After a years hiatus, the FIS World Cup Ski races returned to Aspen. Fat city again hosted the world's fastest women in the Slalom and Giant Slalom. The best ski racers in the world ripped laps on Aspen Mountain returning to one of their favorite tour stops.
Aspen missed the world's fastest women, a.k.a. chicks on sticks last year...and it turns out the feeling was mutual. All the ladies made it very clear that Aspen is a highlight stop on their World Cup tour. For the U.S. Ski Team and several American girls who are funded independently it's the only tour stop on U.S. soil and the only time their friends and families attend their races. The Euros all commented on the special feeling they have for Aspen Mountain and it's fast, highly technical race course. Aspen hosted Giant Slalom on Saturday and Slalom on Sunday.
Click 4 pix: WORLD CLASS in ASPEN
Conditions were prime, maybe a touch warm...but the course was skiing great. Saturday's Giant Slalom challenged the ladies with plenty of technical terrain changes and the famous airplane turn above strawpile. Sunday's slalom competition was broadcast live worldwide on NBC TV.
The strong Austrian team dominated the results taking 4 of the 6 podium spots including both first place finishes. Eva-Marie Brem broke through for her first WC win ever, topping the field in the GS. She was quite emotional, crying during the awards ceremony and the press conference. All the other girls seemed truly happy for her. "We're all friends" shared one Canadian racer. Katrin Zettel, also Austrian finished second. She always finds a way to the podium in Aspen, holding the record for most top 3 results of any world cup skier on Aspen Mountain.
Nicole Hosp from Austria topped a very competitive field in Slalom. It was Hosp's first win since 2008 after overcoming a series of excruciating injuries. USA's Mikaela Shiffrin had a great weekend with a 6th in the GS and 5th in Slalom. 2 top 10's was cause for celebration 2 years ago in Aspen for Shiffrin. This year, however, the expectations are about as high as they can be for the Queen apparent of U.S. Skiing. Shiffrin is the reining WC champ and Olympic champ in Slalom...so she is now expected to win...every time. She had a good chance to take the slalom victory..but a slight falter on run 2 led to 5th. While disappointed at not taking the top spot on home soil...Shiffrin is poised and ready to move on to the next race. She is currently in 2nd place in the overall World Cup standings behind Zettel.
All-in-all it was a great weekend. Aspen Mountain and Snowmass are open and skiing beautifully. A kick-off party to celebrate the bib draw along with an autograph signing with the U.S. Ski Team started it all off on Friday Reel Big Fish a ska-punk band from Huntington Beach, Ca. played a free outdoor show at the base of Aspen Mountain followed by the prerequisite fireworks display. A full-on sponsors village anchored by Audi, plus free food from Aspen Skiing Company's catering department made those of us who are not VIP's feel like VIP's. The stands were packed on both days. The crowds were the largest I've seen in my 12 years attending the races in Aspen. Perfect weather for spectating did not hurt. The WC set up seemed to have it turned up a notch...perhaps in preparation for Aspen's hosting of the WC Finals in March of 2017.
It was good to have the "White Circus" back in Aspen.
Click 4 pix: WORLD CLASS in ASPEN