| VailDaily.com

With Hirscher retired, who wins the men’s World Cup?

What now? While we understandably obsess about women’s World Cup ski racing, and the entire world thinks that Mikaela Shiffrin will four-peat as the overall champion, who knows what’s going to happen this season with the men?

The great Marcel Hirscher announced his retirement last month, and since he’s won the last eight World Cup championships in dominating fashion, no one has any idea who ascends the throne.

In 2011, the last time Hirscher didn’t win, Croatia’s Ivica Kostelic brought home the globe, followed by Switzerland’s Didier Cuche and Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal. They’re all retired.

Italy’s Christof Innerhofer finished fourth — he’s now 34 — and Switzerland’s Carlo Janka, the Iceman, 33, took fifth.

We are likely going to see a whole new generation emerge from Hirscher’s shadow when the men kick out of the gate in Soelden, Austria, on Sunday for the traditional season-opening giant slalom.

Following the path

Historically, the World Cup champ raced in all five disciplines — downhill, super-G, GS, slalom and combined. (The parallel slalom/GS/city event wasn’t a thing yet.)

In addition to winning an unprecedented eight titles, Hirscher redefined how to win those globes. He dominated tech events — crushing the giant slalom and slalom while entering the occasional combined.

Hirscher never entered a downhill during his entire career. He raced just 22 super-G, winning just one at Birds of Prey, not surprising given that it is one of the more technical speed courses on tour.

Another thing that helped Hirscher and likely benefits Shiffrin, certainly more of an all-around racer than the Austrian but whose wheelhouse is GS and slalom, is that there are more technical events than speed on the modern schedule.

Straight up, the men have 21 tech races (nine giant slaloms and 12 slaloms) and 18 speed races (10 downhills and eight super-G’s). Now add in the new genre of parallel giant slaloms/slaloms/city events and combined events, which favor the tech racers and the techsters have 26 events to the speedsters’ 18.

So, as we try to guess who emerges in a post-Hirscher world, tech specialists might be a place to start.

The leading contenders for this path would be France’s Alexis Pinturault and Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen. The Frenchman finished second in the points last year, while the Norwegian was fourth. Both have been laboring in Hirscher’s shadow.

Pinturault might be the next Mr. GS, with apologies to Ted Ligety. He’s finished either third or second in that discipline’s point chase for the last seven seasons. Of his 23 career World Cup wins, Pinturault has won 11 times in GS and has eight wins in combined.

Kristoffersen had a better year last season in GS with his two World Cup wins and a gold medal from the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in that discipline, but his background is slalom. Fifteen of his 18 career wins are in slalom.

Need for speed

As noted, with fewer speed races on the slate, it’s harder for the pure downhiller to win the overall. One has to go back to Cuche in 2006-07 for a true ski-tips-down guy winning the big globe.

Yes, Janka (2010), Svindal (2009) and Bode Miller (2008) were good at speed, but 75 percent of Cuche’s points in 2006-07 were from downhill and super-G.

Piinturault finished last season with 1,233 points, the most among male racers not named Hirscher, followed by Italy’s Domink Paris (1,119), who is the top returning speed stud, followed by Kristoffersen (1,101).

Other speedsters to watch are Austria’s Vincent Kriechmayr, Switzerland’s Beat Feuz and Mauro Caviezel and Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud.

The wild card?

In an increasing world of specialization, Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde is the closest racer there is to an overall guy along with Pinturault. Kilde finished eighth in the points last year

Not as well known as the rest of the Fighting Vikings — Svindal, Jansrud, and Kristoffersen — Kilde does have the tools and is only 27, still young coming from a predominantly speed background.

Just keep an eye on Kilde.

As much as it would be cool to have a speedster rule the roost — go Paris — we still like Pinturault or Kristoffersen to capture the globe in the post-Hirscher era.

So what does Mikaela Shiffrin do for an encore?

In 1498, Leonardo Da Vinci painted “The Last Supper.”

How does one top that? Well, roughly within the next 10 years, Da Vinci created the “Mona Lisa.”

Yes, the comparison is extreme — Alpine ski-racer Mikaela Shiffrin is not quite on Da Vinci’s level when it comes to contributions to humanity — but the expectations for the 2019-20 World Cup season which starts on Saturday with a giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, are.

After winning 19 of her 29 starts in 2018-19— between the World Cup and the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships — setting a record for World Cup wins in a season (17), winning two golds at worlds (super-G and slalom), scoring 2,184 World Cup points, the second most in World Cup history for her third consecutive overall title, winning discipline titles in super-G, giant slalom and slalom and finishing in the top 10 of all 29 races she entered, how does she follow that?

