Editor's Note: the formatting on this article may look a little funky as we work some kinks out of the updated system. All photos by @AaronFM unless otherwise noted. - RR

The fourth edition of the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup races at Killington, Vermont, is ready to roll tomorrow.

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Elite athletes and Pico Ski Team athletes mingle at the Friday press conference. (Photo by Aaron Fracht-Monroe)

To address some of the basic concerns about tomorrow's GS race:

Alice Robinson (NZL) will be racing tomorrow. She reports that training in Colorado went well and that her knee feels up to the task of taking on the injected Superstar course.

Start order:

1. Viktoria Rebensburg (GER)
2. Wendy Holdener (SUI)
3. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA)
4. Tessa Worley (FRA)
5. Federica Brignone (ITA)
6. Marta Bassino (ITA)
7. Petra Vlhova (SVK)
8. Ricarda Hasser (AUT)
9. Katharina Liensberger (AUT)
10. Thea Louise Stjernesund (NOR)
...
15. Alice Robinson (NZL)
18. Anna Veith (AUT)
22. Lara Gut-Behrami (SUI)
24. Marie-Michele Gagnon (CAN)
31. Nina O'Brien (USA)

Wind concerns may force the first run to start at the alternate (read: lower) start position. This course would be approximately 6 gates shorter and exclude the top headwall of Superstar.

First run is set by Klaus Mayrhofer (AUT), second run by Paola De Florian (ITA). The first run set looks to favor those who have patience in their turns, using much of the width of Superstar as it bucks and rolls down the trail.

There should be zero concern about peeling snow this weekend, especially in the GS. Reports from course crew members and coaches indicate the injection did a great job at making a very solid surface for racing. With high temperatures not exceeding 25°F/-4°C, the race should be as fair for racer 1 as it is for racer 41.

Paul Kristofic, Head Women's Coach for the U.S. Ski Team, says that Nina O'Brien is worth watching in the GS. Also notable is the second World Cup start of Storm Klomhaus, a Denver University athlete

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Katharina Gallhuber (AUT) after training slalom on Skylark. Note the new Atomic "Marker" toepieces on her skis. (Photo by Rudi Riet)

Updates from Saturday, November 30:

Weather is clear an cold this morning, and with the sun rising the wind is picking up. Other than the wind, it should be a great day for a GS race.

The wind forced the race jury's hand and the start was moved to the alternate location at the bottom of the Upper Headwall. This made the race more of a sprint and eliminated some technical turns that would typically play into the hands of racers like Shiffrin.


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Mikaela Shiffrin (USA)

In the end, the first run did reward skiers who were willing to take more risks while still minding the hard snow and decent offset of the gates. Marta Bassino (ITA) proved the one to put all the pieces together and ripped a fast, on-the-edge run to take a 0.23 second lead over Petra Vlhova (SVK), whose GS skiing continues to impress. Michelle Gisin (SUI) surprised many by landing in third place after starting 16th. Tessa Worley (FRA) and Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) rounded out the top five.


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Petra Vlhova (SVK)


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Thea Louise Stjernesund (NOR)

There were a few more surprises in the first run, as well.

Alice Robinson (NZL), the "giant killer" of Sölden, had a ragged start to her run and eventually spun out after getting twisted while trying to make up time leading into Lower Preston's Pitch. Robinson has a huge fan following, and the audible gasp when she crashed spoke volumes.


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Alice Robinson (NZL) spins out

Estelle Alphand (SWE) and Sofia Goggia (ITA) took full advantage of a rock-hard course and moved well up into the mix for the second run. Alphand moved from 47th start to 17th place, Goggia from 54th to 15th. For Goggia, her comeback from injury seems to be on track. "I feel great and that run was fun," she told me after her run.

Also taking advantage of the conditions was Katharina Huber (AUT), who started 60th (i.e. last) and ended up in 21st, her smile telling the full story.


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Katharina Huber (AUT) after punching her ticket for the second run

Alex Tilley (GBR) tied for 30th and will start second in the afternoon run.

The North American contingent (other than Shiffrin) had their share of challenges. Nina O'Brien (USA) made the flip, finishing in 28th place. She was grateful for the injected surface, noting it was much better than last year's peeling and rough surface. Marie-Michele Gagnon (CAN) finished just ahead of O'Brien in 27th, her comeback from injury continuing apace.


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Nina O'Brien (USA)

Otherwise, athletes from the U.S. and Canada missed the cut or crashed out. A.J. Hurt (USA) was 40th, and Erin Mielzynski (CAN) was 52nd (last place of those who finished the run). Storm Klomhaus (USA) and Keely Cashman (USA) both crashed, and Candace Crawford (CAN) missed a gate and was disqualified.

For those keeping score, here's the breakdown of nations that made the second run cut:

NOR: 5
ITA: 5
SUI: 4
AUT: 3
FRA: 3
SLO: 3
GER: 2
USA: 2
CAN: 1
GBR: 1
SVK: 1


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Piera Hudson (NZL)

Update at 3:30pm EST on Saturday, November 30:

The second run of the women's GS was quite the show. The course was a more direct and aggressive set, which suited the athletes well as many had to recalculate their strategy with the shorter course and missing Upper Headwall.


