Mikaela Shiffrin carves a turn
Mikaela Shiffrin leads Team USA this season. (Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / Getty Images)

Five Story Lines to Follow with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team

Mikaela Shiffrin, Jessie Diggins, and the country’s other stars of snow sports are back in action

Mikaela Shiffrin carves a turn

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Mikaela Shiffrin’s pursuit of history isn’t the only reason to tune into World Cup skiing this season. New faces on America’s alpine and cross-country teams are emerging as consistent podium threats—and hometown races and new broadcast services make it easier to watch them ascend the rankings. Here’s how to tune in and what to watch for this competition season:

Mikaela Shiffrin Leads an All-Star U.S. Alpine Team

Having stood atop the World Cup podium 76 times, Shiffrin is only six victories away from tying Lindsey Vonn for the most wins by a female skier. She’s also only ten wins from tying Ingemar Stenmarks’ record of 86, the most victories ever by any skier. In 2019 alone, Shiffrin scored 17 wins, so it’s certainly possible that she could accomplish both records, which would confirm her, at just 27 years old, as the greatest ski racer ever. Though Shiffrin will garner most of the headlines as she chases those records, it’s worth keeping an eye on other American skiers. Rookie Ava Sunshine Jemison, who, when she wasn’t skiing, grew up competing in surf events, finished in the top 30 in her first two World Cup starts (not even Shiffrin accomplished that). On the men’s side, Vermont’s Ryan Cochran-Siegle, who won America’s only medal at last season’s Olympics (silver in the super G), will compete for the overall title in super G and downhill, and Vail’s River Radamus, who nearly found the podium in Beijing (fourth in giant slalom), is on track for a tour win in that event. Two skiers coming back from injuries are also worth noting: Breezy Johnson, who got hurt just a few weeks before the Beijing Games, has a chance to win the women’s overall downhill title. And Tommy Ford, who, during the 2019 season, was in the hunt for the overall Giant Slalom crown before suffering a horrific injury, has already managed a sixth-place finish in this season’s World Cup opener.

Nordic Stars to Watch

American audiences began noticing just how good U.S. cross-country skiers had become in 2018, when Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall won Olympic gold in the team sprint event. Randall has retired, but Diggins and the rest of the women’s squad is still racking up victories on the World Cup. Diggins won the overall World Cup title in 2021, making her only the second American to accomplish that feat (Bill Koch won the overall in 1982). Julia Kern and Hailey Swirlbul have both earned podium results. And Rosie Brennan has won multiple World Cup races. In addition, the men’s team is greatly improved. Vermonter Ben Ogden was 12th in the sprint race at the Beijing Games (the best sprint result at the Olympics by an American man), and Scott Patterson and Zak Ketterson teamed with Brennan and Diggins to win a World Cup mixed relay last season.

New Technology Powers the Stars

If your favorite American ski racers look sharper this season as he or she carves through courses, it might be due to technology that the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team began developing just prior to the pandemic. The tech, called Slope Sense is a monitor attached to skiers’ back protectors. Using GPS and IMUs (an electronic device that measures inertia), the team can now detect the forces on a skier’s body—at 100 times per second—throughout the turn. Using that data, the team has been able to build a proprietary exercise machine that mimics exactly those forces, allowing skiers to get the same sensation of going in and out of gates right in the gym.

The U.S. Becomes a World Cup Destination

For the first time in history, the U.S. will host eight World Cup events. That means there’s more opportunity than ever to watch your favorite athletes compete. Included in the collection of events are aerial and mogul competitions in Utah and freeski and snowboard competitions in Colorado and California. There are also several alpine ski races, first at Killington Mountain in Vermont (women’s slalom and giant slalom) in November, then at Beaver Creek, Colorado for men’s super-G and downhill in December. There’s also a series at Palisades Tahoe in Lake Tahoe, California (men’s slalom and giant slalom) in February. But perhaps the most exciting news is that World Cup racing will return to Aspen, Colorado in March, where the men will take on one of the more iconic tracks for the first time since 2017. Dubbed “America’s Downhill,” the course is noted for its huge, 100-foot jumps, extreme steeps, and technical turns. If you do make it to Aspen for the race, try getting there early and hike to the bottom of Spring Pitch. There, you’ll be able to see most of Aztec, which includes the steepest section of the course and highest speeds. “To be able to hold the lead and dominate on home snow felt like defending the honor of American skiing,” AJ Kitt, an American downhiller, once wrote. “I felt the whole country on my shoulders—in a good way.”

New Ways to Watch

Through a new partnership with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team, Outside+ is streaming 90 hours of domestic competition. NBC platforms will also broadcast 19 hours of coverage of domestic World Cup events across their platforms, including live and tape-delayed coverage on NBC, CNBC, and Peacock. Skiandsnowboard.live will stream events abroad (a season’s pass costs $16), except for events held in Austria. There’s a complicated story behind Austria’s broadcast rights to World Cup events, but they have struck a deal this year with NBC. So, to watch the Hahnenkamm, Flachau, and Stubai races, you’ll need a Peacock subscription.

Lead Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / Getty Images

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