Is it possible to paint a “Mona Lisa” after you just finished “The Last Supper?” The tendency is to scale back expectations after her 2018-19 season.

  • • After Slovenian Tina Maze conquered everything during her record 2012-13 season, scoring a record 2,414 points with 11 World Cup wins and one worlds gold (super-G), she “slumped” down to 964 points, one World Cup win and two Olympic wins in Russia.
  • • Lindsey Vonn’s apex was the 2011-2012 season with 1,980 points and 12 victories. She continued her dominance with six wins in 2012-13 until she blew up her right knee at the worlds super-G in Schladming, Austria, inexorably altering her career.
  • • Hermann Maier followed his 2,000 points in 2000, including 10 wins, quite well with 1,948 points, another World Cup title, globes in downhill and super-G, 13 World Cup wins, including the Birds of Prey downhill, and a silver medal in the downhill at worlds.

History says it’s daunting for Shiffrin to come close to repeating was she did last season. Yet there is the part of the brain that asks what is not possible with Shiffrin?

After a record-setting season in 2018-19, expectations are sky-high for Mikaela Shiffrin.
Gabriele Facciotti | Associated Press file photo

Her performance trend line of World Cup wins has gone from six in 2014-2015 to 11 in 2016-17 — she did her ACL in 2015-16 — to 12 in 2017-18 to 17 last year. She has expanded her skillset out of being a Marcel Hirscher-tech racer — she won the super-G season crown last year. She even won a downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta, in December 2017.

The heart says, “Of course, she can.” The brain still advises caution.

For starters

Shiffrin will be kicking out for the eighth time in her career in Soelden, and she has “only” one win there in her career (2014). She started last season with a third-place finish, so much like an NFL opener, it’s best not to make too much of the first race of the season.

Traditionally, Levi, Finland, the first slalom of the season — Nov. 23 this year — has been friendlier to her. In six starts, she’s won three times, been on the podium five times and finished 11th in 2014, after which, by her standards, she royally chewed herself out in the press.

If she isn’t in the win column after Soelden and Levi, there’s Killington, Vermont, the only “home” stop on the tour. Holding a GS and a slalom race over Thanksgiving weekend, Shiffrin’s won one race there each of the last three years near her old stomping grounds at the Burke Academy.

Lake Louise, the first speed stop of the season, is usually on her schedule. The slope, being one of the tamer on the circuit, has always been a comfortable place for Shiffrin. She’s the defending super-G champ there on Dec. 8.

Does Shiffrin win the overall?

Very simply, yes.

This is more math than skiing. Shiffrin is part of a dying breed of overall racers. While she won’t enter every downhill this season, she’ll enter enough and win “bonus points” by finishing in the top 30. Again, she finished no worse than ninth — a position worth 29 points in the World Cup standings — last year.

Had she not entered any speed events (downhill or super-G) last year, she still would have run away from her nearest competition, Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, 1,655-1,383.

Let’s say her victory total drops by more than half, plummetting from 17 to eight. That’s still a base of 800 points and not a long road to get to Vlhova’s 1,383.

Vlhova will be Shiffrin’s biggest competition for the slalom title. Shiffrin has won that globe six of the last seven years, the only miss coming with her ACL injury in 2015.

GS should be a fun chase all season with Shiffrin (675 points last year), Vlhova (578), France’s Tessa Worley (500) and Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg (460).

What about speed?

These are probably the biggest questions? Does Shiffrin repeat as the super-G champ? Doubt it. Remember that bad weather — lack of snow or too much — scrubbed a bunch of super-Gs, in which Shiffrin was not scheduled to compete.

There are seven super-Gs this year, and she won’t compete in them all.

That said, does she compete in more downhills this year? The 2019-20 season is the only in a four-year schedule without a world championships or an Olympics. The schedule is more spread out than usual.

The women’s World Cup has a stretch from Jan. 25-March 1 with 10 speed events (four downhills, four super-Gs, and two combineds) with just two tech events, a GS and slalom in Maribor, Slovenia.

This might be an opportunity to enter a few speed races without losing her edge in her bread and butter. In an interview with the Vail Daily in August, she said she was considering it.

“There are speed races that I am considering, at least that I wouldn’t have otherwise if it were busy as it has been,” Shiffrin said. “In a sense, the schedule is not easier but makes it possible to explore some different things. For sure, it’s a good year to push myself a little bit more, not too much but just see what the possibilities are.”

So how many wins?

When in doubt, follow the money. Bwin.com, an international betting website, has Shiffrin at -500 to win the overall, meaning that you have to bet $500 to win $100. Vlhova is next at +1000 — $100 to win $1,000.

