KILLINGTON, Vt. — The first time Tessa Worley ever skied in Vermont was Thursday, when she had an opportunity to just cruise around Killington and check it out ahead of two World Cup races this weekend.
“I really loved it. It was great because it was a little colder than [Saturday] and the snow was harder, and it was awesome. I just freeskied for fun, and I saw the [competition] slope for the first time, and I said it looks pretty good, I really want to ski on it,” she said.
She liked it even more on Saturday, when she skied two fast giant slalom runs in front of an enormous and energetic crowd of 16,000 to win the first World Cup event in New England in 25 years. Worley, of France, finished eight-10ths of a second faster than Nina Loeseth of Norway, and 1:11 ahead of third-place finisher Sofia Goggia of Italy.
Worley said conditions were difficult for the racers — bumps and ruts in the first run, and the second began with the Superstar trail shrouded in fog and ended with a steady snowfall — but that played in her favor.
“I actually like when it’s tough conditions. I feel like I need to fight more, and I know that I ski fast when I fight,” said Worley, who posted her ninth World Cup victory — all in giant slalom — in 159 career starts.
American Mikaela Shiffrin rallied from eighth after the first run to finish fifth. A huge crowd favorite, she said she was nervous before the first run and angry before the second.
“I’m pretty disappointed today,” Shiffrin said. “I’m happy with the second run and just taking steps forward. One of these days I’m actually going to ski some fast GS.”
Shiffrin did increase her overall World Cup points lead. Defending overall champion Lara Gut of Switzerland did not complete the first run Saturday.
Worley, who trailed Loeseth by nine-100ths of a second after the first run, said the key was at the start of each run. Worley was the only skier to post times under 1 minute in both runs.
“There’s this first part where it’s a little steep, and you need to get [going] as quick as possible because it’s the biggest speed you will have,” she said.
Loeseth faltered just a bit during the second run. She had a long wait — she was last in the afternoon after going first in the morning — and admitted she was nervous.
“I was fighting my demons, and I think then, like 10 minutes before the start, I turned my head on again, so I stopped being scared,” she said.
Goggia was thrilled to have her first World Cup podium finish. She moved up from 14th after the first run by posting the single fastest run of the day in the second — her 58.93 was the only time below 59 seconds. The Italian team took five of the top 10 spots.
“For me, it’s great to do my first podium here in America because I really like America,” she said. “I’m speechless.”
Shiffrin said she will spend time analyzing Saturday’s result before turning her attention to Sunday’s slalom, her specialty.
“I’m going to take a minute, kind of reevaluate what’s going on with my GS and why I can’t seem to put my training skiing into the race, knowing that a lot of these girls are really fast and they’re pushing really hard and they all want to win just as bad as I do,” Shiffrin said.Follow Matt Pepin on Twitter @mattpep15.