MARIBOR, SLOVENIA (Feb. 21, 2015)—The best female ski racers in the world competed in front of a rowdy Slovenian crowd on Saturday that rivaled that of the World Championships in Beaver Creek, CO. They were loud and they were ready to see hometown heroine Tina Maze perform. Just two Americans competed in Maribor: Mikaela Shiffrin (Vail, CO) and Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO). Shiffrin was just off the podium—in fifth place—and Vonn did not finish.
SAALBACH-HINTERGLEMM (Feb. 21, 2015)—The rarely-used Schneekristall-Zwolfer track is non-stop from top to bottom. A high-speed signature course, racers question whether this track is more challenging than the famed Kitzbuehel one. On a day where the light was flat, the terrain sharp and the wind blowing, the Americans were put to the test, with just two racers finishing—Wiley Maple (Aspen, CO) was 17th and Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, CA) was 19th.
The Austrians—who trained on this hill after World Championships—seemed to have had the track figured out, as they dominated with a full podium sweep. Matthias Mayer finished first, Max Franz second by just .02, and Hannes Reichelt in third.
U.S. Ski Team alpine press officer Megan Harrod chimes in with her experience at February’s hometown World Championships.
Now that the stands are empty, the cowbells have quieted and the dust has settled on the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail/Beaver Creek, all that is left is the memories. As 70 nations descended upon Vail and Beaver Creek, we dreamed. We lived. And we shared.
For those that couldn’t make it to the unbelievable hometown event, here are the top 15 memories we’ll take away from World Championships this year.
USSA columnist Tom Kelly takes a look at Ted Ligety's shiny, new gold medal in this week's Behind the Gold.
Alpine ski racing is a unique athletic endeavor. If you’re a track star standing at the starting line for the 100 meters, you know the course is, well, 100 meters. You get on point, watch for the starting gun’s flash and spin your wheels straight to the finish. You don’t think about six-inch deep ruts or chunks of ice. You don’t worry about the sticky, wet late afternoon snow that will suck your skis to a crawl in the finish flats.
No offense to the amazing athletic feats of track stars, or swimmers or other athletes who have well defined courses. If you’re an alpine ski racer, you’re on edge for every single turn. You may have trained your life for that one race. But when you hit that changing light that takes away your vision in a transition, you’re cooked.
VAIL/BEAVER CREEK, CO (Feb. 15. 2015)—After almost two weeks of bluebird skies and warm temperatures, winter weather returned for the last day of the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. Battling blowing snow and difficult visibility, France’s Jean-Baptiste Grange won a thrilling slalom gold, followed by Germany’s Fritz Dopfer and Felix Neureuther in second and third, respectively. Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) and Tim Kelley (Starksboro, VT) were the only American finishers, taking 21st and 23rd place, respectively.
The weather proved to play a role in Sunday’s slalom final standings. The course was injected and very icy on the top of the hill. Then, two inches of fresh snow coated the hockey rink-slick surface, making for a challenging slalom course.
VAIL/BEAVER CREEK, CO (Feb. 15, 2015) – The U.S. Ski Team wrapped up the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships with a strong closing weekend, finishing with five medals – including two golds – and standing second in the medals behind Austria. It was among the best performances ever by the Team. As the host nation, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) also used the World Championships as a platform to bring alpine ski racing to America through a pioneering domestic broadcast program, reaching the biggest national audience for skiing ever outside the Olympics.
“The Championships have exceeded our expectations,” said International Ski Federation Secretary General Sarah Lewis, citing the huge crowds, exciting atmosphere in the Vail Valley as well as the domestic and international broadcast distribution and media coverage. Under the leadership of Ceil Folz, the organizers produced great race venues and created an engaging American ski festival atmosphere.
VAIL/BEAVER CREEK, CO (Feb. 14. 2015)—The Vail/Beaver Creek community turned out in force to cheer on their hometown superstar, Mikaela Shiffrin (Vail, CO) in Saturday’s slalom, and Shiffrin treated her family, friends and fans to a triumphant show. Shiffrin won the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships slalom in dramatic fashion, adding to her already stacked resume. In second place was Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter and Sarka Strachova of the Czech Republic was third.
Wearing bib number two, Shiffrin did not have to wait long for her chance to perform on hometown turf. Slovenia’s Tina Maze preceded Shiffrin out of the start gate, skiing well enough for a top five spot in the first run standings.
VAIL/BEAVER CREEK, CO (Feb. 13. 2015)—With only a few days left in the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, spring-like temperatures and a slick, fast course made for a men’s giant slalom to remember. When it was all said and done, Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) won the event in historic and thrilling fashion in front of the home crowd. Rounding out the giant slalom podium were Austria’s Marcel Hirscher and France’s Alexis Pinturault in second and third, respectively.
The GS at the World Championships is known as the most technical of all the disciplines, and this year’s event was rife with drama. Prior to Friday morning’s first run, experts were calling this a three-man race. Giant slalom is Ligety’s specialty and he has dominated it for more than half a decade, but Hirscher and Pinturault had joined Ligety as odds-on favorites to compete for the GS gold medal.
VAIL/BEAVER CREEK, CO (Feb. 12. 2015)—The speed races wrapped on Beaver Creek’s renowned Birds of Prey terrain and the World Champs focus switched to the technical events. Of the 116 women at the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships giant slalom (GS) on Thursday, Mikaela Shiffrin (Vail, CO) took eighth and Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO) was 14th. In the end, Austria’s Anna Fenninger stood atop the podium, flanked by Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany in second and Sweden's Jessica Lindell-Vikarby in third.
The two-run GS is known as the most technical of all the World Cup disciplines, requiring precision and speed. Billed as the most competitive race of the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships, the women’s GS event became a competition for silver and bronze after Austrian superstar Anna Fennigner’s first run. Fenninger went into the second run with a massive 1.70-second lead over the runner up in the first run.
VAIL/BEAVER CREEK, CO (Feb. 11. 2015)—Tuesday’s team event marked a transition at the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. The gears are shifting, as the athletes trade speed events for technical races. The downhill and super G races are in the U.S. Ski Team’s rearview mirror, and the athletes are now focused on the upcoming giant slalom and slalom races. On deck, women’s GS on Thursday.
Mikaela Shiffrin (Vail, CO) will headline the American skiers in the GS. Shiffrin, the 19-year-old Vail local, has a skiing resume that belies her young age, with 12 wins and 21 podiums in four seasons on the World Cup, one Olympic gold medal, and a World Championship medal during her meteoric rise into the World Cup elite.