By Ann Schissler – Sometimes I really love being involved in the ski industry. That certainly was the case when my fully credentialed self was standing at the bottom of Killington’s Superstar trail watching the FIS Alpine Women’s World Cup ski races. The absolute best women skiers in the world came to Killington to race a giant slalom on Saturday and a slalom on Sunday.
Killington re-introduced World Cup racing to the Northeast when it hosted this event last year. Due to a conflict I was unable to attend, but my husband David was there representing the White Book. This year I was not going to miss out on the fun. Mikaela Shiffrin, a local girl skiing for the US team, last year’s slalom champion and current leader in the standings was definitely the attraction to these events.
World Cup races are very exciting events and I’m not the only one who feels that way. There were 18,000 spectators jamming the finish area along-side me on Saturday and another 16,000 on Sunday. The atmosphere is electric with screaming fans and a lot of cowbells (a Swiss tradition at ski races). World Cup races are often won or lost in a hundredth of a second. The skill the racer’s exhibit on the course is spectacular to witness in person. These talented women hurl themselves down steep, icy slopes at literally breakneck speeds to achieve their goal of standing in the top spot on the podium.
The giant slalom and slalom are 2 run events with a morning and afternoon race. Only the top 30 racers in the first run qualify for the second run. During the break between races, the course is reset. The running order is also reversed which means the fastest skier in the first run skis last in the second run. This is done to give the competitors fair course conditions because obviously with more racers running down the course the more it deteriorates. As you might imagine the leaderboard changes quickly and often which fuels the excitement. On the second run, the skier must try to be flawless, pushing themselves to their limit without losing control. And push the limit is exactly what they do. That’s why ski racing can sometimes be a hazardous sport. It’s part of what makes it so spine tingling to observe. No serious injuries happened at these races, thank goodness, but we did see our fair share of straddled gates, missed turns, and dramatic falls that cause you to hold your breath until the skier waves her poles in the air indicating she’s OK.
In addition to watching the races, we also had the opportunity to mix business with pleasure. We met up with friends and colleagues whose company we enjoy immensely and don’t get to see often enough. People like Hall of Famer and extreme skiing legend Dan Egan and of course our friend and ’88 Olympian Pam Fletcher. We also made new friends like Brian Shactman, news anchor at New England Cable News and NBC News Boston, and Courtney Harkins, social media manager for the US Ski Team.
The race results for Saturday’s GS saw the number one spot go to Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany, with Mikaela Shiffrin of the US coming in 2nd and Manuela Moelgg of Italy finished 3rd. To everyone’s delight, in Sunday’s slalom, the hometown favorite, Mikaela Shiffrin came in first, followed by Petra Vlhova of Slovakia in 2nd and Bernadette Schild of Austria finished 3rd.
Killington shone as an extremely gracious host for the ski teams, the media and the fans. This huge event went on without a hitch. Everyone in attendance had a blast. The course was in awesome condition and skiing around the mountain was very good for so early in the season. Mikaela’s slalom winning performances put the cherry on top.
But don’t just take my word for it. If you’ve never gone to a World Cup ski race, add it to your bucket list. You won’t be disappointed. It’s the biggest party on snow. Can’t get to a World Cup? Remember, this is an Olympic year. You can catch a sense of what it’s like to be there this February. USA! USA! USA! ….. More Cowbell!!