Mikaela Shiffrin competes during the women's slalom at the 2022 FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup on Nov. 20, 2022 in Levi, Finland.
That sound you hear is Santa Claus typing Mikaela Shiffrin’s number into speed dial.
The winners of alpine skiing world cup races in Levi, a resort located 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle in the Lapland region of Finland, traditionally receive a reindeer (who, to be sure, stays happily in Levi).
Having previously won reindeer in 2013, 2016, 2018 and 2019, the 27-year-old Shiffrin is now the proud owner of six antlered helpers — just two shy of Claus himself — after adding a pair to her herd this weekend via back-to-back slalom wins in the belated women’s alpine skiing world cup opener.
While Santa might be calling on Shiffrin for some help on Dec. 24, the three-time Olympic medalist looked very much the part as the sport’s most decorated slalom skier this weekend, coming back with a blazing second run to win on Saturday, then posting the fastest time in both runs to win again on Sunday.
Coming off a difficult end to the 2021-22 season, Shiffrin became the first woman to open the world cup season with back-to-back wins in 29 years, and now has 76 career world cup wins, trailing only fellow American Lindsey Vonn (82) and the Swedish icon Ingemar Stenmark (86).
Already the winninest skier ever — man or woman — in a single racing discipline, Shiffrin now has 49 slalom wins. With Saturday’s win, she passed Vonn for the most world cup podiums by a woman in a single race, and she now has 68 slalom podiums. Vonn had reached the podium 66 times in the downhill, while Stenmark holds the overall record, having reached the podium 81 times in slalom and 72 in giant slalom.
This year’s alpine skiing world cup was supposed to begin on Oct. 22 with the traditional giant slalom opener in Soelden, Austria, but rain and wet snow forced organizers to cancel the women’s race. While the men got their race off the next day, neither had competed since as three subsequent world cup races for each were canceled due to warm weather and lack of snow.
The women finally were able to start their season Saturday in Levi.
Shiffrin came back after posting the third fastest time in the opening run to lead the pack in the second run, allowing her to jump to the top of the standings with a combined time of 1 minute 51.25 seconds. Sweden’s Anna Swenn Larsson was the runner up, finishing .16 seconds behind Shiffrin. Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, the reigning Olympic champ, was third, finishing .20 back from Shiffrin.
Sunday was all Shiffrin. Her time of 56.86 seconds in run one was .07 ahead of the field, then she blew everyone away with a 55.35 on the second run. Her combined time of 1:52.21 was .28 ahead of second-place Wendy Holdener of Switzerland and .68 ahead of Vlhova.
“I really didn’t expect today, even after the first run,” Shiffrin said. “Everyone who is racing is so strong right now. There is a little bit of luck, but I’ve been working really hard on my preparation.”
Fellow American Ava Sunshine placed 21st on Saturday in her world cup debut. She was 27th, one spot behind teammate Katie Hensien, on Sunday.
The women’s world cup circuit moves to familiar territory for Shiffrin next weekend in Killington, Vermont. They’ll race a giant slalom Saturday and slalom on Sunday. Shiffrin has won five times in Killington, including her last two slaloms there in 2019 and 2021.