The 2015/2016 FIS Alpine Ski Racing Season Preview
Although there are no major championships coming up this winter, excitement has been building amongst ski fans ahead of the new season – which is set to begin in Solden on October 24th.
Pre-season training has been some of the best in recent years thanks to exceptional conditions in the southern hemisphere and more recently some great snow in the Alps. Sadly some of the optimism was dashed in the final week of training by a season-ending injury to Austria’s golden girl Anna Fenninger. Fenninger dominated last season, winning the Overall title and sweeping two golds at the World Championships in Beaver Creek. All of this comes after the news that her main rival, Tina Maze of Slovenia announced earlier this summer that she was taking the season off. So as a result the women’s competitions are set to be wide open this winter.
So who are the favourites?
With Fenninger and Maze missing, the favourite for the women’s overall crown has to be Lindsey Vonn. However even her season was looking in jeopardy after she suffered a pretty serious broken ankle down in New Zealand earlier this summer. The great news is that she has been in the Alps preparing for the season and is reportedly pain free, so hopefully we’ll be seeing Vonn return when the World Cup comes to Aspen at the end of November.
In the more technical disciplines of Slalom and Giant Slalom (GS) look out for another American, Mikaela Shiffrin. The 20 year old from Vail is looking to push on following her victory on home snow in last season’s World Championships and improve on her impressive four victories from last winter. Other names to look out for include Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter – arguably the most consistent skier last winter in the slalom and Eva-Maria Brem of Austria – who made the podium five times last winter in the GS.
Across in the men’s competition it is very hard to look away from last season’s winners – Kjetil Jansrud and Marcel Hirscher. Hirscher should once again claim the Slalom and GS titles, unless Ted Ligety or Felix Neureuther step up their consistency levels and win a few more races than last year. The big unknown however this winter will be the form of Aksel Lund Svindal. The Norwegian is on the comeback trail following a serious Achilles injury and if his brief appearance at the end of last season was anything to go by, then he is likely to be a serious contender. Despite only hopping back on skis at the end of January, he came 6th in both the Downhill and the Super-G at the World Championships in early February – sending ominous signals to the rest of the field.
Check out what Marcel Hirscher got up to last spring…
Who are we missing this winter?
Sadly a number of notable skiers are set to miss on this winter’s action. Like Maze, American maverick and fan-favourite Bode Miller is also taking a break from skiing this winter. It is uncertain whether or not the 37 year old will return next year for the World Championships, but he has not yet retired officially.
On the injury front, the Swiss star Beat Feuz is set to be out for much of the season after he tore his Achilles down in South America in August. He is targeting a return to action around the Lauberhorn in Wengen, his home race, but this all depends on how successful his recovery is.
Several big names also retired over the summer, but biggest of all was Benni Raich. The double Olympic gold medallist and 36-time winner on the World Cup announced his retirement on September 10th, which was shortly followed by the news that his wife (and 37-time World Cup winning skier) Marlies Schild gave birth to a baby.
And what about the Brits?
Following a breakthrough season last winter, Dave Ryding is set to resume his push towards the Slalom podium this winter. He’ll be looking to better his PB – a 16th position from Madonna last Christmas, and following a great summer of preparation he is very well placed to do so. Keep an eye out for Dave at the first Slalom race of the season from Levi in Finland on the 15th November.
Another name to look out for is Alex Tilley in the women’s technical events, kicking off with the GS race in Solden. She is on a rapid upward trajectory towards the world’s top 30 and will be looking to impress in the first race of the season.
For a full list of GB racers looking to make their mark on the world stage check out the Team BSS website.
We’ll be posting regular updates throughout the season – but to keep up to date with the very latest head to the FIS website.