Mikaela Shiffrin set to continue pursuit of wins record as World Cup arrives at Killington

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Shiffrin has 76 World Cup victories and is the only woman to win the slalom event in the five years it has been held at Vermont’s Killington ski area.

JUSSI NUKARI
Mikaela Shiffrin won two World Cup slalom races last weekend in Finland. JUSSI NUKARI/LEHTIKUVA/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

The Killington Cup is set to return on Thanksgiving weekend, bringing the best women’s ski racers in the world to Vermont for its annual FIS World Cup event.

Though initial preparations were slowed by unseasonably warm weather, a recent reemergence of colder conditions allowed Killington snowmakers to catch up. FIS organizers eased any remaining concerns by giving the official green light with a “positive snow control announcement” last week.

Racing will begin on Saturday with the giant slalom (the first runs start at 10 a.m.) and continues on Sunday with the slalom (first runs get underway at 10:15 a.m.). Both events will be shown on NBC, with coverage starting each day at 12:30 p.m. Races will be held on Killington’s “Superstar” trail.

Mikaela Shiffrin, who has won the Killington Cup slalom event in each of the five years it’s been held, will again take center stage. Shiffrin, 27, is already off to a fast start in the 2022-23 World Cup season, winning a pair of slalom races last weekend in Levi, Finland.

With the early season success, Shiffrin has 76 career World Cup victories, trailing only Lindsey Vonn (82) and Ingemar Stenmark (86) on the wins list. Shiffrin, a Colorado native who attended Vermont’s Burke Mountain Academy prior to turning professional, is excited for the only women’s World Cup event in the US this season.

“Killington is a magical race because of the atmosphere we get, the crowd, and the whole vibe around it, the home vibe feeling,” she explained in a preseason press conference in October. “It’s absolutely one of my favorite events of the season.”

In past editions of the event, crowd sizes have totaled nearly 40,000 across both days of racing. Starting in 2021, Killington organizers began to charge (the event was free for several years prior to that). Killington general manager Mike Solimano noted that the $5 daily fee for general admission will be reinvested in the Killington World Cup Foundation.

“They take that money really to promote ski racing in New England,” said Solimano. “The foundation donates that back in the form of grants to all different ski resorts or ski clubs across the region.”

Along with Shiffrin and a decorated international field of competitors, one potential plotline for fans to keep an eye on is the increasing depth of the US team. While Shiffrin has dominated for years, she has a growing number of teammates also skiing at a high level.

“I feel like we’re all competitive and pushing each other to the limit every time,” said US skier A.J. Hurt. Hurt has a particular affinity for the Killington race because it was where she made her professional debut in 2017 at the age of 16. Now 21 and with a few years of experience, Hurt is taking notice of what the US team is trying to build.

“I’ve never seen the team this big while I’ve been here and I think it’s really exciting,” she said. “I’m hoping to see some of the younger girls break in, which I think they definitely will this year.”

While Killington was able to quickly catch up on its snowmaking, the only potential issue for the event will be inclement weather on the actual race days. Forecasts indicate the potential for rain and snow for Sunday’s slalom, though Shiffrin said she has an underlying confidence in Killington as a venue.

“The weather doesn’t make it easy,” she admitted. “I think you can ask any of the course crew how it is to prepare the Killington slope just prior to those races. A lot of the years we’ve been there, it’s right up until the last minute where you’re thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, what are you going to do?’ But they’re almost always able to pull it off because of the professionalism and motivation and just general love for the sport in that area of the US.”

The Killington Cup has been held each year since 2016, with the exception of 2020 when the race was canceled because of the pandemic. In 2021, race organizers were forced to cancel the giant slalom because of high winds.

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