For ski fans, the racing season opening in Sölden, Austria, can never come soon enough. Here’s our insider scoop so you are in the know when the white circus gets going on the Rettenbach glacier on the weekend of October 24–25.
1. Will it be number 5, Marcel?
After claiming four overall crystal trophies in a row, the big question is whether the Austrian superstar Marcel Hirscher will clinch a fifth? Only Marc Girardelli has ever scored five globes, but even he needed longer than five years. Hirscher opted to take it easy this summer, focusing on rest up, hardly skiing and saying no to snow training in Australia. But make no mistake: Marcel will be ready when it counts.
2. Aksel is back
The Norwegian duo of Aksel Lund Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud have won the men’s speed globes for a whopping three seasons in a row. Sölden will see the official comeback of the bigger of the Vikings as Svindal returns to regular racing after his Achilles injury. The word has it that the Norwegians have been smoking it on the slopes and just came back from the longest and best-ever camp in South America. Also watch out for the young gun Henrik Kristoffersen, who’s making great strides training with two of the best!
3. Is it Pintu time yet?
Talented French star Alexis Pinturault is not going to be happy to just round off the World Cup podium for much longer. With a strong summer training season under his belt, the man who hates to lose is ready to take the next step. Pintu has been working his way up year after year in the speed events and what’s more, this season’s schedule again features three of his strongest events: the Alpine combined.
4. Take your time Lindsey
After suffering more than her fair share of injuries, this was supposed to be the grand return to the overall throne for Lindsey Vonn but a training crash at a New Zealand snow camp put yet another dampner on her plans. Yet, as you might expect, Vonn has been working hard to rehab her ankle and come the ‘Lake Lindsey’ speed season start in December, she might just be doing what she does best: winning. Here is to a new record of 68-plus career victories!
5. The search for the season queen
This season’s ladies' race seems relatively open. Given Lindsey Vonn’s ankle trouble and the absence of the runner-up, Tina Maze, who’s taking a year off, two-time overall queen Anna Fenninger was tipped to make it a hat-trick. Unfortunately she seriously injured her right knee in a training crash just three days before the season opening, which opens the door for at least two challengers: tech star Mikaela Shiffrin has been busy – and fast – in training and Viktoria Rebensburg, who expert observers say is going to be a force to reckon with in all her three disciplines.
6. What’s new? Check out Asia and parallel action
This will be a season without a title event like the World Champs, so the race for the World Cup crystal globes will be fierce. For the first time since 2006, the men’s tour will be in Asia again, with Korea and Japan on the schedule. Also, make sure to pencil the date of February 23 in your diary, because that's when the world’s best slalom skiers will go head-to-head in a parallel slalom race under floodlights in Stockholm, Sweden. The new event on the block will be a men’s parallel giant slalom race in the Dolomites resort of Alta Badia in northern Italy on December 21.