Tech specialists Shiffrin, Stiegler making most of Soelden training
Young gun Mikaela Shiffrin and World Cup veteran Resi Stiegler are feeling strong as they prep for the season at the U.S. Ski Team's European training base in Soelden, Austria.
The teammates, who each landed their first World Cup podium last winter, have been training on the Rettenbach Glacier above the World Cup race hill since early October.
Shiffrin, 17, returned to snow for the first time since the August training block in New Zealand.
"I've had seven days of training in Soelden since October 1st and it's been really good," said Shiffrin. "Every second I'm able to train on snow is a second I'll take. Being here is definitely helping me work out the pre-race jitters well before race day.
"The conditions have been rugged, which is exactly what I need right now," she added. "The race hill in Soelden is one the toughest giant slalom races all year and I'm going to be starting quite a bit back so I'm learning how to handle the ruts and the bumps."
For Stiegler, the block marks a return to snow after having ACL surgery following the March World Cup Finals. She will not start in Soelden, but is hoping to be ready for the opening slalom of the season in Levi, Finland.
"We've been taking things pretty slow, but I'm feeling awesome," said Stiegler. "I haven't had any pain in my knee and I think a lot of that has to do with how hard I worked this summer. I'm a lot stronger than I've ever been. My goal is to race in Levi [Finland], but if I can't race until Aspen or later, that's OK. I'm not going to push it.
"As soon as I got out of surgery this spring, I was in the gym and thinking about getting back on snow. It feels so good to be here and just to be up in the mountains."
Technical Head Coach Roland Pfiefer reported both athletes in excellent shape with favorable training conditions on the Rettenbach Glacier high above Soelden.
"(Shiffrin) has made huge improvements in both her slalom and giant slalom this summer and it's directly affected what she is able to do here in Soelden," said Pfiefer. "She puts all her effort into everything she does and is fully committed to being one of the best skiers on the hill every day.
"(Stiegler) put in an incredible effort with her recovery this summer and is motivated to get back into the start gate as soon as possible," said Pfiefer. "Mentally, she is ready right now, but she still needs more time on snow to work things out physically. She is committed to getting back to the World Cup podium."
They are joined this weekend by four-time World Cup overall champion Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso. Shiffrin, Vonn and Mancuso will race the Oct. 27 World Cup opener in Soelden where Vonn is the defending champion.
Colder temperatures and recent snow has moved into Soelden and U.S. athletes hope to begin training on the World Cup race hill later next week prior to the FIS mandated blackout period of five days prior to competition.
The Audi FIS Alpine World Cup moves to North America on Thanksgiving weekend with the Nov. 24-25 Nature Valley Aspen Winternational in Aspen, Colo.
Photos: GEPA and USSA/Tom Kelly