Two U.S. Women Smoke Killington World Cup Slalom

Vermont has been the training ground for most of the U.S. women racing the Killington Homelight World Cup slalom today. And thanks to that training, they know how to ski the rock-hard iced-by-nature course that Killington’s Superstar served up today.

Burke Mountain Academy turned out Mikaela Shiffrin, Nina O’Brien and Zoe Zimmerman. Paula Moltzan, a University of Vermont ski racer  (see The Other World Cup Woman to Watch) during her hiatus from the U.S. Team, has been training at Stowe. And O’Brien, Zimmerman and newcomer Allie Resnick have been attending Dartmouth. “I remember cheering for Nina O’Brien when I was a young racer,” said Zimmerman at Friday night’s press conference. Another racer, Canada’s Laurence St. Germain, is also a former UVM Catamount ski racer.

Following a day of high winds and blowing snow that canceled the giant slalom, the women started immediately preparing for slalom  on Saturday. For the first time in decades the U.S. women’s tech team found themselves at the top of the World Cup rankings after the Soelden, Austria races so seeing Saturday’s giant slalom race cancelled was a “bit of a bummer”, as Moltzan put it.

Sunday’s First Run

But on Sunday morning, the sun shone. And while Petra Vhlova, starting first, set the pace, Shiffrin who started in 5th place, turned on the speed and finished just two tenths of a second behind. Wendy Holdener, the veteran racer from Switzerland finished in 3rd.

Paula Moltzan, who was ranked 11th in slalom on the World Cup last season started 15th. She skied strong coming in at just  1.40 back to move into 6th place, one of her strongest slalom finishes. Moltzan was cheered on by her entire extended family, as well as that of her fiance, former UVM ski racer Ryan Mooney. “Our family rented a house here and everyone’s here to cheer,” Moltzan had said before the races. That cheering appeared to have had an impact as she skied a solid, fast run. “I was bummed after yesterday because I love GS but I wanted to put out my best skiiing on the hill today for all my fans,” said Moltzan. “I love coming back to Killington — the crowd’s awesome, the hill’s awesome and I maybe had a bit of an advantage having skied here at UVM.  It feels like home for us to race here.”

Nina O’Brien started in 30th, putting her on a more rutted course than Shiffrin or Moltzan had to deal with. After making a few mistakes that she managed to recover from, she finished more than 4 seconds back, leaving her in 48th and putting her chances of a second run out of the question.  O’Brien’s words after the race:  “Thanks to all the Burkies for coming out and cheering. When I was there I had no idea I’d be here at the World Cup.”

The four other U.S. women were starting in the last third of the 63-racer roster, making their odds of breaking into the top 30 and earning a second run even harder. Their finishes were: Katie Hensien – 42nd,  AJ Hurt -46th,  Allie Resnick  -55 and Zoe Zimmerman – DNF.

Despite the odds, Sweden’s Hanna Aronsson Elfman, skied from a starting position of 60th to place to finish in 28th, earning a second run. Five racers did not finish the course, including American Zoe Zimmerman.

The Second Run Showdown

On the second run, Aronsson Elfman astounded everyone by putting in the second-fastest time of all the skiers on that run, putting the 18-year-old Swede in 15th overall.

Paula Moltzan of the United States skis the second run of the Women’s Slalom during the Audi FIS Ski World Cup – Homelight Killington Cup at Killington Resort on November 28, 2021 in Killington, Vermont. Photo: Dustin Satloff

Laurence St. Germain skied a clean and solid run to finish in 13th.  Her former UVM teammate Paula Moltzan did the same. While Moltzan had a chance to move up and potentially podium, she skied conservatively knowing it’s the start of a long season and finished in a strong 7th place.

The nail-biter came as the last three skiers all made strong descents, each with a minor mistake they recovered from. Wendy Holdener flashed through the course looking like it might be her turn to stand at the top of the podium. But then came Mikaela Shiffrin. Looking nervous at the start, she quickly found her groove, then got a bit back on her skis, one arm flailing behind her. She quickly pulled it forward and jumped into first place by a wide margin of 00.83 seconds over Holdener.

All that remained was to see how Petra Vhlova, who has been neck and neck with Shiffrin, would fare. The Slovakian also made. a mistake on the upper half of the course, adding split seconds to a race where she had been going faster than any other racer. In the end, that mistake cost her the top of the podium. She finished 0.75 behind Shiffrin.

It was Shiffrin’s 46th slalom win, tying Ingemar Stenmark’s record for the most wins in a single discipline. “I honestly didn’t know about that record,” Shiffrin said after the race. “That was a fight. I am not sure if I could have gone any faster. I was skiing aggressively out there and when you do so, you can make mistakes.”

Z Trip and O.A.R. performing.
2021 FIS Ski World Cup – HomeLight Killington Cup at Killington Resort
Photo: @usskiteam

Saturday’s weather did nothing to dampen the crowd, with the limited capacity spectator spots selling out at 10,000. O.A.R. played to a crowd that was ready to dance in the vendor village. And Sunday they were back again in record numbers, lining up to see G Love perform in the break between the two runs and to cheer for Shiffrin like never before.

As Shiffrin skied into the finish area a roar went up from the crowd. Shiffrin looked at the packed grandstands and cupped her hand to her ear, as if to say “louder, louder.”

Everyone in Killington complied.









Featured image: Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States skis the first run of the Women’s Slalom during the Audi FIS Ski World Cup – Homelight Killington Cup at Killington Resort on November 28, 2021 in Killington, Vermont. Photo: Dustin Satloff 

First run results are:

Killington_First Run Results


Lisa Lynn

Editor of VT SKI + RIDE and Vermont Sports.