The money overwhelmingly likes Shiffrin for a fourth consecutive World Cup title, and we agree.

On Interwetten.com, one can make bets on season-specific numbers. Will a racer win more than 13 races? The odds are 75-1 and keep in mind, Shiffrin had 17 last year.

How about a bet on someone earning more than 960 points in slalom? (Shiffrin had 980 last year.) That’s 150-1. Two-thousand points in a season? It’s 250-1.

Of course, we use these numbers for recreational purposes only, but they go back to how ridiculous Shiffrin was last year, and how hard a repeat of those accomplishments are. The gambling industry does not stay in business by giving away money,

We’ll go with 12 wins for Shiffrin, the World Cup championship, and the slalom title, but not GS.

In the meantime, Shiffrin is probably looking for her paintbrushes.

Goodbye fall, hello winter: 15 winter events coming to Vail, Beaver Creek

From Burton US Open in Vail to Birds of Prey at Beaver Creek, here’s a list of events coming to Vail and Beaver Creek this winter.

Oct. 25-27

Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Ski & Snowboard Swap

Celebrating 50 years, the annual SSCV Ski & Snowboard Swap has all of the gear you need for the upcoming winter. From skis and snowboards to helmets, gloves and goggles — used and new — everything is available for great prices. A portion of proceeds benefit Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. Sell your gear by dropping off accepted items on one of three days leading up to the event. Visit www.vailskiswap.com for more information and details about how to sell your gear.

Dobson Ice Arena in Vail is filled with all sorts of winter gear during the annual Ski and Snowboard Swap.
Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaildaily.com

Oct. 26

2019 Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame Induction

The Class of 2019 includes Aspen’s Gretchen Bleiler, an Olympic silver medalist in halfpipe in 2006; Jeff Gorsuch, an Aspen ski retailer and philanthropist; the late Martin Hart, who helped transform Steamboat Springs; Steve Raymond, co-founder of the Adaptive Spirit program; and the Pioneer Hall of Fame selection Jake Hoeschler, of Winter Park, who revolutionized the ski retail industry with his exclusive ski liability insurance program. Tickets for the gala, taking place at Vail Marriott Mountain Resort in Lionshead, are $325, with tables of 10 available starting at $3,750. A $250 individual ticket is also available but doesn’t include seating location preference. Visit www.snowsportsmuseum.org or call 970-476-1876 for tickets or more information. The Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame is located in Vail.

Gretchen Bleiler won silver at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy, and finished her historic snowboarding career with four X Games golds. She will be inducted into the Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame in October.

Nov. 15

Vail Mountain Opening Day

New this year, early-season snowmaking efforts shift from Lionshead toward Gondola One, with the largest snowmaking project currently underway in North America happening at Vail Mountain — on pace to be the largest ever completed in a one-year span. First to open will be Swingsville and Ramshorn. Get those legs ready, skis waxed and be ready for Day 1. Visit www.vail.com

Vail Mountain, opening
Vail Mountain is scheduled to open Friday, Nov. 15.
Vail Resorts

Nov. 27

Beaver Creek Opening Day

A day at Beaver Creek is never complete without Cookie Time — including Opening Day. The lifts are scheduled to start turning at Beaver Creek the day before Thanksgiving. The 15th annual Cookie Competition takes place at 2 p.m. leading up to the regular — and daily — 3 p.m. Cookie Time at Beaver Creek. Visit www.beavercreek.com.

Beaver Creek is scheduled to open Wednesday, Nov. 27 — the day before Thanksgiving.
Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaildaily.com

Select Fridays throughout the winter

10th Mountain Legacy Parade

Skiers dressed in traditional 10th Mountain Division Ski Trooper uniforms perform a torchlight ski down Vail Mountain to the base of Gondola One followed by a parade of military veterans through Vail Village and more. Dates are Fridays: Nov. 29; Dec. 27; Jan. 3 and 17; Feb. 14; and March 6. For more information, visit www.vail.com.

Military veteran dressed as traditional 10th Mountain Division soldiers march down Bridge Street during a 10th Mountain Legacy Parade last winter. Legacy Parades return to Vail during select Fridays this winter.
Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaildaily.com

Dec. 5-8

Birds of Prey World Cup at Beaver Creek

Ranked as the No. 1 overall stop by the athletes and coaches who participate, Birds of Prey brings men’s World Cup super-G, downhill and giant slalom races to Beaver Creek. In addition to the fastest men on skis racing down Beaver Creek’s Birds of Prey, the event includes live music, beer tastings, ski films, parties and more. Visit www.bcworldcup.com.

