KILLINGTON, Vt. — Lara Gut-Behrami of Switzerland won the Killington Cup giant slalom Saturday, beating Italy’s Marta Bassino by .07 seconds in front of a crowd of 21,000 spectators cheering at the finish line.
Sara Hector of Sweden rounded out a tightly placed podium, 0.2 seconds behind. Mikaela Shiffrin was the highest-placed US racer, finishing 13th.
Gut-Behrami, 31, rallied from third place after the first run to earn her 35th World Cup win. Having never finished better than 19th place at Killington in previous editions of the event, Gut-Behrami was able to ski consistently on both runs.
“I’m really happy about my skiing because there were two different runs, two different course settings, and I was able to ski well in both of them,” she said. “The second run was a little more risky. I controlled a little bit more in the down part but I mean I’m happy, it’s the first race of the season and to be on the podium and win is really nice.”
Usually, the women’s FIS World Cup gets the giant slalom season started in Soelden, Austria, in October, but rain and unseasonably warm weather forced the event’s cancellation. As a result, Killington was the first test for giant slalom racers in the new season.
“I was confident about my skiing but I would say Soelden has probably been easier for me to be fast than in Killington,” Gut-Behrami acknowledged. “It’s always been a little more of a struggle. I would say it’s a little bit flat in the middle part and I couldn’t ever build speed, so I’m happy I was able to change that today and end up with a win. For once I was able to ski nicely [at Killington].”
Windy conditions forced the start of the race to be moved farther downhill on Killington’s “Superstar” trail, shortening the course by several gates and narrowing the potential for time gaps among racers.
Though Gut-Behrami candidly acknowledged that she “hates skiing when it’s windy,” the snow conditions — which had been in doubt weeks earlier because of the warm weather across the region — received praise.
“It was a really good slope with perfect conditions,” said Bassino, who also won the giant slalom at Killington in 2019.
“I really love Killington,” she added. “I think the atmosphere here is really special.”
The Saturday crowd was a record number for the event, according to Killington organizers.
Shiffrin, who will be a favorite in Sunday’s slalom (held on the same trail), made no excuses after falling behind by 1.36 seconds after the first run.
“The surface was amazing,” Shiffrin said. “Honestly, it’s exactly what we all hoped it would be.”
“I can make much better turns than that,” she acknowledged.
Since the Killington Cup began in 2016, Shiffrin has won each of the slalom events (with the exception of 2020, when the event was canceled because of the pandemic). Her best giant slalom result at Killington was second place in 2017.
Despite a podium without a US racer, Killington fans roared their support for Gut-Behrami, Bassino, and Hector. They also had an increased contingent of US skiers to cheer for, with four skiers finishing in the top 30 after the first run (and therefore qualifying for a second run).
Among the US team, Paula Moltzan finished 18th, former Burke Mountain Academy racer Nina O’Brien placed 23rd, with Katie Hensien finishing 27th.
“I think everybody has a higher level in them than what they showed today,” said Shiffrin of the US team, “but it’s the first [giant slalom race] of the season and it’s a really great way to kick things off and, from here, [we’ll] try to step it up even more.”