Recent form, course history and vociferous local support all point to just one result when the world’s best female slalom skiers line up for the third Audi FIS Ski World Cup race of the season in Killington, USA on 27 November.
Fresh from completing a clean sweep at last weekend’s opening double-header in Levi, Finland, Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) will strap her slalom skis on in her home away from home knowing she is yet to lose on Killington’s famous slopes.
The USA star, who has relatives in the area and is a graduate from the nearby Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont, has repeatedly thrilled the always large and loud home crowd by winning five World Cup slalom races out of five.
Add on the clearly positive impact two new ski technicians have already made to team Shiffrin this season and her rivals could be forgiven for taking the Thanksgiving weekend off.
But no one knows better than the 27-year-old herself that results are never foretold.
“As soon as you cross the finishing line the clock resets and when you wake up tomorrow you have to earn it all over again,” Shiffrin said on social media after touching down in the USA this week.
Rivals waiting to blot perfect record
Beijing 2022 Olympic slalom champion and 2022 crystal globe slalom winner Petra Vlhova (SVK) undoubtedly supplanted her long-time rival on the short skis last season and the Slovakian looks ready to pounce should the home heroine misstep.
After twice finishing third to Shiffrin in Levi, Vlhova confidently told reporters she “knows” where she can “improve”.
The 27-year-old is almost as familiar with Killington’s twists and turns as Shiffrin, having finished second to the American four times in a row.
Another slalom specialist who has had more than enough of finishing behind Shiffrin is Wendy Holdener (SUI). Third in Killington last year, the Swiss flier recorded her 15th World Cup second-place finish in Levi’s second slalom race last weekend.
Holdener, 29, is famously at ease with her position as the most decorated female World Cup slalom skier yet to win, but perhaps Killington is the place for what would be a hugely popular first triumph.
The in-form Anna Swenn Larsson (SWE), who has a slalom podium place in Killington to her name (third in 2019), and Lena Duerr (GER), fourth twice in Levi, both also look well-placed to challenge.
Season starts for Giant Slalom skiers
The Killington crowds will also welcome back the top giant slalom skiers, with defending crystal globe champion Tessa Worley (FRA) ready to get the new season under way.
The French skier has hit her best form at just the right time with her home Courchevel Meribel 2023 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships looming large. Worley broke an almost two-and-a-half-year World Cup winning drought with two GS victories through the calendar year 2021 and another in early 2022.
The 33-year-old also knows how to win on the GS skis in Killington, having triumphed in 2016 – a race in which Shiffrin finished fifth.
Marta Bassino (ITA), the skier Worley replaced as the overall World Cup champion, is another with great memories of the east coast of the USA. She won in front of the Killington masses in late 2019, a prelude to an extraordinary 2021 season during which she claimed four of the first five GS World Cups.
The prevailing thought is that the 26-year-old fell away somewhat last season but two second-place finishes in her final two GS races suggest she is not far away from her best. She has also been in the USA for several weeks, sharpening her GS skills.
Compatriot Federica Brignone – a Killington winner back in 2018 – rounds off a typically strong Italian challenge.
No one in the field will be overlooking Sara Hector (SWE) either. The Swedish skier does tend to fly somewhat under the radar but after three World Cup GS wins and an Olympic GS gold last season, she is undoubtedly box office.
The final word does have to return to Shiffrin, however. Her GS record in Killington reads: second, third, fourth and fifth from her four starts. What price a neat completion of that run with a first-place finish?