The world’s fastest men on skis come to Beaver Creek each year for Birds of Prey World Cup races. This year’s races are Dec. 5-8.
Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaildaily.com

Dec. 12-15

Vail Snow Days

This four-day festival brings free music to Ford Park in Vail, in-town and on-mountain early season specials, après and after-dark parties, an expo village and more. Musical acts are TBD. Visit www.vailsnowdays.com.

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats were one of the big-name acts at last year’s Vail Snow Days festival. This year’s Snow Days are scheduled for Dec. 12-15.
Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaildaily.com

Dec. 14-31

Vail Holidays

A two-week celebration, Vail Holidays takes place in December and includes Vail Snow Days; activities for kids including ice skating and cookie decorating; the annual tree lighting ceremony and lantern walk at Vail Mountain; a New Year’s Eve fireworks show; and more. Get in the holiday spirit this year with Vail Holidays. Visit www.vail.com.

Vail Holidays features lots of activities to keep kids entertained.
Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaildaily.com

Feb. 14-18

Vail Legacy Days

Vail Legacy Days is a four-day celebration of the rich history of Vail and the legacy left by its founders, former members of the 10th Mountain Division and the community members that made Vail what it is today. Celebrate the legacy of Vail with the 10th Mountain Parade, 75th anniversary Riva Ridge Ski Down and more. Visit www.vail.com.

Vail Legacy Days celebrates the rich history of Vail in February.
Special to the Daily

Feb. 22

Talon’s Challenge at Beaver Creek

You vs. 26,266 vertical feet at Beaver Creek — are you up for the Talon’s Challenge? The 17th annual Talon’s Challenge pits skiers and snowboards against 14 black and double black diamond runs — totaling over 26,000 vertical feet — in one day. Celebrate the accomplishment at the après party at Talon’s restaurant. Visit www.beavercreek.com.

Are you up for the Talon’s Challenge this year?
Townsend Bessent | Daily file photo |

Feb. 24-29

Burton US Open

Returning to Vail, the Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships bring the best men and women in the world to the halfpipe and slopestyle courses on Vail Mountain. The five-day event features free music, a party at Dobson Ice Arena and activities for kids, including a learn-to-ride Riglet Park and Burton Girls Ride Days. Visit www.vail.com.

The Burton US Open returns to Vail in February, bringing the world’s best male and female snowboarders to town.
Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaild

March 26-29

17th annual Vail Film Festival

The Vail Film Festival brings impressive, unique films to Vail each year, from documentaries to shorts to features. Organizers of the Vail Film Festival each year focus on promoting women in the industry. Mix in some films with your ski days March 26-29. Visit www.vailfilmfestival.com.

“Once Upon a River” showed at the Vail Film Festival in August. The Vail Film Festival returns in March.
Special to the Daily

March 28

Pink Vail

Vail Mountain turns pink every year on Pink Vail, a fundraiser that brings nearly 3,000 people dressed in pink together to benefit the Shaw Cancer Center. Participants range in age from 1 to 95 years old, including cancer survivors. Watch out for Team Double Stuffed — a top fundraising team every year. The day includes checkpoints across the mountain, live music, a headquarters at the base and lots of pink. Visit www.pinkvail.com.

Pink Vail brings together cancer fighters, survivors as well as friends and family who ride in memory of loved ones.
Weekly file photo

April 1-4

Taste of Vail

The annual Taste of Vail brings together three essentials in life: food, drink and skiing. The four-day festival includes a Debut of Rosé 2020/First Taste of 2019 Rosé event; American Lamb Cook-Off & Aprés Ski Tasting; Grand Tasting; and Mountain Top Tasting. Visit www.tasteofvail.com. Ticket prices vary by event.

Taste of Vail’s Mountain Top Tasting brings together cozy spring dishes, decadent desserts and wines chosen for outdoor sipping.
Townsend Bessent | Townsend@vaildaily.com

April 10-19

Spring Back to Vail

The annual Spring Back to Vail is a celebration of the changing of the seasons and features the World Pond Skimming Championships at Lake Golden Peak, free live music and more heading into the final days of the ski season.

A snowboarder tries to skim across the pond at the base of Golden Peak for the World Pond Skimming Championship at Spring Back to Vail.
Photo Courtesy Vail Resorts

Closing Days

  • Vail: April 29
  • Beaver Creek: April 12
Check out the Vail Daily’s on-mountain snow report this winter, On the Hill, available on www.VailDaily.com and YouTube.
Ross Leonhart | rleonhart@vaildaily.com

Assistant editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.

