two consecutive nights, organizers postponed the slalom until Sunday, and the GS was canceled when the steep top section of the course began to break up and eemed unsafe by officials. Sunday dawned good enough for slalom racing, but intermittent clouds turned the sun into a strobe light, playing tricks on the racers’ eyes all day. Inconsistent course conditions added another element of excitement with sections of solid, grippy snow and others with wet slush. Schild, the second racer down the Stade Emile Allais course, held control all day long. She took a 0.38-second lead out of the first run and made the second run look like a summertime stroll to cross the line nearly two seconds (1.87) faster than any other women despite several mistakes she was able to laugh off. Two slalom races and two wins into the season, she was looking rested, having skied 3.06 seconds less lalom than anybody else and telling reporters that her confidence is “sky high.” With 29 World Cup slalom wins in her last 55 starts, the 30-year-old clicks into her skis expecting to win. “I know I can ski slalom very fast,” Schild told the Associated Press. “What makes me so fast? I always try to get a good feel for the race, every slope. I have a lot of experience over the last years, and maybe a good feeling.” Like Schild, second-place finisher Tanja Poutianen of Finland returned to the same podium spot she filled last year in Courchevel. Austrian Kathrin Zettel was 0.32 seconds behind Poutianen in third.
Room on the podium arrived in the second run when both German Maria Hoefl-Riesch and Swede Maria Pietilae-Holmner — the second and third fastest skiers in the
first run — both fell to their hips on the same turn near the top of the course. The fall
was just the latest misstep for Hoefl-Riesch, the defending overall World Cup champ.
She has had a rough early season with two DNFs and only two top-five results.
Things didn’t go well for the hopeful American squad either.
Lindsey Vonn — who struggled to tame her short skis last season and failed to finish
four of the eight slaloms she started — got things going for the U.S. and was looking
confident at the top of the course, but skied off line halfway down. After the race, she
was optimistic that her slalom chops were coming around.
“My coaches radioed up that they were putting water in the course because it was
breaking up on the bottom,” said Vonn, who missed the Aspen slalom in November
because of a sore back. “I felt like I hit a wet patch of snow and then my skis kind of
slid and then it caught again and it was just too late to recover it. But in general I’m
really happy with my run. As you can see from the times it was pretty hard to get in
there, and I was only eight tenths out of the second split, so it was definitely really
Course workers in Courchevel had their work cut out
for them with four feet of snow in three days.