Aspen’s World Cup races kick off today

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times

It’s race day, and the pre-race preparations are complete.

Today the women of the World Cup will take the stage in Aspen for the first of three days of alpine ski racing in the 2015 Aspen Winternational.

Today’s giant slalom will kick off a schedule that includes slalom races Saturday and Sunday on the Aspen Mountain course at Lift 1A, extending Aspen’s tradition of hosting the top ski racers in the world.

This year, Aspen Mountain is hosting the women of the World Cup. Next season, the mountain will host the best of the men and the best of the women in the World Cup Finals in March 2017.

But this week, the World Cup spotlight shines on the women, particularly the American women.

Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin, the decorated leaders of the U.S. Ski Team, are scheduled to race in today’s giant slalom in Aspen.

The first run is set for 10 a.m. The second run is on the schedule for 1 p.m. today, weather and course conditions permitting.

Vonn, the most successful female ski racer in the world, is a four-time overall World Cup winner. The 31-year-old owns a record 67 World Cup victories with the possibility of adding No. 68 today in Aspen.

And she’s no stranger to winning races in Aspen. When Vonn was 13, she won a FIS downhill at Aspen Mountain.

Shiffrin, who grew up chasing images of Vonn racing in their hometown of Vail, is the three-time reigning slalom champion in the World Cup. The 20-year-old has 14 career World Cup slalom victories, and she’ll have an extra slalom race in Aspen this year in an effort to add to her victory total.

The women’s World Cup slalom originally set for Levi, Finland, was relocated to Aspen, adding a third World Cup race to the Aspen Winternational weekend.

Vonn and Shiffrin will have three opportunities to break an international stranglehold on World Cup racing in Aspen.

No American woman has won an Aspen World Cup since 1981, when Tamara McKinney won a giant slalom in Aspen.

Even when the men raced America’s Downhill in Aspen, starting in 1968, the U.S. men struggled to find the podium in Aspen. The last American, period, to win in Aspen was Bill Johnson in 1984.

In addition to today’s giant slalom, the annual World Cup Kickoff Party will be held at 5:30 p.m. at the Limelight Hotel in downtown Aspen. The event is free and open to the public. There will be a U.S. Ski Team autograph session from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. today at the Limelight. A public bib draw for the slaloms will be held at 6:45 p.m., also at the Limelight.

Today also features the unique public wax-room tours, starting at 4:30 p.m. in the Mountain Chalet parking garage.

Saturday will feature the first slalom, with the opening run at 10:15 a.m. and the second run at 1:15 p.m. Also Saturday is fireworks night at Aspen Winternational starting at 8:15 p.m. on the Little Nell ski run. The fireworks will be preceded by the Hi-Fi Concert Series featuring Jamestown Revival on the upper Gondola Plaza, starting at 6:30 p.m.

Sunday will wrap up Winternational 2015 with the first run of slalom at 10 a.m. and the second run at 1 p.m.

There will be free shuttles operating to take spectators up to the race venue at the base of Lift 1A. The shuttles will run every 15 minutes with stops at the intersection of Monarch and Dean streets, Galena and Dean streets and the venue entrance at Monarch and Summit streets.