After a brief Soelden and Levi intermission, I’m back with some inside information for Ski Racing Media readers before we head into the action-packed Thanksgiving week in Killington, Vt.
For a moment, let’s rewind to 2016. Last year when the World Cup returned to the East for the first time in 25 years, a record number of ski race-hungry New Englanders packed the snow-covered mountain venue. The stands were rocking with ski clubs from across the Northeast who brought the energy and noise. With 30,000 spectators over two days, the crowds were among the biggest North American skiing had ever seen. Heck, they were nearly as big as some of the marquee European venues – like Flachau, Austria. It was impressive, to say the least.
While there may have been many doubters for a November event in Vermont, Killington worked its snowmaking magic and pulled off quite the show, both on and off the snow. There was drama, there was heartbreak, and there was redemption. And let’s not forget the infamous “Gondola and Chill” sesh that went down between Slalom Tokyo Drift and that Swiss Miss Lara Gut. A feat of epic proportions … and quite a success.
So, what’s on tap for this year, and who will be crowned “Superstar”? Let’s hope we experience the same big crowds, give thanks to the good people in our lives with tasty eats for Thanksgiving, cheer loudly for the American tech girls, and leave feeling inspired by the display of athletic brilliance by the best in the world at the Beast of the East. And, perhaps a repeat Gondola and Chill with Lara Gut … or maybe a fresh face? Slide into those DMs, as they say.
Where Can You Hang with Mikaela and Resi?
So, on Friday night there will be a public bib draw outside of the Killington Ski Club in the K-1 Base Area. Mikaela Shiffrin and other giant slalom superstars will be in the presentation, and there are fireworks after, so that’s a must-see. After that, head over to Killington Sports for a Shred autograph signing with the fiery El Tigre herself, Resi Stiegler. On Saturday night, the après ski party with the Kelly Brush Foundation is a can’t-miss, so swing by the Pickle Barrel and hang with the Slalom Tokyo Drift boys for a good cause.
The #BeastWorldCup is all about creating an atmosphere around the mountain – so be sure to check out all the good stuff happening off the hill, too. Just don’t stay too long at the Wobbly Barn or you’ll be doing the walk of shame to watch Mikaela Shiffrin crush the slalom on Sunday. Find all the best events at the Full Beast World Cup Schedule.
Who to Watch
Okay, so here’s the deal guys. Soelden was a bit of a strange kickoff. There were American girls in spandex and Rollerblades up on stage at the bib draw, heaps of injuries on both the men’s and women’s side, a women’s race with an unexpected finish and crazy weather that led to a canceled men’s race. Wild. Follow that up with the slalom kickoff in the wintry Lapland and now we’re really off to the races with the first full tech weekend of the season, where Killington will host some of the best and toughest female skiers in the world. Rad. Time to get the traveling White Circus show on the road, right?! Here we go.
The Italian contingency should be back in full now that Federica Brignone has arrived in Killington. Keep an eye on her, teammate Manuela Moelgg (who was third in Soelden), Marta Bassino, and the wild and wonderful Sofia Goggia. Lindsey Vonn has said Goggia will be one of her biggest competitors for the overall title, and with her flair, she always puts on a good show that has us on the edges of our seats.
France’s Tessa Worley, who also happens to be the 2017 discipline title holder, is a favorite here in Killington. But it’s Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg who comes into the weekend with momentum from her surprise victory in Soelden. Gut returned to competition in Soelden, but the timing was a bit off and she’s still looking for redemption after last year’s DNF at Killington. Let’s be honest, though, it’s all eyes on the hometown hero: Shiffrin.
This weekend may tell a tale of redemption, as Shiffrin is bringing the heat to her Vermont home, where she’ll once again have a large cheering section that will feature her best friend and hopefully also her 95-year-old grandmother. How can you not crush it with “Nana” in the stands? She just finished a successful prep period at the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center at Copper Mountain, and she’s logged a lot of giant slalom laps this summer and fall. In fact, she was skiing the fastest, most direct line I’ve seen her ski in Chile … but what do I know?! I know she’s coming in hot to Killington; that’s what I know.
Austria Power Team’s Stephanie Brunner, Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener, Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel and Nina Haver-Loeseth (recently married), and Canada’s Marie-Michele Gagnon (one of my personal favorites and friend of the U.S. Ski Team, as her boyfriend is Travis Ganong). “Mitch,” as we call her, has been skiing fast and feeling good in prep period camps and heads into Killington after a strong NorAm performance at Copper Mountain. Watch her.
Last Year’s Top Five in the Killington GS:
- Tessa Worley (FRA)
- Nina Loeseth (NOR)
- Sofia Goggia (ITA)
- Marta Bassino (ITA)
- Mikaela Shiffrin (USA)
Here we go – let’s talk about the biggest event of the weekend, the headliner, Slalom Sunday with the Shiff Show. Guys, I’m telling you, Shiffrin is bringing everything she’s got to Killington. She wants it. With Slovakia’s veteran – and Shiffrin’s stiffest competition – Veronika Velez Zuzulova out with injury, countrywoman Petra Vlhova stepped up laid down the fast time in Levi, Finland. Shiffrin has found herself in an unfamiliar place – the hunter. And you better believe she’ll be gunning for it on Superstar. She’s focused, fierce and has the fire. Another one of my tour favorites, Wendy Holdener, will again be a podium threat.
My gal, Resi Stiegler, is looking to soak in that energy from the crowds like only she knows how. Watch for her signature wave in the finish area to get the crowd on its feet and put a big smile across everyone’s faces. The Canadian gals, once again, are not to be overlooked this weekend. Both Erin Mielzynski – who is one of the physically most impressive women out there – and Laurence St-Germain skied smokin’ hot in the recent NorAms hosted by Loveland, where they comfortably swapped the top two spots on the podium both days. Plus, it’s basically a hometown race for the Canadians too, eh?!
Last Year’s Top Five in the Killington SL:
- Mikaela Shiffrin (USA)
- Veronika Velez Zuzulova (SVK)
- Wendy Holdener (SUI)
- Nina Loeseth (NOR)
- Petra Vlohva (SVK)
Just the Tips
Here are my picks for the places to be and be seen at this weekend’s races. I’m no Killington expert, but I am a bit of an après ski expert, so pay close attention to the bottom of the list and unleash your inner European ski racing fan. OK, maybe not quite (if you’ve been to Soelden or Kitzbuehel, you understand why I say that). There may not be any glühwein, but you can sip on good coffee, eat waffles (with maple syrup, duh!), and drink lots of that good New England beer. I act like I know what I’m talking about, but I don’t know anything about beer. In any case, save the Moscow Mules and red wine for me.
- Liquid Art Coffeehouse
- Waffle Cabin – a Mikaela Shiffrin favorite
- Sunup Bakery
- Sushi Yoshi
- Lookout Bar & Grill
- Wobbly Barn
- Pickle Barrel Nightclub