8 reasons to be excited for the 2020 World Cup ski season
© Erich Spiess/ASP/Red Bull Content Pool
The FIS Alpine Ski World Cup returns this weekend with the Rettenbach glacier in Sölden hosting the annual season-opener. The 2020 season brings with it new races and new faces.
On Saturday in Austria it will be 224 days since the skiers last zipped up their race suits in anger for the final stop of the 2019 season in Soldeu, Andorra.
In fact, it will be the first FIS World Cup season since 1999 that won’t feature at least one of Vonn, Svindal or Hirscher. Despite the star trio exiting centre stage, the season, which features a race in China for the first time, is geared up for some intriguing battles, with many twists and turns along the way. We take a look at just some of the many reasons to be excited.
1. Pinturault in his prime
At 28, Alexis Pinturault is in the prime of his career and ready to add both discipline and overall World Cup globes to his Olympic and World Championship successes. The Frenchman is arguably the most versatile skier in the men’s scene right now and, having finished runner-up to Hirscher overall last year, is well placed to become the first man from France to conquer the big globe since Luc Alphand in 1997.
2. Need for speed for Italian duo
With seven race wins in 2018-2019, a Super-G world title and his third Downhill triumph on the legendary Die Streif in Kitzbühel, Dominik Paris proved he had come of age at 30. The heavy metal skier and singer in a rock band will be aiming for the Downhill globe this time around.
Compatriot Sofia Goggia is a box-office star both on and off the piste. The exuberant Olympic champion will be hoping for a season clear from injury to get back to her fearsome best.
3. Young guns ready to take centre stage
A trio of 22-year-olds will all be hoping for success on the international scene this season. A future star could be on the horizon in the form of Frenchman Clement Noel, who made his mark with a bang by winning slalom races in Wengen, Kitzbühel and Soldeu last season. Marco Odermatt won five gold medals at the 2018 junior world championships to outline his major potential, while Swiss team-mate Loic Meillard will be pushing for race wins in the Slalom and Giant Slalom.
4. Mikaela Shiffrin in a league of her own?
The American dominated the women’s circuit last time out, winning a record 17 World Cup races in a single season. At just 24, she has amassed 60 victories from her 157 starts and picked-up 11 crystal globes including the past three overall titles. Will she reign supreme again this season? Out to provide stiff competition in the giant slalom is Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg, the former Olympic champion will certainly add a few medal finishes to her current 47 podium places and 17 World cup wins.
5. Can Kristoffersen capitalise?
Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen has been Hirscher’s most consistent rival in the past five years, repeatedly sharing the podium with the dominant Austrian. The duo pushed each other to the limit, and the Super G world champion now has a great opportunity to take over where his great rival left off.
6. Injury nightmares a thing of the past for Dressen
Thomas Dressen missed most of last season after suffering a terrible crash in Beaver Creek which left him requiring surgery on the cruciate ligament in his right knee. The explosive German, who burst onto the scene by winning the Kitzbühel downhill race in 2018, will be looking to make up for lost time.
7. Ledecka aiming for powder domination
For shock Super-G Olympic champion, Ester Ledecka, the aim of the game will be to keep improving in alpine disciplines without hampering her snowboarding domination. The Czech progressed last winter, earning her first top-10 finish in a downhill, while clinching two more snowboard crystal globes. She's decided not to choose between disciplines and her two-fold quest will again be an exciting one to follow in the months to come.
8. Teenage kicks
Alice Robinson will be spending a long time away from home in the next six months with the 17-year-old New Zealander ready for her debut season on the circuit. At the season ending race in Soldeu back in March, she outlined her huge talent by taking second behind Shiffrin in the Giant Slalom.
Technically speaking, Alex Vinatzer left his teenage years behind him when he turned 20 a couple of weeks ago, but the young Italian is a name to watch out for in the Slalom.