Final countdown to the season start has begun
The World Cup Opening in Sölden is just around the corner, and our two Chief Race Directors Atle Skaardal (ladies’ Tour) and Markus Waldner (men’s Tour) took some time to share their thoughts about the upcoming season.
Let’s start with the beginning. In two weeks, ladies and men will race a giant slalom in Sölden. How are the conditions there?
Atle Skaardal: „The official snow control in Sölden will be conducted by Markus Mayr on Thursday, but so far the conditions look great on the Rettenbach Glacier. The ski area could open on the 9th September already and some teams have been training on the race course in the past weeks. Their feedbacks were very positive.”
Every year, the World Cup is improving in order to offer the best possible product to its athletes and fans. What’s new on the Tour this season?
Atle Skaardal: “We will hold the first ever parallel slalom in Courchevel on Wednesday 20th October. The day will start with a separate qualification run, and the 32 best ladies will participate in the final runs in an exciting dual format in the evening.”
Markus Waldner: “The men’s World Cupwill return to Bormio, with a downhill and an alpine combined on the famous Stelvio. The athletes were looking forward to this and we are happy that this important course is back on the circuit, thanks to important investments in the snow-making system.”
Atle Skaardal: “On the 1st January, a City Event will be held in Oslo. The Holmenkollen ski jumping venue will be transformed in a ski course to host this parallel event, reuniting the 16 best ladies’ and men’s athletes. A very professional team, who has a long and valuable experience in organising Nordic World Cups, is managing the Alpine City Event as well. No doubt that they will deliver a great show with an amazing crowd.”
Markus Waldner: “From this year on, in giant slalom, the men will be skiing with a 30m radius. The athletes were able to test these new skis this summer, and the majority of the feedbacks are positive. An important aspect of this change is that more speed athletes should be able to perform in giant slalom again, as those skis require less discipline specific training. It’s also important for us to follow the evolution of the course setting, but it looks like there should be no major change. We will see in Sölden who could adapt best to those new conditions.”
"Another change for this season, is that the course setter of the men’s World Cup Tour have not been appointed yet, but will be drawn five days before each event. This should add a little thrill and improve fairness, as teams won’t be able to train specific combinations on specific slopes anymore."
Who’s your favourite athlete for the Overall World Cup this season?
Atle Skaardal: "This is a very difficult question. Some of our top stars, who suffered severe injuries and were side-lined for longer periods of time, are coming back on the Tour this season, which makes a prediction very hard. I think it will be an intense and exciting fight between five or six athletes. I don’t want to name them, but I’m pretty sure that with an injury-free season, one of them will win the Overall globe."
Markus Waldner: "I think Alexis Pinturault will win the Overall globe this year. He is the most complete racer on the Tour right now and can perform at a very high level in five disciplines. If he remains healthy and fit throughout the winter, I think he has the best chance to claim the top spot of the Overall ranking this season."
What can we expect from the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang 2018 ? And what are your thoughts about the Alpine Team Event debut?
Atle Skaardal: "The organising committee made a very good impression at the final inspection in September but also during the autumn meetings in Zurich two weeks ago. If they are lucky with the weather and the snow conditions, I’m confident that we will experience great Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang 2018. The anticipation for the Alpine Team Event debut is big. An arena has been built specifically for this event and I think it will be one of the highlights of the Olympics, concluding the two competitions weeks in a fantastic way."
Markus Waldner: "Both test events were quite successful and our different meetings and inspections proved to be very fruitful. The organising committee is very dedicated and I’m convinced that they will organise memorable Olympic Winter Games. The speed venue in Jeongseon and the tech slopes in Yongpyong are ready for the big showdown. Also the first ever Olympic Alpine Team Event promises to be very exciting. This discipline is now well established and proved to be very interesting, as the outcome is wide open, with smaller nations being able to grab medals (for example Slovakia in St. Moritz 2017)."