If you don’t head to Killington next weekend to watch at least one race of the 2019 HomeLight Killington World Cup, you may miss the chance to say you saw one of the greatest ski racers in history compete.
Yup, Mikaela Shiffrin is back and she’s looking even more unbeatable in slalom.However, there is a chance a 17-year-old from New Zealand, who bested her in giant slalom just this past October, may show up, making Saturday’s giant slalom race a knuckle-biter.
With Grace Potter playing at half time, free spectating right at course-side, a tent village of products and a parade of young ski racers from around New England, this has become the biggest event on the women’s World Cup, with more than 39,000 people attending last year and more expected this year. The forecast is for sun Saturday and snow on Sunday.Here’s who we’ll be watching and follow us on Facebook for live updates and stories from each run.
Mikaela Shiffrin, of course.
On Nov. 11, 2019, days ago in Levi, Finland Mikaela Shiffrin logged her 41st slalom win, making her the winningest World Cup slalom racer in history. Not the winningest female racer, the winningest racer. Shiffrin bested ski legend Ingemar Stenmark’s record, which has stood for 32 years, with a 1.78 second lead over the second place finisher, Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener at Levi.
Between 1974 and 1987, Swedish racer Stengmark logged 40 slalom wins and 86 total World Cup wins, clocking the last slalom win when he was 31. Shiffrin, at 24, already has him beat. Lindsey Vonn earned 82 World Cup wins before retiring at the end of last season at age 34. Shiffrin currently has 61 wins across disciplines.
One of the prizes for winning the Levi event is a reindeer—Shiffrin’s fourth and she named it Ingemar, a tribute, “to one of the greatest ski races to ever live,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
And Shiffrin may be on her way to that title as well. It’s rare that you get a chance to see one of the greatest athletes in history perform at the top of their game in any sport, much less here in Vermont. Imagine having Venus or Serena Williams playing tennis within an hour drive? And spectating was free? You’d go, right.
To watch her ski is like watching water flowing down a mountain: smooth, rhythmic and nearly always taking the straightest line. In short, she’s the best technical skier on the planet. On top of that, Shiffrin has been accessible, charming and supportive of her fans, especially kids and young girls. Watch for her to high-five the many ski club racers who paint their faces and stand pressed against the barriers as she exits the finish area.
If you haven’t followed ski racing in the last month, you’re forgiven for not knowing who Alice Robinson is. Up until recently, her claim to fame was that at 16 she made the New Zealand Olympic team and competed in PyeongChang and won the 2019 Junior World Championships in giant slalom, the discipline she excels in. She earned her first World Cup podium last March, a silver in GS and then, on October 26, 2019 she beat Mikaela Shiffrin to earn gold at the World Cup in Soelden, Austria. Robinson won that event fighting a bone bruise from a crash during a training run, a bruise which she feared would keep her out of the Killington line-up. However, on Monday, Nov. 25, she posted an update on her Facebook page saying she would be coming to Killington and would decide on Friday if she would race. “A wise man told me YOLO,” she wrote – you only live once. Our bet is that we’ll see her in the gates. (Opening photo: Alice Robinson)
At the 2018 Killington World Cup, University of Vermont junior Paula Moltzan, 25, had a breakout day on the slalom course. After finishing in the top 30 for the first time in a World Cup since 2015, Moltzan, who had been dropped from the U.S. Ski Team, finished 28th in her first slalom run and skied a blazingly fast second run—the fourth fastest time of all—to finish 17th overall. Since then, Moltzan’s World Cup fortunes have turned, an improvement she credits in part to the coaching she got at UVM by then-coach Tim Kelley (a former World Cup racer himself and a scion of the ski racing Cochran clan). She earned consistent top-20 finishes in World Cup slalom races last season with a personal best of 12th in Flachau, Austria. She’s now the second best slalom racer on the U.S. Women’s Team, after Shiffrin.
Laurence St. Germain
One of Moltzan’s best friends and a former University of Vermont teammate, Laurence St. Germain (known to friends as Lolo), finished 14th at the Killington World Cup in 2018. A computer science major from Quebec, St. Germain has been on Canada’s national and Olympic teams. St. Germain finished 15th in slalom in PyeongChang and in 2019 has been posting regular top-20 finishes, with a 6th at Are, Sweden’s World Cup last February. At 25, like Moltzan, she appears to still be improving.
She’s not a racer now but she once was one, and she has nearly as many fans as Mikaela Shiffrin . Rock star Grace Potter, who just released a new album Daylight in October, and . will be performing live at 2 pm in a free concert at the event village. Potter, who grew up in the Mad River Valley, self-professeed daughter of two ski bums, went to the racing academy Green Mountain Valley School, where as she told VT SKI + RIDE in a 2015 interview, “I got into ski racing with some pretty amazing athletes like Olympic racer Doug Lewis. I learned so much from them and I have awesome memories of skiing at Sugarbush and Mad River Glen. Potter took time off after her 2015 hit album Midnight, dissolved her band, The Notcturnals, was divorced, remarried (to her record producer, Eric Valentine) and now has a two-year-old son, Sagan. The album, which Rolling Stone calls “jarringly personal,” tells a bit of the struggles Potter has faced over the past few years. Potter, who performed at her Grand Point North Festival in Burlington, in September, is now on tour.
Abi Jewett, of Ripton, Vt. who made her World Cup debut in 2018 at Killington will not be competing this season due to a long battle with injury—though the Dartmouth sophomore remains on the U.S. Ski Team and hopes to compete in the future.
The weekend kicks off on Friday, with athletes being awarded their bibs for the giant slalom at 5:45 p.m on the stage set up at the slopeside event village. The first run for the giant slalom will start at 9:45 a.m. on Sat., Nov. 30. The top 30 racers move on to the second run at 1 p.m., starting in reverse order of how they finished, which makes for exciting spectating as the leader from the first race goes last. The overall winner is determined by the combined times from the two runs.
Racers will compete in the slalom on Sun., Dec. 1, with the first run starting at 9:45 a.m. At noon, Twiddle will take to the stage for a free concert, followed by the second slalom run at 1 p.m. General admission is free to the public.
It’s easy to watch for free from the bottom of the Superstar race slope or tune into live coverage by NBC of the second runs, with Middlebury native and two-time Olympian Doug Lewis announcing. For more information see killington.com
Saturday’s giant slalom live on NBC Sports Network from 1 to 2:30 p.m., and replays from 2:30 to 3:30 on NBC.
Sunday’s slalom finals will air live on NBC between 12:30 and 2 p.m.