Despite cold, strong winds and construction, more than 30,000 fans turned out to watch the top skiers in the world race this past Saturday and Sunday at Killington. Olympic gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin continued her streak of World Cup wins.
Hundreds of volunteers were out early, guiding traffic, handing out programs and welcoming a steady stream of spectators. Killington resident Morgan Willis was passing out noisemakers and directing fans around a sprawling construction site that, at this time next year, will be the resort’s new, state-of-the art base lodge.
“That’s such a Vermont-y thing, that you have so many volunteers that just show up to things,” Willis said. “It’s so much fun. It’s pandemonium, but like the best kind.”
Katy Mack of Lincoln, New Hampshire was at the World Cup with her husband and two daughters. Despite the bone-chilling temperatures, all were thrilled to be back.
“This is our sport that we like to spectate – we’re not really basketball or football fans,” Mack said. “So here we are, bundled up at 15 degrees, and we’re going to brave the day.”
This is the fourth year Killington has hosted the international event. Before that, the World Cup hadn't been in Vermont since Stratton Mountain hosted it in 1978. The races are broadcast around the world, and competitive skiers travel from race to race during the season, accumulating points based on their finishes.
High winds forced race officials to lower the starting gate for Saturday’s giant slalom, but many skiers, like France’s Tessa Worley, still raved about the snow.
“I loved those conditions, they were amazing,” Worley said. “And the snow is really hard, a little icy, but with the edges we have, it’s really nice to ski.”
Worley and Nina O’Brien, a U.S. skier who attends Dartmouth, also appreciated how many fans turned out.
“I feel like everyone loves coming to Killington just for the atmosphere and the crowd,”O’Brien said. “It’s really special to be an American here. It feels like I have all my friends here cheering for me, which is fun. So I love it.”
O’Brien finished 28th in the giant slalom while Worley took fifth. Crowd favorite Mikaela Shiffrin finished on the podium in third, behind Marta Bassino and Federica Brignone of Italy, who took first and second.
During Sunday’s slalom race, however, Shiffrin reminded fans why she’s dominated World Cup standings. She laid down a blistering first run on a steep, icy course that many of her fellow racers had trouble finishing.
“It’s kind of intimidating, ‘cause it’s really hard, like icy snow,” Shiffrin said. “It does tend to put you in the backseat on the defensive, because especially with a straight course, and with skis that want to turn – I mean, slalom skis want to turn, so if you’re trying to put them straight, it’s kind of sketchy – but I did have a pretty good line, I had good tactics, and just a really good game plan for that run in order to make it as smooth and as connected as I could, and it worked.”
The 24-year-old Burke Mountain Academy alum was the very last skier of the day on Sunday. She threw down a near flawless second run, winning the slalom event for the fourth straight time, by more than a second, and thrilling thousands in the stands. Petra Vlhova of Slovakia took second, and Sweden’s Anna Swenn-Larsson finished third.
Erika Alusic-Bingham from Antrim, New Hampshire stood at the base of the run and grinned as people on all sides of her roared.
“Oh, it’s incredible, it really is, the women are so powerful,” she said. “Like you can get that here, where you can’t see it on TV, it’s just an amazing experience.”
And being able to see that kind of power and skill with her daughter, Alusic-Bingham said, was priceless.