At age 22 (as of March 13), Mikaela Shiffrin is already one of the best American Alpine racers in history—and unquestionably one of the best slalom skiers. The three-time World Cup slalom champion and Olympic gold medalist, who won by a record three-plus seconds during her last Aspen appearance, also leads the women’s overall standings (as of early February). If Vail-born Shiffrin, who is contending for the slalom and giant slalom (GS) titles, also takes the crystal globe (i.e., the World Cup’s overall season title) while in Aspen, she will be only the third American woman to do so, and one of the youngest winners ever.
With five men’s overall World Cup titles, plus three crystal globes in slalom and three in GS, Marcel Hirscher is Austria’s most successful ski racer—and among the top five male Alpine skiers ever. He has led the GS and slalom standings throughout most of the season, albeit with some serious challengers in both disciplines. Still, after celebrating his 100th World Cup podium in early January (a feat surpassed only by the legendary Ingemar Stenmark), he stands a good chance of winning a record sixth overall title.
Look for Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen to be a contender for the men’s slalom title. Kristoffersen, the defending World Cup slalom champion who was second overall in 2016, tied Hirscher for slalom points during the fifth of 11 races in dramatic fashion—by a 1.83-second margin of victory.
Born to a French mother and an Australian father, Tessa Worley grew up skiing year-round in the French Alps and New Zealand. It’s paid off. With 10 years on the World Cup circuit and multiple podiums, Worley, who skis for France, is gunning for her first GS title after several close calls. She should have a soft spot for Aspen; it was here in November 2008 that Worley won her first World Cup race.
Alexis Pinturault of France has placed second or third in the GS standings the past four years and third overall for three seasons. Now in his seventh World Cup season, he’s aiming for first, trailing Marcel Hirscher in GS with just two races to go. With his 19th World Cup win in January, Pinturault achieved a milestone: pulling ahead of the legendary Jean-Claude Killy as the most victorious French ski racer of all time.
Defending overall World Cup champion Lara Gut is a threat to Shiffrin because she races all disciplines except slalom—and well. A speed specialist, the Swiss racer excels in super-G, where she’s already won two titles and is in the lead for a third. But she’s also in contention for overall podiums in GS and downhill; she finished third in both last year. With more than 20 victories in nine World Cup seasons, Gut recently made the vaunted list of most successful female ski racers.
Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud has been dominant in speed events much of the season, winning three super-Gs and a downhill. The overall champion in both disciplines in 2015, this well-rounded athlete, who earned Olympic medals in three disciplines, could make the podium in the overall World Cup standings.
The winningest female ski racer in history, American Lindsey Vonn was sidelined since last February with a knee injury and broken arm until returning to racing mid-January. Vonn is not only chasing more titles this season—she already has 20, including eight in downhill—but has one final record to break: Ingemar Stenmark’s 86 World Cup victories. As of press time, she had only nine to go.
In her first six seasons on the World Cup circuit, Ilka Stuhec never stood on a podium; her best overall discipline ranking was 12th in super-G in 2016. This season, the Slovenian came out with skis a-blazin’, winning four races (three downhills and an Alpine combined) in December alone. Now in contention for the downhill and super-G titles, she could also finish in the top five overall.
It’s anybody’s guess who will take the men’s downhill title this season. Ever since speed legend Aksel Lund Svindal’s season ended in January with a lingering knee injury, the battle for the top spot has been fierce—and fluid. Steven Nyman’s season looked promising until a crash in the Kandahar downhill took him out—the same race won by fellow American Travis Ganong, who has now earned himself a chance of reaching the overall downhill podium. Other contenders include super-G leader (as of early February) Kjetil Jansrud, Italians Peter Fill and Hahnenkamm victor Dominik Paris, and Austria’s Hannes Reichelt, who had three top-10 downhill finishes in January.