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Soelden opener: An early season tradition


Soelden opener: An early season tradition{mosimage}Today was the fifth year in a row that the World Cup season kicked off with an early race at Soelden, Austria. Starting so early each year is a concept that the FIS enacted in the 1990s, hoping to jump-start the public’s interest in the sport.

Ski industry groups equipment manufacturers and resort owners particularly like the idea, since recreational skiers are generally thought to spend more money on skiing at the front end of the season than the back.

For the past five years, the season opener has consisted of a pair of giant slaloms at Soelden, but it wasn’t always the case. Before that, Soelden alternated with Tignes, France, to host the event.

Both resorts are at high altitude, with snowcover made reliable by the presence of large and retreating glaciers. The start of the Rettenbach course is 3,050 meters above sea level (just over 10,000 feet).

Recently there has been talk of filling the post-Soelden period on the calendar with more World Cup races. Finland is one nation that has expressed interest in hosting such a race. Its slalom venue at Levi is on the 2006-07 FIS draft calendar for the early part of November.

Both of last year’s Soelden winners (Anja Paerson and Bode Miller) went on to earn the crystal globe at the end of the year the coveted trophy for the men’s and women’s overall World Cup champions.

Tina Maze savors Soelden giant slalom victoryTina Maze wins Soelden opener; Kristina Koznick 17th for U.S.

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