Bound by tradition: Back-to-back races in Bad Gastein
A FIS World Cup season without events in Bad Gastein is just unimaginable. With the first ever World Cup in the Austrian ski resort dating back to January 2001, it's now the 18th consecutive winter which will bring snowboard competitions to the foot of the Stubnerkogel mountain.
It's a long tradition not even a handful resorts can look back on.
56 World Cup decisions were held on the famous Bucheben slope so far with the next three to be added on January 12 and 13, 2018 as a parallel slalom race (women, men) as well as a PSL Team event (mixed) is on the programme – with both finals taking place under the lights thanks to 85 flood light poles along the 262 metres long and very steep race slope.
And as it's the third to last chance to meet the national and international criteria for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea before the official qualifier period comes to an end on January 21, 2018, a huge field of more than 130 athletes has registered to start right in the heart of the iconic village.
The most riders will represent the colours of the hosting nation (16) but it's been Czech and Swiss athletes dominating the season so far.
With three wins in three parallel giant slalom events so far, Ester Ledecka (CZE), a winter sport talent who has also locked in a seventh rank finish in the Lake Louise downhill race of the Alpine World Cup tour last month, too, is the undisputed leader of the Ladies' Alpine Snowboard Overall World Cup ranking.
However, the only weakness the reigning World Champion has been showing so far was the ninth rank finish in the Cortina d'Ampezzo parallel slalom, the only PSL of the current season until now. A fact which could raise her rival's hopes for the night finals this Friday.
One of the girls one should have on the to-watch-out-for-list is Sabine Schoeffmann, who triumphed in the Cortina d'Ampezzo PSL last month and placed third in the past two races staged on the Bucheben slope.
However, it won't be easy for the Austrian to beat Ledecka as the Czech superstar does like the terrain having triumphed in Bad Gastein back in 2015 with additional second and third place finishes in 2014 under her belt, too.
But the venue's most successful rider of the past years is Patrizia Kummer (SUI). The 2014 Olympic PGS Champion might not have had the results she is known for this season yet, but with four wins and one runner-up finish in Bad Gastein since 2012, the 30-year-old should not be underestimated.
Will Galmarini break in the top-3?
In the men's event, her teammate Nevin Galmarini (SUI) is currently having his best ever season so far.
Coming to the Salzburg countryside with his career's second earned last weekend in Lackenhof, Austria the 2014 Olympic PGS Silver medallist is aiming to keep the momentum.
And with four top-6 finishes in the last five races in Bad Gastein in his bag the current Overall World Cup leader is definitely capable of doing so.
But the past years have also shown, that the men's competition is hard to predict for Bad Gastein as there have been eight different winners in the past nine races so far. Only Zan Kosir (SLO), just back from his long competition break due to back problems, was able to win twice.
But various athletes have had some great showing and multi podium finishes already such as Italy's Roland Fischnaller, Christoph Mick and Aaron March as well as local favourite and two-time 2017 World Champion Andreas Prommegger.
World Cup festivities in Bad Gastein will kick off Thursday, Jan 11, at 7 PM CET with the traditional public bib draw which taking place in the Felsentherme this year as the long-time event partner celebrates its 50th anniversary.
Friday (Jan 12) will bring the individual race with qualifiers slated for 2 PM CET and finals for 6 PM CET. The 2017-18 season's second team event (PSL) is scheduled for Saturday (Jan 13) at 4:30 PM.
Live TV information will be updated here.