ALPINE SKIING Preview: Slalom (and reindeer-naming) season opens in Levi

One of the fun stops on the FIS Alpine World Cup circuit is the annual, early-season Slalom races for men and women in Levi, Finland. Located way up in the Finnish Lapland, Levi has snowy conditions from October into May and beginning in 2013, one of the “prizes” for the winning skiers is to name a reindeer!

The men’s Slalom season revolves, as it has for the past six years, around Austria’s Marcel Hirscher. He missed Levi last season due to injury, but has won the seasonal Slalom title for three straight years and five of the last six. Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) managed to win in 2016, with Hirscher second, but otherwise it’s Hirscher on top. Last season’s results showed:

1. 874 Marcel Hirscher (AUT)
2. 710 Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR)
3. 460 Andre Myhrer (SWE)
4. 388 Michael Matt (AUT)
5. 370 Daniel Yule (SUI)

Germany’s Felix Neureuther won at Levi last season, ahead of Kristoffersen and Swede Mattias Hargin and named his reindeer after his then-newborn daughter, Matilda.

Among the women, the Slalom favorite is always American Mikaela Shiffrin, who has won the seasonal Slalom title twice in a row and five of the last six years (Swede Frida Hansdotter won in 2016). Last season:

1. 980 Mikaela Shiffrin (USA)
2. 705 Wendy Holdener (SUI)
3. 681 Frida Hansdotter (SWE)
4. 679 Petra Vlhova (SVK)
5. 463 Bernadette Schild (AUT)

Vlhova won in Levi last season and named her reindeer Igor, with Shiffrin second and Holdener third. Shiffrin has won in Levi twice, in 2013 (naming her reindeer “Rudolph’) and in 2016 (“Sven” from the movie, “Frozen”).

NBC’s Olympic Channel has coverage from Levi on Saturday (women’s race) at 7 a.m. Eastern time, and on Sunday (men’s race), also at 7 a.m. Eastern. Look for results here.