No pressure, Dave

Says Graham Bell, as he reveals the ones to watch this season

ski racer Dave Ryding on course

When the World Cup season kicked off all eyes were on USA’s Mikaela Shiffrin. The undisputed skiing GOAT is almost running out of ski racing records to break. Shiffrin surpassed Ingemar Stenmark’s number of 86 World Cup wins in Åre at the end of last season, and with no major championships this season, her focus will be on defending her overall World Cup title. 

A sixth overall Crystal Globe this season would see Shiffrin tie with Annemarie Moser-Proll for the female record, and edge closer to Marcel Hirscher’s record of eight overall World Cup titles. Shiffrin’s focus will be on the technical events, with a few speed weekends like St Moritz, Cortina and Kvitfjell thrown in to liven things up; even without fully committing to a four-discipline programme she is very capable of notching up victories in Downhill and Super-G.

[Shiffrin — defending giant slalom and overall champion — placed sixth in Solden on 28 October at the World Cup season opener but took her first (top) podium of the season on Sunday 12 November in Levi – her seventh in ten years. That makes her 89th career victory / 139th podium / 54th slalom win.]

At 25 years old, Marco Odermatt from Switzerland is a long way from GOAT status, but he is comfortably the best male skier in the world right now, and has the ability to become the skier of the decade. Like the great Hermann Maier, Odermatt, the Olympic Giant Slalom champion, has recently picked up speed skills to match the legendary Austrian, winning both the World Championship Downhill and World Cup Super-G titles last season.  

Odi as he is known, skis like a smiling Hermanator with a fraction more finesse. Odermatt’s main rival for the Downhill title is Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, who at 30 years old is still coming into his prime as a speed specialist, especially when you consider that Didier Cuche was 37 when he won his 5th Hahnenkamm downhill.   

The queen of speed Sofia Goggia, from Italy, is also 30 years old, and barring injury will no doubt dominate in Downhill again this season. A youngster to watch out for on the speed circuit is Lara Colturi, daughter of Olympic champion Daniela Ceccarelli; despite being from Italy, Colturi, who is still only 16 years old, chose to race for Albania in order to continue being coached by her parents. Colturi scored World Cup points in her first senior season at the Killington Giant Slalom last year – she placed 17th, recording the 4th fastest second-run time. Speed, however is her passion, and it will be interesting to see how Colturi fares as a one-person team, against the collective might of the Alpine ski nations.   

In the men’s technical disciplines, the Norwegians continue to be the powerhouse team, with the 29-year-old Henrik Kristoffersen, who took his first of 30 World Cup victories in Schladming back in 2014, still leading the charge. Teammate Lucas Braathen, 23, pipped Kristoffersen to the Slalom World Cup title last season, and watch out for Alexander Steen Olsen, 22, he finished last season on scintillating form, notching up his first World Cup win in Palisades Tahoe. One skier who has hung up the slalom skis in favour of the longer speed boards is Frenchman Alexis Pinturault – the 2020 overall World Cup winner will now concentrate on a three-discipline programme looking to breakthrough in Downhill in the later stages of his career. 

Austria’s Marco Schwartz, who won the Slalom crystal globe in 2021, surprised everyone with his form in Downhill last season, placing 4th in the World Championship downhill and 2nd in the Soldeu World Cup finals Super-G. It’s been 12 years since a true four-discipline male skier, Ivica Kostelic from Croatia, won the overall World Cup title – best of luck to Blackie, as he’s known.   

Finally, Dave Ryding will lead the British Alpine team again, to hopefully more World Cup glory. Ryding and his young teammates Billy Major and Laurie Taylor will be happy to see the Austrian resort of Gurgl added to the ski World Cup programme on 18 November. Gurgl has sponsored Ryding for many years on the World Cup tour, so what better way of repayment than a win in the opening Slalom of the season. No pressure, Dave.