Mikaela Shiffrin talks 2019-20, cycling and doughnuts

AVON — How in the wide world of sports does Mikaela Shiffrin follow up a record-obliterating 2018-19 World Cup season with 17 wins on tour — 19, if one includes FIS Alpine World Ski Championships golds in super-G and slalom — a career-high in points (2,184) and four crystal globes, including her third straight overall title?

Maybe, you don’t.

“Last season was almost a surprise, some of those super-G wins, world championship super-G, especially,” Shiffrin said Wednesday at the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa in Avon. “I definitely realized how much I believed in myself, stepping into some of the starting gates just knowing that I could win if I really skied my heart out, and I did. I’m going to try to keep the same mentality this year. It’s the same thing. I still don’t expect anything. I’m trying to keep low expectations and high standards. It worked. It was so much more enjoyable for me to ski and, I think, it was more enjoyable for people to watch.”

So as Shiffrin took a break from what she describes as her summer/fall on-snow training — she was in Argentina earlier this week and hits snow again next week — to promote the Colorado Classic, presented by VF Corp., she sounded a bit like dialing down her expectations for 2019-20.

“In a way, I don’t know if there is anything to follow up,” Shiffrin said. “It was an incredible season. I’m really, really proud of it, me and my entire team were so proud of everything we accomplished last season. It’s kind of continuing to move forward.”

More speed?

Not surprisingly bedecked in an Adidas T-shirt and off-white sneakers — some of the goodies from her new deal — and blue jeans, Shiffrin spoke to Colorado Classic racers, patrons and local dignitaries Wednesday evening.

While giving “mad respect” to the women’s racers, who take on the second stage of the Colorado Classic today in Avon and Beaver Creek, Shiffrin isn’t about to take up competitive cycling.

“Road rash, I never signed up for that,” she joked.

She’s also gearing up for a World Cup season, starting with the traditional Soelden, Austria, giant slalom Oct. 26. This season is the exception to the rule — the one year out of every four when there are no world championships or Olympics.

With a little more space on the calendar, particularly in late-January and February — when speed dominates a stretch of 10 of 12 World Cup events — Shiffrin dropped a hint that she may be inclined to expand her repertoire.

“There are speed races that I am considering, at least that I wouldn’t have otherwise if it were busy as it has been,” Shiffrin said. “In a sense, the schedule is not easier but makes it possible to explore some different things. For sure, it’s a good year to push myself a little bit more, not too much but just see what the possibilities are.”

This is the typical Shiffrin caution, born of overdoing her schedule in the run-up to the 2018 Olympics in South Korea. She modified her schedule after that experience and started “only” 26 of 35 World Cup events last season. Shiffrin more than made up for it by winning 17 times and finishing in the top 10 in all of those 26 starts.

Yet it does seem some more speed — aside from the regular Lake Louise, Alberta, stop in early December — could be on the table.

The greatest?

Shiffrin started the Q-and-A with giving a modest assessment of her place in skiing history. While to most objective observers she is already in the “greatest of all time” discussion in the world of ski racing, Shiffrin acknowledged that there are those who will always think Ingemar Stenmark or Lindsey Vonn is the GOAT.

Shiffrin acknowledged, “On paper, I’m the best in the world right now. But what’s nice about sports is that paper resets every year. The work doesn’t stop.”

She knows that starting in Soelden, the world will be coming for her. Shiffrin will counter with her own standard — racing herself.

“Ski racing, of course, is a competition against all the competitors,” she said. “But it’s more of a competition against the clock. It’s about getting faster every day. … I find that so intriguing, and within the sport, I can explore my creativity, how to be faster, and I really, really like that.”

As a youngster, she found that creativity in watching Bode Miller and working with her parents, Jeff and Eileen, on the slopes, and she hopes that she can pass that enthusiasm for ski racing on to others.

In the meantime, she treasures her passions off the slopes or away from training, be they reading, playing the piano/singing or the occasional doughnut.

“There are no other passions. Doughnuts are the only thing in the world,” Shiffrin joked. “Just kidding. That’s going to be the headline on the newspaper.”

Can Mikaela Shiffrin eclipse Tina Maze’s World Cup record for points in a season?

Three months from today is liftoff.

On Oct. 26, Mikaela Shiffrin will click into her skis in Soelden, Austria, for the season-opening World Cup giant slalom.

How in the wide, wide world of sports do you follow up the season Shiffrin had in 2018-19? A record 17 World Cup wins, two more at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships (super-G and slalom), 2,184 points in a season, her third World Cup championship, and discipline titles in super-G, GS and slalom.

Really, what’s next? (Besides learning more songs on the guitar.)

