U.S. Women’s Alpine prepares for World Cup on home soil
Shiffrin, Resnick, O’Brien, and Moltzan headline Vail locals competing in Vermont this weekend
How appropriate that a day after Thanksgiving, the theme during Friday’s press conference heading into this weekend’s 2021 HomeLight Killington Alpine World Cup was family.
The next stop on the FIS Women’s Alpine ski World Cup starts Saturday in Killington, Vermont with the giant slalom at 8 a.m. and continues Sunday with the slalom at 7:45 a.m. Vail athletes Mikaela Shiffrin, Allie Resnick, Nina O’Brien and Paula Moltzan all expressed the value of a familial bond within the alpine team as well as the rare excitement of having their literal family members in attendance to witness them race on the biggest stage on home soil. For fans back home in Colorado, the races can be viewed on either Peacock or Ski and Snowboard Live, both of which require paid subscriptions.
Nina O’Brien’s first World Cup start came in Killington back in 2016, and her first World Cup points came there two years later. When asked what makes the place special, the Edwards native channeled her inner “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”
“I think it’s just the feeling of being at home and seeing so many friendly faces. People greeting you on the way to breakfast or when you’re getting on the hill, or course workers waving to you as you’re getting on the lift,” O’Brien said in a press conference Friday. “All of those little details help make the event feel special and like I’m supported by every person there.”
Speaking of being at home, a wave of wet and ugly weather has Paula Moltzan sensing a home field advantage for the American contingent, many of whom raced out east either during their high school and/or college days. “We don’t often have a chance to have a big advantage on a World Cup. As Americans, sometimes your first time seeing it (a course) is on the World Cup,” Moltzan said.
Amidst the downpour of sleet that greeted athletes Friday, the former University of Vermont All-American remained positive, knowing she and her Eastern Collegiate Ski Association comrades have seen this type of unruly weather before. “As a college racer in the East, I saw a lot of bad weather and a lot of bad race days, so I feel grateful to have those hours on bad conditions.”
For Allie Resnick, who earned the trip through her stellar set of races at Copper Mountain last Friday — Tuesday, the trip to Vermont forced a change of flight plans that would have made Steve Martin and John Candy (and I promise this will be my last movie reference) proud.
Up until Wednesday, she assumed she would be flying to Europe to start the Europa Cup circuit. “I had my mind set, like ‘OK, you’re going to Europe, and if something good happens, you’re going to Killington,’” she said about her thoughts right after the Copper Mountain NorAm concluded. Well, suffice to say, something good happened for the Vail local.
“So, it was really a great surprise, and also something we’ve worked all off-season for,” Resnick said.
Resnick will be making her first World Cup giant slalom and slalom start, and close friend Zoe Zimmerman, who also raced at Copper, will be making her World Cup debut. Having a family of fans and competing alongside their sisters on the U.S. team family — some of whom they idolized just a few years ago — is a thrill for both. Zimmerman was a Burke Academy student in attendance for O’Brien’s 2016 start and remembers holding up a “Go Nina!” sign on-course at Killington.
“It was so cool, having all these people who I’ve looked up to who are now my friends who are succeeding in this sport. It’s really cool to watch and see, and I feel like they are laying out the path for all of us,” she said.
“The idea of this many American fans cheering for you was so inspiring for me,” Resnick said in regard to debuting in the slalom and giant slalom disciplines in the U.S. ”It really motivated me to want to be ready for the NorAms to put myself in a position to qualify.”
According to Shiffrin, the four-time winner of the Killington slalom who is coming off of a second-place finish in the event last weekend in Levi, the close-knit group has produced a noticeable depth the team has been lacking over her tenure.
“Leading up to Soelden and Levi, training with all the girls and feeling like we were all bringing the pace … I knew that the pace was coming from my own teammates,” she said.
“The fastest skiers in the world are on my team. That’s not a feeling I’ve had in my career before.”
The two-time Olympic champion, who said she senses the building pressure in the run-up to Beijing, feels renewed being able to lean on her teammates in training and racing.
”Like Allie and Zoe said, you become friends and you become like family when you’re on the road. It’s a different kind of level, consistency, depth and support that I’ve noticed building these last couple of years. It’s pretty cool.”
Shiffrin repeated the cozy, familial, homely sentiment of the event, mentioning her inner excitement for the newcomers to the World Cup scene.
“Feeling this home crowd and just being — this is a home race. This is the rare opportunity we get to race at home. Even for Allie coming from out west, it’s still home,” she said of her fellow Vail local.
“It’s just that home feeling. It’s so exciting.”