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Alex Tilley (GBR)

The real barn burner run of the afternoon was from Alex Tilley (GBR), who skied to the second-fastest run by using turn apexes to their hilt and not over-skiing Preston's Pitch. She had a very clean course due to her start position and used it to full advantage, moving from a tie at 30th up to 17th place for the day.



At the upper levels, it was a battle royale to fill the top ten. Both Sofia Goggia (ITA) and Estell Alphand (SWE) just missed the top ten, though their runs were fast (7th and 6th fastest, respectively). A few racers faded by over-skiing or miscalculating their lines. This included Viktoria Rebensburg (GER), who dropped from 6th to 7th place, and Petra Vlhova (SVK), whose 13th fastest second run dropped her from second to sixth on the day. Wendy Holdener (SUI) was skiing a hard charge onto Preston's Pitch when she took too direct a line and had to over-correct, costing her a chance to move up the standings.

The top five were all fairly close on the second run, though the top skiers proved their mettle just a little more. Tessa Worley (FRA) had a couple baubles and dropped from fourth to fifth. Michelle Gisin (SUI) also faltered slightly, dropping from third to fourth.


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Mikaela Shiffrin (USA)

Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) skied a more aggressive second run (third fastest), moving up to third. "It's a tricky hill, not that steep," said Shiffrin, "so you need to push fast and clean and not make mistakes." And true to her goal: she had fun in both runs, even if "there were some mistakes that will be worked on... especially my start, which I'm told needs work."


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Federica Brignone (ITA) charged the second run harder and more direct than anyone else, winning the run and landing in second place.


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Federica Brignone (ITA)

"It was a short course, so I know I had to make something special," said Brignone. "In Sölden, I skied well but not fast. I missed the first pitch (Upper Headwall), it's too easy without that pitch. The hill has no flats, and you need to arc the turns without any braking motions."


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And first run leader Marta Bassino (ITA) kept the butterflies in check and held on to hear lead, winning the race by 0.26 seconds.

"My dream came true," she beamed. "I was so nervous after the first run, so when I crossed the finish and saw the green light, I said to myself, 'wow, I did it!'"


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Marta Bassino (ITA)

Bassino also remarked about the shorter course, calling it a "sprint race where we were all so close to each other." Bassino will sit out the slalom on Sunday, cheering on her teammates before returning to Italy for more training before the December and January technical races.


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Marta Bassino (ITA) celebrates after seeing the green light


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Nina O'Brien (USA) and Marie-Michele Gagnon (CAN) finished 28th and 29th for the day, respectively.


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Nina O'Brien (USA)

Top 10:
1. Marta Bassino (ITA) 1:38.19
2. Federica Brignone (ITA) +0.26
3. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) +0.29
4. Michelle Gisin (SUI) +0.31
5. Tessa Worley (FRA) +0.50
6. Petra Vlhova (SVK) +0.65
7. Viktoria Rebensburg (GER) +0.98
8. Wendy Holdener (SUI) +1.12
9. Mine Fuerst Holrmann (NOR) +1.29
10. Meta Hrovat (SLO) +1.34


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Updates for Sunday, December 1:

The final day of the Killington Cup has sun and biting cold. The PugSki reporting crew woke up to 8°F/-13°C temperatures, calm wind, and sun. This sun will give way to a powerful winter storm in the afternoon, so be advised that the end-of-race wrap-up will be published a little later than usual in order to allow Aaron and me to safely get to our destinations after the event concludes.

The field in today's race is strong and carries memories of last weekend's opening slalom in Levi. Top 15 starters:

1. Petra Vlhova (SVK)
2. Kristin Lysdahl (NOR)
3. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA)
4. Katharina Liensberger (AUT)
5. Anna Swenn Larsson (SWE)
6. Wendy Holdener (SUI)
7. Katharina Truppe (AUT)
8. Lena Duerr (GER)
9. Christina Ackermann (GER)
10. Katharina Gallhuber (AUT)
11. Irene Curtoni (ITA)
12. Katharina Huber (AUT)
13. Laurence St-Germain (CAN)
14. Nina Haver-Loeseth (NOR)
15. Michelle Gisin (SUI)
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16. Erin Mielzynski (CAN)
19. Roni Remme (CAN)
23. Paula Moltzan (USA)
31. Federica Brignone (ITA) -- note that Brignone said yesterday that she is adding slalom to her schedule but dropping DH
32. Amelia Smart (CAN)
34. Ali Nullmeyer (CAN)
37. Nina O'Brien (USA)
46. Katie Hensien (USA)
52. Keely Cashman (USA)
53. Piera Hudson (NZL)
55. Foreste Peterson (USA)

First run course was set by ASL's coach, so she may have a mental upper hand.

Update after first run on Sunday, December 1:

There are a few choice words used by athletes regarding the first run course:

Straight.

Fast.

Hard snow.

Weird light.

And one name dominated the scene: Mikaela.