The exception to the rule

Well, here’s an interesting proposition. The 2019-20 season is the exception to the rule, the only season every four years without the world championships or an Olympics. That means a less condensed schedule since there are two extra weeks of racing.

For example, last year Shiffrin had a crazy stretch of schedule starting with her annual speed stop in Lake Louise, Alberta, where she ran two downhills and won the first super-G of her career.

From Nov. 30 to Jan. 8, 40 days, she started in 12 races scattered over Canada, Switzerland, France, Austria, Norway, Croatia and back to Austria. Shiffrin, being no slouch, won seven of those 12 races and essentially all but clinched the World Cup title.

For the record, her non-winning finishes during that time were ninth and fourth in the Canadian downhills, fifth in the Semmering, Austria, GS, and two seconds to Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova in slaloms. Not too bad at all.

In the same stretch during the 2019-20 season, Shiffrin will likely compete in just nine events — the three speed races in Lake Louise, super-G and parallel slalom in St. Moritz, Switzerland, a GS in Courcheval, France, GS and slalom in Lienz, France, and slalom in Zagreb, Croatia.

Shiffrin has been meticulous about keeping her schedule, sometimes to a fault according to Bode Miller and Lindsay Vonn during last year’s worlds in Are, Sweden, when both suggested she compete in all five events.

Shiffrin politely explained that she ramped her schedule too much in anticipation of the 2018 Olympics in South Korea, and it affected her skiing. She added that she sets her schedule with the 2018 experience in mind and her results during the 2018-19 season bore that out.

Shiffrin won 19 of 29 starts between the World Cup and worlds last year in a condensed schedule. Is there potential for her to be better with a less-packed schedule in 2019-20?

Is more speed racing, particularly in super-G, in the cards for Mikaela Shiffrin in 2019-20?
Associated Press file photo

When she gets some time off, she tends to come back with a vengeance. After winning the super-G last winter in Cortina, Italy, on Jan. 20, she skipped speed events in Garmisch, Germany. With 10 days off, she swept two tech events in Maribor, Slovenia, on consecutive days to start February.

After Worlds in Are, she took two weeks off from the white circus and wrapped her season with a flourish, finishing third (GS), first (slalom), fourth (super-G at World Cup finals to clinch the globe) and first in both GS and slalom.

Adding speed?

With two extra weeks for World Cup events, the schedule takes an interesting turn, starting in late January. Starting in Bansko, Bulgaria, on Jan. 25-March 1, 2020, the World Cup has 12 events — 10 speed or alpine combined and two tech events.

We’ll assume that Shiffrin is set to race GS and slalom in Maribor on Feb. 15-16 because she races every tech race. But that leaves five weekends of speed, which might be a convenient time for her to increase her repertoire.

There are four super-Gs during that stretch. It’s not a leap to see the defending super-G champion give those races a spin. There’s also the stop in Crans Montana, Switzerland, Feb. 22-23.

Shiffrin’s pattern of entering speed events seems to be based on experience at the venue. She started at Lake Louise in 2016 with top 20 finishes. By 2017 she won a downhill there and a super-G last winter. She eases in based on familiarity.

As her career has evolved, St. Moritz, Switzerland, and Cortina — both super-G wins last year — have become places where Shiffrin clearly has become more comfortable in speed. So how about Crans Montana?

In 2017, she ran super-G (13th) and won an alpine combined there, so the 2020 stop there seems logical.

By the way, the 2020 World Cup finals are at Cortina, so there seems to be a lot of places and — more importantly, time — for Shiffrin to collect points during the upcoming season.

As we noted previously, Shiffrin ended up with 2,184 World Cup points in 2018-19, second all-time only to Slovenia’s Tina Maze (2,414) during the 2013-14 season.

During 2013-14, Maze started all 35 events on the schedule and told Shiffrin that, despite the results, it was a draining experience. Shiffrin has taken this to heart in spacing out her schedule.

But with no Olympics or worlds in 2019-20, this could be the year for Shiffrin to make a run at the magical 2,414 without running herself ragged.

Stay tuned.


Vonn, Shiffrin make the rounds at ESPYs

Lindsey Vonn won another Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Award on Wednesday night sharing the Best Moment Award with the Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade and New England Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski.

All three athletes retired during the past sports year and were honored for how they finished their storied careers.

Wade returned to the Heat for his final NBA season and finished his career with a triple-double. Gronk won Super Bowl LIII with the Pats and called it a career. And Vonn, of course, retired with a bronze medal in the downhill during the 2019 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Are, Sweden.

