ALPINE SKIING Preview: Shiffrin starts run for fourth World Cup title in Soelden

American skiing superstar Mikaela Shiffrin (Photo: Reese Brown courtesy U.S. Ski & Snowboard)

It’s hardly winter in many parts of the world, but with a thick bed of snow on the Rettenbach Glacier at the Soelden Ski Resort in Austria, it’s time to start the 2019-2020 FIS Alpine World Cup in style.

While some of all of the skiing at Soelden has been canceled during the past two seasons, good snow for skiing has been confirmed, with a Giant Slalom for women on Saturday and for men on Sunday.

Soelden has been the lead-off race for the FIS Alpine World Cup for 20 consecutive seasons, beginning with the 2000-01 campaign. It will also be the start of a new era in men’s skiing.

Eight-time World Cup winner Marcel Hirscher (AUT) has retired, so the door is finally open for others. The leaders from last year’s standings are the likely challengers:

2. 1,145 points ~ Alexis Pinturault (FRA)
3. 1,047 points ~ Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR)
4. 950 points ~ Dominik Paris (ITA)
5. 739 points ~ Vincent Kriechmayr (AUT)

Hirscher also won the Giant Slalom discipline, out-pointing Kristoffersen and Pinturault, 680-516-469. American Ted Ligety, now 35, will try for a fifth career win at Soelden (last in 2016) as he continues to work toward an injury-free season.

The women’s World Cup must answer the same question for the fourth year in a row: can anyone beat American Mikaela Shiffrin? She ran away with her third World Cup title in a row last season and no one was close:

1. 2,204 points ~ Mikaela Shiffrin (USA)
2. 1,355 points ~ Petra Vlhova (SLO)
3. 1,079 points ~ Wendy Holdener (SUI)
4. 814 points ~ Viktoria Rebensburg (GER)
5. 771 points ~ Nicole Schmidhofer (AUT)

The Giant Slalom discipline was won by Shiffrin last season, with 615 points, over Vlhova (478) and Tessa Worley (FRA: 460), who won at Soelden. Shiffrin has won at Soelden once, in December 2014.

In her three World Cup overall wins, Shiffrin has won 11-12-17 races, and has 60 World Cups at age 24. Another season like any of her last three and she could become the leading World Cup winner prior to the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.

Look for results here.