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Mikaela Shiffrin (USA)


Shiffrin dominated the first run by a staggering 1.13 second margin over Petra Vlhova. Showing a mastery of the hill and of the surface (which Shirffrin told me was "rock solid on the steeps and a bit trackable on the flats," where wind had deposited softer snow), she put on a slalom clinic that, while not without a couple baubles, was still a master class.


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Mikaela Shiffrin (USA)

Vlhova's run was also great, and she had the first start position for the cleanest course. But she made a couple critical mistakes - one on a flatter section of the course - that cost her time.


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Petra Vlhova (SVK)

Wendy Holdener also aimed for speed, but mistakes sapped her energy and the final 10 gates were a struggle to finish. She sits in third at 1.74 seconds arrears of Shiffrin.

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Wendy Holdener (SUI)


The rest of the top ten:

4. Katharina Liensberger (AUT) +2.03
5. Katharina Gallhuber (AUT) +2.39
6. Christina Ackermann (GER) +2.57
7. Michelle Gisin (SUI) +2.77
8. Katharina Huber (AUT) +2.79
9. Anna Swenn Larsson (SWE) + 2.82
10. Roni Remme (CAN) +3.16

Landing in 11th place is the resurgent Federica Brignone. Even though she admits to not training slalom since Forza Italia trained in Argentina, she powered through the course with solid skiing, 3.41 seconds out.

Laurence St-Germain is in 14th, 3.78 seconds behind. She remarked to me that the course was hard and relatively straight, and hopes for a slightly more offset course for the second run. The rest of Team Canada either DNFed (Erin Mielzynski) or missed the cut (Amelia Smart, Ali Nullmeyer).

Alex Tilley (GBR) just made the cut at 29th place. Piera Hudson (NZL) was a DNF.

The U.S. Ski Team, other than Shiffrin, did not fare well. Paula Moltzan, Nina O'Brien, Katie Hensien, and Foreste Peterson did not finish the course, all falling due to technical mistakes. Keely Cashman finished, but well outside the time cutoff.

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Paula Moltzan (USA)


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Nina O'Brien (USA)

Update after second run on Sunday, December 1:

Once again, it was Mikaela in the driver's seat, showing everybody else how it's done. She won the race by 2.29 seconds by mastering a course with far more offset and more "gotcha" gates on the upper, flatter portion of Superstar. The pressure was on, and the hometown crowd greeted Shiffrin with a deafening roar. Slalom win number 42 (and 62nd overall victory) was in the bag.


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Mikaela Shiffrin (USA)

"It was wild," said Shiffrin. "I thought I was out of the course a couple times. It was a really bumpy and really quick set." Shiffrin says her work on fundamentals of skiing helps her in such situations, with more predictable outcomes. She says she sometimes ponders a different Mikaela. "Maybe there’s another parallel universe where I tomahawk down this thing," she mused, "let's not go there, though."


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Mikaela Shiffrin (USA)

That said, the Scandinavians were not to be underestimated. While Petra Vlhova hung on for second place with a run that saw her shedding speed on the upper flats, the big moves of the second run came from the likes of Anna Swenn Larsson (moving up from 9th to 3rd) and Nina Haver-Loeseth, who had the fastest second run and moved up from 17th to 5th. Fourth place went to Germany's Christina Ackermann.

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Anna Swenn Larsson (SWE) knows how to ski fast in flat light


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Nina Haver-Loeseth (NOR)

"I was a bit disappointed after first run," said Swenn Larsson, " I didn’t really get into the flow, and am excited I did better in the second run." Regarding the flat light, she added, "we are from Sweden, so we are used to skiing in the dark."

Katharina Liensberger slipped two spots from 4th to 6th, while Roni Remme moved up three spots to take 7th. Katharina Gallhuber (AUT), Michelle Gisin (SUI), and Irene Curtoni (ITA) rounded out the top ten. A special tip of the hat to Curtoni, the only competitor born in the 1980s in today's race.

The conditions for the second run saw increasingly overcast skies with stronger winds being driven by the incoming winter weather that's currently battering southern New England. As such, the flat light made it tough to see little details in the snow, and the challenging course set from Werner Zurbuchen (SUI) made it a tough go for many athletes.

Falling victim to the course were Federica Brignone, whose run was likely to break her into the top 6, and Laurence St-Germain, who was similarly looking to land in the top ten. Wendy Holdener hooked a tip on the second gate of the run, ending her campaign to have another podium finish at Killington.

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Charlotte Chable (SUI) goes down on a transition to the last pitch where many racers had difficulty today.

Alex Tilley, the lone Team GB racer here in Vermont, ended up in 24th.

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Alex Tilley (GBR)

Top 10:
1. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) 1:50.45
2. Petra Vlhova (SVK) +2.29
3. Anna Swenn Larsson (SWE) +2.73
4. Christina Ackermann (GER) +3.08
5. Nina Haver-Loeseth (NOR) +3.41
6. Katharina Liensberger (AUT) +3.73
7. Roni Remme (CAN) +3.88
8. Katharina Gallhuber (AUT) +4.15
9. Michelle Gisin (SUI) +4.28
10. Irene Curtoni (ITA) +4.40


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Mikaela Shiffrin (USA)


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Petra Vlhova (SVK)


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Anna Swenn Larsson (SWE)