“It’s an amazing honor to be up here with these two incredible athletes, incredibly old also,” Vonn said. “In my 19-year career, I’ve had a lot of ups and downs, but I’m happy that I’ve broken more records than bones — just about. I want to thank everyone who supported me, who taught me and helped me along the way, especially my family my friends, and, of course, my incredible boyfriend, P.K. (Subban)

“I think what ski racing has taught me is that nothing is more powerful than self-belief. No matter what setback I faced, I always believed I could come back. So for everyone out there, whatever your struggles are, always believe in yourself and never give up.”

Vonn finished with 82 career World Cup wins, second only to Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark. She won four World Cup championships (2008-2010 and 2012), Olympic gold (2010), worlds gold (twice in 2009) and was able to win 23 times on the tour after a devastating knee injury during the 2013 Worlds in Schladming, Austria.

While Vonn joked on Twitter, “How are we going to split this trophy,” the good news is that she has already won two ESPYs for Best Female Athlete in 2010 and 2011.

Morgan bests Mikaela

Speaking of which, Mikaela Shiffrin was up for Best Female Athlete. Alex Morgan of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team won the honor, voted upon by fans.

Taking nothing away from the World Cup champs, it was an uphill battle for Shiffrin to win the award despite having completed one of the most spectacular seasons in the history of Alpine skiing.

Shiffrin won 17 times on the World Cup, a new record, and won at worlds in the super-G and slalom. In the latter, she became the first athlete in the history of the event to four-peat. She won her third World Cup championship in a row and added globes in super-G, giant slalom, and slalom.

Morgan and Shiffrin were seated close to each other during the ceremony and the skier offered her congratulations.

The red carpet

Since it was an awards show, there was a lot of chatter about fashion. As always, Vonn and Shiffrin looked spectacular.

According to People magazine, Vonn was wearing a crystal-and-sequin Yousef Al-Jasmi gown with Rene Caovilla stilettos.

Meanwhile, Shiffrin had her entire fashion lineup on Instagram.

To sum, Shiffrin was wearing a Pronovias dress and Stuart Weitzman shoes and clutch.

Mikaela Shiffrin off to the ESPYs

So after you fly with the U.S. Air Force, what does one do with the rest of the summer?

Well, if you’re Mikaela Shiffrin, you’re still keeping busy. While it is the offseason, there really is no offseason. But it’s worth noting that she’s been in the news.

Hitting the red carpet

Shiffrin is up for an ESPY (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly, what an awkward acronym) as the year’s Best Female Athlete.

Shiffrin’s up for the honor with UConn basketball’s Breanna Stewart, USA Soccer’s Alex Morgan and gymnast Simone Biles. While it’s an honor to be be nominated, she has no chance.

Please don’t shoot the messenger. It’s a fan vote, and with the World Cup leading up to Wednesday’s ESPYs, whoever was the nominee from the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team is going to be the winner.

In this case, it’s Morgan in a landslide.

Trivia: The only World Cup skier to win Best Female Athlete was shockingly Lindsey Vonn in both 2010 and 2011.

U-S-A … U-S-A

Although Shiffrin really should win the ESPY — she had a season for the ages — that doesn’t mean she doesn’t like herself some soccer.

Shiffrin has been tweeting enthusiastically throughout the women’s Word Cup.

After the USA’s win against France, she whooped it up over Megan Rapinoe.

And Morgan, whom she’ll see at the ESPYs, also seems to be a buddy.

Italy 2026

Last week, we also got the news that Milan and Cortina in Italy will host the 2026 Olympics. Shiffrin’s reaction was telling in her tweet when she crossed her fingers that she hopes to be at those games.

As spectacular as she is — sitting at 60 World Cup wins, five FIS Alpine World Ski Championships titles, three World Cup championships and a partridge in a pear tree — she knows that seven years is a long time.

After all, she’ll be 30 for the 2026 Olympics. (Does that qualify her for social security?) Not that we would look ahead, but Cortina is one of Shiffrin’s favorite speed venues — it’s hosted no tech events during her career — including a super-G win last season.

Back to work

While the ESPYs, the soccer World Cup and the 2026 Olympics are all fun, there’s still the little matter of the upcoming season.

It’s less than four months to the opening race of the season. Shiffrin is already posting about her newfound ability to pull-ups.

Mikaela Shiffrin flies with US Air Force Thunderbirds

Mikaela Shiffrin likes to go fast, even when she’s not skiing on the World Cup circuit or at the Olympics.

On Tuesday, the Olympic gold medalist, World Cup overall champion and Vail Valley native met up with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.

Through her Instagram story, Shiffrin details the whole experience with lots of excitement and emojis.

