attack,” Shiffrin said of her veteran teammate. “She has that killer instinct—you look at her in the starting gate and it’s like everybody get out of the way.” Both athletes have noted their excitement about the American battle for the overall and how great it is for the sport of alpine ski racing domestically.
The crew of promising young athletes is also super exciting. “I’m also very excited about the young crew. They’re going into their season with a strong focus on the Europa Cup, Junior World Championships,” notes Alpine Director Patrick Riml. “We had two strong performances last year [at the Junior World Championships] with a gold and a bronze medal, so hopefully we can step it up and take it to the next level with a couple additional medals from the Junior World Championships.”
Riml was referring to Junior World slalom champion Paula Moltzan (Lakeville, MN), as well as 2014 NorAm slalom champion Lila Lapanja—who will be making her maiden voyage on the World Cup circuit with Aspen. Lapanja is fresh off a third place finish behind Canada’s World Cup regulars Erin Mielzynski and Marie-Michele Gagnon in the NorAm slalom held earlier this week at Snow King in Jackson, WY.
Last but certainly not least, Resi Stiegler (Jackson, WY) will be making her comeback at Aspen after sustaining a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and meniscus in her right knee while training in Flachau last season, and she looks stronger than ever. Stiegler entered the 2015 season as an independent, after not meeting criteria for the first time in her long career. This didn’t stop Stiegler, who skied more disciplined and refined than ever before and crushed. With five top-30 finishes and two top-15 finishes including an 11th place finish at Aspen, Stiegler made it clear that she was back and she was a fighter.
While the women take on Aspen, the men’s speed team is braving the cold up in the north at Lake Louise. They tackled their first downhill training run yesterday, with the Attacking Norwegian Vikings, Aksel Lund-Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud, leading the charge. Top Americans were Steven Nyman (Sundance, UT) in fifth, Travis Ganong (Squaw Valley, CA) in ninth and Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, CA) 21st. Today Jansrud once again set the pace, but he's got an American Downhiller on his heels—Ganong finished in second, just .13 out, while Nyman finished ninth and Andrew Weibrecht (Lake Placid, NY) 23rd. The men’s action continues with the third and final downhill training run tomorrow before downhill day kicks off on Saturday followed by super G on Sunday.