Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team Kicks Off World Cup Action
After seven months of preparation both on and off the mountain, the highly anticipated FIS Ski World Cup circuit will kick off on the mighty and menacing Rettenbach Glacier in Sölden, Austria on October 26-27.
Olympic champion and reigning overall, super-G, giant slalom, slalom champion Mikaela Shiffrin and Olympic champion Ted Ligety will lead the way for the Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team squad that’s 11-deep and features some fresh, new faces too. The U.S. has a long history of success at the Austrian venue, featuring 11 podiums between Mikaela and Ted, Mikaela’s first-ever giant slalom victory in 2014, and Ted’s four victories (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015), which is a record at the venue. In 2012, Ted’s victory margin was 2.75 seconds over Italy’s Manfred Moelgg.
Early season snowfall has allowed for some of the best conditions the Rettenbach has seen in years. After two years of canceled men’s races due to heavy snow, low visibility and high winds, the weather forecast is looking like sunshine for both Saturday and Sunday’s races. The men and women had a unique opportunity to lap the World Cup track in training this past week before they closed the track for World Cup preparation.
At elevations of 3,040 to 2,670 meters top-to-bottom, Sölden boasts the highest start of the 2019/20 season. The pitch is menacing. It’s the longest, steepest, sustaining pitch on the World Cup, and finishes with long flats - making it vital for athletes to carry their speed from the steeps to the flats and through the finish...quite often leaving athletes in a sort of "what just happened to me" quandary when they arrive in the finish. Because the opener is so far ahead of the bulk of the season, athletes use Sölden as a bit of a state-of-the-state…a pulse-check on how all of that spring and summer equipment tinkering went, and whether or not the summer conditioning and skiing set them up for success this season.
Mikaela will lead a crew of five starters, including seven-time national champ Nina O’Brien, two-time national champ AJ Hurt, 2019 national giant slalom champion Keely Cashman, and former University of Denver Ski Team athlete Storm Klomhaus, who will make her World Cup debut on the Rettenbach. “The prep camp has been going quite well,” Mikaela said on Monday in a conference call with the media.
“Definitely have been skiing a ton of GS, which is awesome...the weather has been great and there’s more snow than I remember here the past few years,” she continued. They opened up the race hill for training for most of the teams the last four days and we got to get on the hill. It’s in great condition, and they’re planning to inject it with some water too. Everyone always asks [at Sölden] if I’m ready and I’m like ‘I’m not ready right now, but I will be on race day, right?!’ - so that’s kind of how I’m feeling."
Storm went to the U.S. Ski & Snowboard TEAM Academy and was on the development team prior to attending the University of Denver, but she missed the last two seasons due to injury. In the last two years, she’s had five surgeries on her left knee and one on her right knee in the last two years. Storm is in her senior year at DU, studying biochemistry and pre-med. She found out she would be getting her first World Cup start the evening before her 21st birthday. Pretty sweet birthday gift, huh?! “It’s been a whirlwind missing most of last season, and now starting this one with my first World Cup start, I couldn’t be more excited,” she said.
On the men’s side, veteran Ted will lead six athletes, including Tommy Ford - who was ranked ninth in the world last season in giant slalom, six-time national champ Ryan Cochran-Siegle, two-time 2019 Junior World gold medalist River Radamus, 2018 NCAA GS champion Brian McLaughlin, and current Dartmouth Big Green athlete Nick Krause.
What has it been like for River to train with one of his childhood heroes, Ted? “Ted leads by example,” he said recently in an interview with FIS. “When Ted steps on the hill there’s an aura of professionalism that you can feel. He takes his business dead series in a way that makes you feel guilty if you take it less so. Him being there raises the game of everyone around.”
Stay tuned to our Instagram account, because with all of the hype and excitement around the World Cup opener at Sölden - from ski crazed Austrians frothing at the mouth to watch their ski gods take center stage to fan clubs in a drunken stupor (the main sponsor is a beer sponsor, after all) - there's bound to be a lot of antics and action.
*Denotes first World Cup Start
HOW TO WATCH
All times EST.
Preliminary schedule, subject to change
Exclusive commercial-free coverage will be available for subscribers of the NBC Sports Gold Pass, available here: https://www.nbcsports.com/gold/snow
The reason Soelden is available via Gold Pass rather than NBCSN or Olympic Channel is that alpine races held in Austria are not part of the TV agreement that NBC Sports has with FIS. They are controlled and sold by a different rights holder, and were purchased by NBC Sports Gold for exclusive use within “Snow Pass.” If you have any further questions, please reach out to NBC Sports Gold's help desk at firstname.lastname@example.org.