(Paris) After three weeks and as many canceled races, the world’s best female skiers must finally start their season on Saturday in Gurgl, Austria, as the women’s circuit meets in Zermatt-Cervinia… unless the weather gets in the way again.
Too much wind in Sölden (Austria) at the end of October, too much snow in Zermatt (Switzerland) last weekend: three weeks after the start of the Alpine Skiing World Cup, the men have not yet been able to unlock the points counters and repeated delays have reignited the debate about adjusting the competition calendar.
In the Austrian Tyrol, 47 lucky people managed to drive the first run of the opening giant slalom, but the race was interrupted and then completely canceled due to impressive gusts of wind.
Two weeks later, Marco Odermatt, Aleksander Aamodt Kilde and the others were to start a spectacular descent between Zermatt and Cervinia (Italy) at an altitude of almost 4,000 meters.
But for the second year in a row, this cross-border race, unprecedented in the history of the World Cup, also had to be canceled: this time too much snow. It wasn’t enough in 2022.
Year after year, the men’s season should start in the Austrian Gurgl on Saturday. In this small Tyrolean resort, which is hosting the World Cup for the first time, a unique slalom is on the program.
From the Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen to the Swiss Ramon Zenhäusern and Daniel Yule via the French Clément Noël, the best slalom skiers in the world will be there, with the great exception of Lucas Braathen, the Norwegian winner of the small globe in the specialty last season, but who surprised everyone by announcing at the end of October that he was retiring at the age of 23.
Zermatt… or not?
For their part, the female skiers – who suffered the same setbacks as the men at the start of last season – have so far avoided cancellations. After the giant slalom in Sölden and the slalom in Levi (Finland), they take over from the men in Zermatt-Cervinia on Saturday and Sunday for the first downhills of the season.
Another cancellation of the competition would further compromise the future of this Italian-Swiss stage, which was announced with great fanfare at the beginning of 2022 and should open the season for speed specialists.
But the inauguration of the “Gran Becca” encountered the reality of a glacier that is difficult to tame in autumn and at this height: six descents (4 in the program last year and 2 men’s races planned for next year). last week) were canceled in the same number of attempts.
“Last year it was canceled due to lack of snow, this year it was canceled due to weather conditions. I think we saw the limits of this race,” French Olympic downhill runner-up Johan Clarey, now retired, said on Eurosport on Sunday. “It’s really nothing bad. »
The former skier, like others who are still active on the circuit, advocated a change to the calendar, with the first races later in the year. But the International Federation (FIS) and sponsors want to give skiing visibility in the fall, before Christmas shopping and before the resorts fill up with tourists.
Zermatt-Cervinia has also not escaped environmental controversy after the Swiss press published pictures in October of excavators digging up the glacier ahead of competitors, a partly unauthorized job that is going badly amid the climate crisis.
On a route shortened by a few hundred meters compared to the men, the women have to go to an altitude of 3,500 meters on the Théodule glacier in order to descend three kilometers of steepness and almost 700 meters of height difference.
Italian Sofia Goggia, a four-time winner of the order of the discipline, is going for her fifth crown of the season… if the races take place.
The first training scheduled for Wednesday had to be canceled due to bad weather. However, this could happen on Thursday and the weather forecast is improving for the weekend.