Beating the rain, a record-setting Killington World Cup reigns

Killington Resort’s record-breaking crowd of 21,000 spectators will watch Saturday’s opening of the 2022 World Cup Ski Resort, the only women’s stop in the United States. Photo by Dustin Satloff/US Ski Team via Killington Resort

KILLINGTON — Vermont scholastic Olympic gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin grabbed an NBC microphone over the weekend to cheer on a record World Cup skiing crowd.

“You can hear the roar, you can feel the roar,” he told a crowd of 21,000 at Killington Resort. They always bring energy here.”

The women’s only U.S. international circuit stop also came with a nail-biting tale of wild weather and resulting disappointment for Shiffrin, who lost her bid for a sixth consecutive local slalom title.

Giant banners on the crowded Killington stands promised “more winter” and “more snow.” However, rising temperatures on Sunday morning and rain in the afternoon confirmed the final words of the resort’s three branches: “more adventure”.

Shiffrin was the fastest in the first round of Cup Slalom. But while he waited until he was the last skier on the second run, the track softened enough to drop him 0.59 seconds to finish fifth.

“I fought,” he told 2 million live TV viewers in 60 countries. “At some points I was a little off my time, but I was pushing.”

Vermont Olympic gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin competes in the World Cup giant slalom course Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022, at Clinton Ski Resort. Photo by Dustin Sotloff/US Ski Team via Killington Resort

Despite all this, Killington made the snowy trails to successfully host the sixth World Cup, all while opening a new three-story K-1 lodge at the finish line.

Killington may be the largest ski area in eastern North America, but since welcoming the event in 2016, it has faced many of the same challenges.

Snowball’s daily attendance went from 16,000 in its inaugural year to 19,500 in 2019 — nearly 14 times the population of the 1,407 townships on the slope side. Then the Covid-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 race, forcing Killington to limit daily ticket sales for 2021 to 10,000.

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The resort lifted attendance restrictions this year, but Mother Nature threatened to keep everyone indoors.

Hot weather canceled seven of the first eight European races on the international circuit in early fall, prompting the Washington Post to report, “Climate change is winning this World Cup ski season.”

Killington was worried he would join the list when the temperature hit 72 degrees on November 12. The next day, with a freeze, the resort’s 120 snow guns worked around the clock, allowing the International Ski and Snowboard Federation to give the green light for the event. 10 days before the scheduled start

“It seems like every year is a challenge,” Killington President Mike Solimano said. Weather is always the biggest thing in this business, but there are always many ups and downs for various reasons.

Shifrin is concerned. The 2013 graduate of Burke Mountain Academy won last year’s Northeast Kingdom Slalom at Killington, but was struck down by Covid-19 and ruled out of the 2022 Olympics. He then bounced back this fall with two wins in the first two races of the 2022-23 World Cup season.

The 27-year-old finished 13th in Saturday’s giant slalom, ahead of former University of Vermont skier Paula Moltzan in 18th and 2015 Burke Mountain Academy graduate Nina O’Brien in 23rd.

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“I can make a lot better turns than this,” Shiffrin told Vermont writer Peggy Sheen, who was covering the event for Ski magazine. But it’s also like we haven’t had a lot of practice for the last few weeks.

Shiffrin had higher hopes for Sunday’s slalom. He was the fastest in the morning’s first run.

I don’t care if I’m out skiing today. “I don’t care if I don’t finish,” he told NBC afterward. “I have to try hard.”

But Kors Zob struggled in the second round in the afternoon. Finishing off the podium, Shiffrin nevertheless hugged the top two skiers, Wendy Holdner of Switzerland and Anna Sven-Larsson of Sweden.

“It’s a lot of fun to race in front of this crowd,” Shiffrin said. “They deserve to see us all put our best skis on the line,” he said. Every race is a different story, so you just have to keep driving forward.

Fans and flags filled the stands at this weekend’s 2022 Ski World Cup in Vermont’s Killington resort. Photo by Dustin Satloff/US Ski Team via Killington Resort

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Tags: Killington, Killington Resort, Mikayla Shiffrin, World Cup

Kevin O'Connor

About Kevin

Kevin O’Connor is a Brattleboro-based writer and former employee of the Sunday Rutland Herald and Times Argos.