Gusts of wind blew the light snow into a swirl, at times obliterating the gates. The sunny, 40-plus degree temperatures of yesterday had dropped into the 20s. In the parking lot, the Swix tent had started a small bonfire to keep warm. The second day of the Killington Xfinity World Cup, the slalom races had started.
On the mountain, the blue lines that marked yesterday’s GS course still showed, a misleading guide. The women had gotten up early to take practice runs and knew what was ahead. “This is one of the iciest courses I’ve ever skied,” said Doug Lewis, the announcer. Lewis, a two-time Olympian who grew up in Middlebury, Vermont and now runs his EliteTEAM race camps in the Mad River Valley each summer should know. In other words, conditions were perfect for Burke Mountain Academy grad and reigning World Cup slalom champion Mikaela Shiffrin. Shiffrin flashed the course on the first run putting a 1.29 second lead over third place Austrian Bernadette Schild.
The only one close was Wendy Holdener, the Swiss slalom racer who finished third at Killington last year and took third in Levi, Finland’s World Cup a few weeks ago. Levi winner Petra Vhlova was 1.45 back in fifth place.
Shiffrin had started fifth and sat in the cat’s seat, grinning, waving and motioning the crowds of more than 18,000 to cheer louder. “We can’t hear you up there!” she said. And they did, especially when Jackson Hole, Wyo. native Resi Stiegler moved into the gate.
Stiegler, who had started last in the first run of the GS race yesterday and missed a second run wasn’t going to let that happen again. She’d drawn bib number 16 this time. She skied cautiously but solidly, to take 18th and a strong spot, earning her a second run, ready to make her dad Pepi Stiegler, proud. Pepi Stiegler was an Olympic gold medalist who skied for the Austrian National Team before coming to the U.S. and starting the Jackson Hole Ski School. Resi has been competing for 16 seasons on the World Cup and has been to the Olympics twice.
“The surface is great,” she said after yesterday’s race. “It’s fast, hard and grippy.” And that should make her happy too for her second run.
University of Vermont computer science major Laurence St. Germain, who is also ranked second on the Canadian National Team, had a good run and even though she drew bib #47 for her first run, ended up in the top 30, finishing in 28th. With the starts in reverse order for the second run, she’ll start third this time.
The other Americans in the race failed to finish in the top 30 to qualify for a second run. UVM Catamount Paula Moltzan had a strong start but fell early on, one of 7 of the 47 starters who failed to finish.
Photo: Shiffrin on her first run of the slalom. Photo by Alex Klein.