The 2015 FIS Alpine World Championships at Vail-Beaver Creek wrapped up this past Sunday. For the first time in 26 years, the World Champs were held on US turf, and our skiers did us proud. Here’s a recap of the events:
The World Champs kicked off on February 3rd after a 30-minute delay of the Women’s Super G due to weather conditions. The women faced snow and strong winds head-on at the start gate, and skied a shortened course without the first steep. Austria’s Anna Fenninger, who dominated the Super G in Sochi, defeated defending champion Tina Maze by .03 seconds. American Lindsey Vonn is back in the game after recovering from the knee injuries that kept her out of Sochi. She came in 3rd place.
The Men’s Super G, which was rescheduled due to heavy falling snow, ran two days later on February 5th. Fans took a moment of silence as the clock ran without a skier on the course following the forerun in honor of Ronnie Berlack and Bryce Astle the two young members of the US Ski Team who died in an avalanche one month ago. Hannes Richelt took home his first World Champs Super-G gold, securing Austrian domination in the discipline. Dustin Cook from Canada finished second, and Adrien Theaux from France finished third.
For the rest of the Championships, the weather cooperated beautifully with blue skies and warmer temperatures. On February 7th, Slovenia’s Tina Maze collected her second medal with an almost perfect first place race in the Women’s Downhill. Anna Fenninger finished .02 seconds behind Maze, and Laura Gut from Switzerland came in third, ending the Swiss World Champs hardware drought. Vonn, who was top in the 2014/2015 World Cup downhill standings, started out strong but finished fifth after some mistakes in the middle of her run.
The next day, all three top finishers in Men’s Downhill were podium first-timers. Two Swiss skiers, Patrick Kueng and Beau Fuez, found their spots at first and third, respectively. It was still a strong day for American skiers, with Travis Ganong taking second and Steve Nyman, who came into the championships as the top American World Cup downhill skier, finishing only .03 behind Fuez for fourth place.
Austria’s Marcel Hirscher won the Men’s Alpine Combined, with Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud finishing second and American favorite and two-time defending World Champion Ted Ligety finishing third.
In the Female Alpine Combined, Tina Maze struck again. She lead the pack in the first run and carried it through for her career-first gold in the discipline, third World Championship gold, and third 2015 World Champs medal. Maze is the only woman to have podium finishes in all four disciplines this World Cup season, and since Alpine Combined wasn’t held in the regular season, she is now the only woman to podium in every event this year. Nicole Hosp of Austria placed second and Michaela Kirchgasser, also Austrian, took third.
Thursday the 12th saw the first of the technical events with the Women’s Giant Slalom. Anna Fenninger ended up on top again by .81 seconds even after a mistake in the lower third of the course that cost her time time. Viktoria Rebensburg placed second, earning Germany its first 2015 World Championship medal. Jessica Lindell-Vikarby of Sweden placed third. Tina Maze held third after her second run, but got knocked off the podium by Lindell-Vikarby’s strong second run performance—which broke a GS World Champs winning streak that started back in 2009. Americans Mikaela Shiffrin took and Lindsey Vonn took eighth and 14th, respectively, with Shiffrin over two seconds out and Vonn almost three and a half. This breaks the United State’s six-Worlds-long winning streak in GS.
With an incredible second run in the GS the following day, Ted Ligety defended his championship title. He fought his way from fifth to first, beating Austria’s Marcel Hirscher—who had won four of the five GS World Cup races this season—by .45 seconds and France’s Alexis Pinturault by .88 seconds. It was a close race. After the first run, the top competitors all stood within a quarter of a second of each other. Less than two seconds out, American Tim Jitloff took ninth place.
On the last day of the women’s World Cup Championship events, American Mikaela Shiffrin defended her 2013 title right in her hometown after winning Sochi’s Slalom but dropping to second in the 2014/2015 World Cup standings. On the rhythmic slalom course, competition was tight. Shiffrin slipped behind at the top of her second run but still managed to drive it home in the bottom of the course. Shiffrin finished .34 seconds ahead of Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter and .77 seconds ahead of the Czech Republic’s Sarka Strachova. Both women are at least ten years her senior; at 19, Shiffrin is the youngest female world champion in the past 30 years.
To close out the 2015 World Championships, Jean-Baptiste Grange of France came from behind on the second run of the Men’s Slalom to earn the world title. Defending champion Marcel Hirscher put down the fastest time in the first run, but straddled a gate and didn’t finish in the second. France beat out Germany’s Fritz Dopfer by .35 and Felix Neureuther by .55. Ted Ligety came in much further behind, taking 21st place and almost four seconds out.
Overall, Austria—who has won 268 medals since 1931, compared to America’s 75 since 1948—took home the most medals. The Austrian women’s team, with Anna Fenninger leading the pack, earned five of their eight individual medals. Tina Maze alone put Slovenia in third place with her three-medal haul. Menninger and Maze earned the most hardware on the hill this World Champs. Marcel Hirsher and Ted Ligety were the only two male skiers to earn more than one medal.
American skiers shone most in the technical events. Legity and Shiffrin continued their reigns, and all the skiers on the team reminded us why we love the sport. The next FIS Alpine World Ski Championships will be held in February 2017 in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
Joining the Salter’s crew to write Dropping In and other stories is Clare Menzel, a New Hampshirite studying philosophy in her final year at the University of Pennsylvania. As it always happens in this close and familiar northeastern ski world, Clare’s parents are family friends—way back from the old college days in New England. She is the Women’s Alpine Captain of the Penn ski team and has written for Powder Magazine and Powder’s blog.