Women's World Cup touches down in Aspen
It's go time for the American women this holiday weekend, as Mikaela Shiffrin, Julia Mancuso and Resi Stiegler are hoping to throw down on their home snow at the World Cup tech races in Aspen Saturday and Sunday.
Lindsey Vonn, who as been battling a stomach illness the past couple weeks, is expected make announcement regarding her race status at a press briefing Friday afternoon. The four-time overall champ, who has never snagged a podium in Aspen, has been back on snow freeskiing and running gates in Vail since last weekend.
The Nature Valley Aspen Winternational is the only women's Audi FIS Alpine World Cup stop in the U.S. The event opens Saturday with a giant slalom, followed by slalom on Sunday.
Certainly all eyes will be on 17-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin, who is coming off her second-career podium result in Levi, Finland two weeks ago. Shiffrin's opening GS performance in Soelden left something to be desired, as she missed second-run qualification by a mere hundredth of a second. Nevertheless, the young star has reportedly been tearing it up on the new radius and is growing more confident in giant slalom everyday.
"The atmosphere in Aspen is amazing," said Shiffrin. "It feels like home and is one of my favorite race hills. But it's also one of the most difficult; the slalom hill is technical and has a lot of terrain that begins with the steepest start on the World Cup circuit. The giant slalom course is also incredibly tough. It has even more terrain than the slalom course with multiple pitch changes and a lot of blind break overs. It’s one of those courses that you really need to inspect."
Mancuso has been training in Colorado since early November and was third in the Aspen giant slalom last season.
"I love racing in Aspen, it’s such a fun town and close to my home in Squaw Valley," said Mancuso. "It’s a really difficult hill, really steep — you can’t relax. You have to go at it until you finish. … Mikaela Shiffrin is doing awesome. I have to watch my back so she doesn’t beat me."
"Julia has done an incredible job preparing for another podium in Aspen and Mikaela is skiing very well," said Head Coach Alex Hoedlmoser. "She already has a podium this season and should have the confidence to go all out and show how good she is."
The event also marks the World Cup return of Resi Stiegler, who tore her ACL at the March World Cup Finals.
Other GS starters include Megan McJames, Abby Ghent and Julia Ford, who has been dealing with an ankle injury in recent weeks and will emphasize being back to full strength at the Lake Louise speed events next weekend.
Hailey Duke and Paula Moltzan will make slalom starts. It will be the first World Cup starts for Ghent and Moltzan.
NBC and NBC Sports Network will carry TV coverage from Aspen beginning at 1 p.m. ET on Nov. 25 with the second run of slalom airing live on NBC Sports Network at 3 p.m. ET.
Photos: GEPA and Aspen/Jeremy Swanson