“You don’t really have perspective for how fast you’re going until you’re soaring through the clouds,” she wrote on her Insta story, from the clouds.

“It was incredible,” she said on her story, “the most incredible thing I’ve ever experienced.”

Her instructor was also impressed. Major Jason Markzon said “she killed it,” adding that they hit 9Gs in the Thunderbird.

Follow Shiffrin on Instagram at @mikaelashiffrin.

Is the IOC getting something right or just lucky?

Have we lived long enough to see the International Olympic Committee learn some common sense?

The candidates to host the 2026 Winter Olympics are Italy (a combination of Milan and and Cortina) and Sweden (Stockholm and Are). Shockingly enough, these are countries and sites with actual winter weather and built-in venues for winter sports.

It shouldn’t seem so shocking, but the finalists for 2022 were Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, not exactly snow spots, with the former earning hosting duties.

Perhaps, it’s not so much the IOC having a come-to-Jesus moment, but the rest of the world just giving up on on the profligacy of both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Athens (2004) and Rio de Janeiro (2016) have left pools of debt and white elephants of athletic complexes for the summer cycle, and Tokyo 2020 seems headed down that path.

In the winter, it was unquestionably Sochi (2014). The Russians’ first foray into the winter festival destroyed all the parameters of financial normalcy, whose largesse may only be surpassed by the glories that will be Beijing 2022.

Of course, the Winter Games have evolved with the addition of sports like snowboarding, freestyle skiing and short-track speed skating to the point where old ski towns like Lake Placid, New York, (1932 and 1980) or Lillehammer, Norway, (1994) can no longer host.

Hence you have combination bids like Vancouver and Whistler in British Columbia in 2010, the blob that was Sochi (the coastal and mountain clusters) and the 2026 bids.

Taking a pass

But it’s still worth noting who dropped out of the bidding for the upcoming 2022 and 2026 Olympics.

For 2022, Olso and Stockholm both said, “no thanks.” Austria and Italy considered a joint bid as did Quebec and Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the host city back in 1984. All of them said no mas for 2022.

Before 2026 got narrowed down to Italy and Sweden, Calgary, Alberta, (1988 host), Erzurum, Turkey (not happening), Sapporo, Japan (1972 host), Graz, Austria, and Sion, Switzerland also begged off.

Think about that. Norway, Sweden, and Finland (Helsinki also briefly considered 2022) invented Nordic sports and said no. The country known as “The Great White North” bowed out twice. Austria twice, Italy and Switzerland once, all slightly mountainous, said nope.

Three different former host cities said, “Too rich for our blood.” (I’m sentimental and would have liked to Sarajevo host, no matter how unpractical.)

By sheer luck, it seems we have two well-qualified bids for 2026.

Alpine at the Olympics

As an added bonus, both the Italian and Swedish bids have true Alpine venues — Cortina and Are. They are regular World Cup sites and have hosted the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships (Cortina, 1956 and 2021, and Are, 2007 and 2019).

How novel. Sochi’s snow was wretched. However, well-intentioned Pyeongchang, South Korea, was, it was a wind tunnel. When a slalom course needs to be shortened because of wind as was the case last winter, it’s not a freak occurrence. And I can hardly wait for Beijing.

But the Olympics in Cortina? (The Italian bid leads its Swedish counterpart) Lindsey Vonn might come out of retirement. We’re kidding, though she had 12 World Cup wins there. Mikaela Shiffrin? She can ski tech anywhere, and she won in super-G in Cortina last winter.

Keep up the good work, IOC.

Lindsey Vonn undergoes surgery on left knee at Steadman Clinic in Vail

When Lindsey Vonn crashed in November at Copper Mountain while training, the winningest female skier in World Cup historycompletely tore her LCL on her left knee. While she pushed through the pain to compete with a brace on her knee, she ultimately had to call it a career after the world championships in February.

“Obviously skiing with a brace this season didn’t go as well as I had hoped,” Vonn wrote in an Instagram post.

On Monday, Vonn underwent surgery to repair her knee with Dr. Robert LaPrade at the Steadman Clinic in Vail.

Despite the injury, Vonn won a bronze medal in the downhill at her final World Championships in February.

“Unfortunately this isn’t an April fools post … but surgery went well and I’m now recovering at home,” Vonn wrote in an Instagram post of her lying in the hospital bed.

Vonn said she put off surgery so that she could fulfill other responsibilities, including hosting her annual Lindsey Vonn Foundation fundraiser in Vail at the end of March in Vail.

“I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to do so much despite all of my injuries and what not, but now all the doors are open and I can really hunker down, work hard and hopefully accomplish something much greater than I did in ski racing,” she said at the fundraiser.