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2023 Stifel Killington Cup

Thanksgiving has come and gone and now it's time to get back into the alpine ski racing world - and the best women on the tech circuit are here in Killington, Vermont, to face off in giant slalom and slalom over the weekend. As is SkiTalk tradition @AaronFM and I are on site to bring you the coverage and details of the events.

Superstar easily passed its snow control last week and the hill looks ready to test the elite women of the FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup, with a firm, smooth, solid surface at the ready. Saturday will be super cold - around 17°F/-8°C for the first run and in the mid-20s F/mid-negative-single-digits C for the second. Wind shouldn't play a spoiler this year but anything is possible given Killington's micro-climate. Sunday will be a little warmer for the slalom, though the temperature shouldn't get above freezing.

Note: as usual this article will grow and evolve over the weekend, and all photos are by Aaron unless otherwise noted.

Friday, November 24 - Pre-Race Press Conference and Word-on-the-Street

The typical pre-race presser was U.S. Ski Team only this year - a marked change from years past but still super informative.

The first wave was the tech team minus Mikaela Shiffrin, who is juggling myriad press and sponsor obligations before any World Cup event. All of the USST women raved about the surface, both on Superstar and on Skye Lark. In years past the raves have only been about Superstar, but this year they spoke volumes about Skye Lark. "It's the best in the six times I've been here," remarked AJ Hurt. Note that AJ Hurt and Zoe Zimmermann couldn't agree on exactly how the snow at Killington differed from that in Levi. Was it more grippy here or more bulletproof? There was laughing disagreement.

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Paula Moltzan

All of the USST tech squad spoke of their team's chemistry and camaraderie and how having a world superstar leading the charge is great for both morale and overall team attitude when on a world stage.

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May Bocock, Mikaela Shiffrin, Paula Moltzan

When Mikaela entered she wanted the others to take the fore, but eventually the rest of the squad exited and left Mikaela (with Megan Harrod leading the Q&A) to her own devices. Many questions were asked about her physical condition after the Levi training crash. "This week is the first time since the crash that I didn't feel my knee," said Shiffrin, adding that while she tries to come into each race prepared to be in the mix she has tempered expectations for this year's Killington Cup. "I was hoping to be in a different spot coming into this race," she said, but "there are so many women who are skiing really, really top level skiing and I hope to be among them tomorrow." She also added: "Petra [Vlhova] is damn great, Lara [Gut-Behrami] is damn great, and I'm great but not quite there."

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Mikaela was asked about whether there is a difference in her coaching since switching to a primariliy female coaching squad. She says that on a basic, functional level it is no different: the video and data analysis, the technical progress, the logistics are all the same regardless of gender. She says the difference is in the level of cohesion and communication within her team, stating "we are a family."

"Other than the hours when we sleep" the Shiffrin team is together in one way, shape, or form for the 10 months of the training and racing season. "You have to have good communication, when things don't go perfect you have to address issues and move forward, and not take anything personally, trying to create the most posiutive atmosphere you can get," she concluded.

The press conference ended with a delivery of Waffle Cabin waffles and chocolate milk - things that Mikaela loved as a junior racer and relished after her first victory here many years ago.

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All set for tomorrow: bib draw is happening now, as Aaron and I work on this.
About author
Rudi Riet
Rudi Riet is a USSS alpine ski racing coach in the Mid-Atlantic, as well as a former FIS and USCSA racer. He's also a consultant for micro-mobility solutions in urban and suburban spaces, a political consultant, an IT consultant and project manager, and the former chair of a 501 (c)(3) non-profit. He also is an avid road and gravel cyclist with almost two decades of experience leading and designing bicycle tours and routes in the greater Washington, DC, area.

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Watched the TV version of the race (taped) on the FIS channel on my UtubeTV service last night. With American announcers and some editing it was much better than the live internet foreign streams. Between the FIS channel and Rudi and Aaron's write up, I feel like I was at the race. Good job guys. I should have attended, as I am 3 hours away and considered it, but too much turkey this year. I was thinking that I have never seen Mikaela ski in person, and I am a Race coach so that is almost blasphemous. Someone who is the GOAT is worth the effort to see live at least once, and who knows how much longer she will keep this going, she has certainly won/achieved everything possible in her sport. I made a mental note to get up there and watch next year for sure.
 

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