The Women’s Alpine Skiing World Cup will continue this weekend in Aspen, Colorado with a giant slalom on Friday, and slalom races on both Saturday and Sunday. Absent this season are last season’s overall World Cup champion Anna Fenninger, after tearing right knee ligaments in a training crash, and last season’s runner-up Tina Maze, who is having a year off from the sport before deciding if she makes a comeback.
Federica Brignone won the only race of the season so far in a dominant fashion by 0.85 seconds in Sölden in late October. She is one of the favorites for Friday’s giant slalom, in the slope where she scored her first World Cup podium by finishing third in November 2009, and was again third in last year’s race.
The victory in Sölden made Brignone one of the favorites for the giant slalom World Cup. The 25-year-old Italian is the 2011 World Championship silver medalist and had seven podium finishes over the past six World Cup seasons. However, she has lacked consistency and her best finish in the giant slalom standings was fifth in 2011. Dominant maiden victory in Sölden was a promising start to her season, showing she may be in the best form in her career.
Mikaela Shiffrin finished second in Sölden and is also one of the favorites for the giant slalom World Cup. The 20-year-old American had her best season in giant slalom last winter; first career GS win, two other podiums, and third place in season standings. She is still a young skier and her GS is still improving, so she can improve from last season’s results.
However, next weekend’s venue in Aspen has been a less successful one for Shiffrin. She is still in line to score a podium finish there, with her best GS result being last year’s sixth place.
Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather was third in the season-opener in Sölden. Although she is more of a downhill and super-G specialist, she has won a World Cup giant slalom and in the 2013-14 season she was as high as third in the GS standings before a season-ending injury at the Sochi Olympics, so she has the abilities to finish high in GS standings this season. Besides, she is one of the strongest contenders for the overall World Cup with very strong speed disciplines; doing well in Sölden’s giant slalom was a great start for her campaign. However, next weekend’s venue in Aspen has been very unsuccessful for Weirather, who has never finished a race there.
Similarly to Weirather, Sölden’s fourth-placed Lara Gut of Switzerland is also more of a speed specialist. Last season was very poor in giant slalom with a 24th-place finish in GS standings. However, the 2013-14 season was her best in GS; fourth place in season standings with three podiums, including her sole World Cup GS victory. Like Weirather, she is an overall World Cup contender who excels in speed disciplines.
Eva-Maria Brem won last year’s giant slalom in Aspen. Last season was the best in the 27-year-old Austrian’s career with four other podium finishes in addition to the Aspen win, and a second-place in the giant slalom World Cup. After her great season last year, an eighth place at the season-opener in Sölden was almost a disappointment.
Two-time GS World Cup champion Viktoria Rebensburg and the 2013 GS World Championship gold medalist Tessa Worley are also strong candidates to succeed this season. Worley was fifth in Sölden and had the second-fastest second run while Rebensburg was sixth with the fastest second run. Rebensburg has also had some success in speed disciplines, so she may have a chance for the overall World Cup if she could improve a bit in them.
USA’s Lindsey Vonn is set to make a comeback in Aspen following her ankle injury in summer training. Although she isn’t among the favorites to win the giant slalom World Cup, a strong giant slalom finish, besides her always so strong speed disciplines, would help her in the overall World Cup battle, especially as she is competing against great speed skiers with a strong GS, like Weirather. Fifth place in last year’s season-ending giant slalom in Méribel was a promising sign of Vonn being able to get good GS results.
Mikaela Shiffrin is the big favorite for the slalom season. She scored five victories to win her third consecutive slalom World Cup title and won the World Championship gold medal in slalom. However, Aspen has been an unsuccessful venue for her with her best slalom result being fifth from last year.
Also, one must not rule out Shiffrin winning the overall World Cup. She has a strong slalom, she may have a strong GS, and she is going to add super-G to her schedule. She was fourth in the overall standings last season, behind the now-absent Fenninger and Maze, and only 51 points behind the third-placed Vonn.
Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter has finished second in the slalom World Cup in last two seasons. She doesn't seem to be as fast as Shiffrin, yet she is a very consistent slalom skier. She has only two wins, 13 second place finishes and two third place finishes. Last year in the Aspen slalom she was second, losing to the now-retired Nicole Hosp.
Other skiers whom one can expect to succeed in slalom this season are Šárka Strachová (last season's fourth-place), Maria Pietilä-Holmner and Veronika Velez-Zuzulová (tied sixth-place), as well as eight-placed former junior World Champion Wendy Holdener.
Besides giant slalom, Federica Brignone competes in slalom as well as the super-G. However, those have been clearly worse disciplines than giant slalom for her, so it’s unlikely she would be a contender for the overall World Cup.