All you need to know ahead of the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup season opener

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The FIS Alpine Ski World Cup kicks off on October 27 in Austria as the Slalom and Giant Slalom skiers get back into race mode in Sölden.

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Marcel Hirscher and Henrik Kristoffersen are set to renew their thrilling rivalry while Mikaela Shiffrin looks to continue her recent domination and to cement her status as one of the most complete skiers on the circuit. Here are some names to look out for:

Slalom and Giant Slalom

–  Austrian Marcel Hirscher’s 2017/2018 season will take some beating as the 29-year-old stormed to three FIS World Cup titles as well as giant slalom and combined golds in the Pyeongchang Winter Games. What made it even more impressive was the fact that Hirscher went into the season on the back of a broken ankle. His thrilling rivalry with Henrik Kristoffersen is set to continue this coming season in both slalom disciplines.

–  American Mikaela Shiffrin raised her game again last season to underline her status as the best female skier on the planet with her fifth FIS World Cup slalom title and a second overall crystal globe. After 11 World Cup wins two seasons ago and 12 last year, she will need to go some to make it 13 or more this season but her improved super-G and downhill form could help bolster her tally. It is amazing to think that she is still only 23 with 43 World Cup wins and five major championship gold medals to her name. She became the first female or male skier for 20 years to win five straight World Cup races last season, so look for another streak this season as well as a tilt at multiple World Championship golds in Sweden.

–  Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen had to settle for second in the FIS World Cup overall, slalom and giant slalom title races as well as giant slalom silver in Pyeongchang. The 24-year-old is intent on getting the better of Hirscher this season, which meant bulking up his body in the off season to try and bridge the gap from first to second in pursuit of another World Cup slalom title to add to 2016 when he became the first skier to win the Adelboden, Wengen, Kitzbühel and Schladming classics in a single season.

–  German Viktoria Rebensburg, 29, may have been racing in the shadow of Mikaela Shiffrin for much of last season, however she strung enough classy performances together to take home the FIS World Cup giant slalom title for a third time after cleaning up in 2011 and 2012. She held off the likes of Tessa Worley, Shiffrin and Ragnhild Mowinckel for her three giant slalom wins in Golden, Killington and Kronplatz.

–  Frenchman Alexis Pinturault is one of the more complete skiers on the circuit, the 27-year-old is considered the man to beat again in combined with two World Cup discipline titles to his name but his giant slalom credentials are strong too so expect to see him feature heavily.

–  Slovakian Petra Vlhová has carved her way to some impressive results in slalom and giant slalom during the last three seasons. If Vlhová, 23, can start strongly this season, then Shiffrin’s path to more FIS World Cup and World Championship success could be harder than many predict.

Downhill and Super G

–  American Lindsey Vonn has already stated that this will be her last season competing at the elite level of the sport that has given her and alpine skiing fans so much joy for so long. She needs five more FIS World Cup victories to surpass Ingemar Stenmark’s all-time record of 86. The 34-year-old stormed to four downhill wins and one super-G victory last season as well as Pyeongchang downhill bronze so look out for a magical end to what has been a phenomenal career, especially if she can open the season with victory at Lake Louise where she has an astonishing 18 career wins.

–  Italian Sofia Goggia has become a huge star of the women’s circuit in the last two years. She broke through with two wins in the 2016/2017 season alongside several podiums and World Championship bronze in giant slalom, then followed up with three wins in 2017/2018, Olympic downhill gold in Pyeongchang and the FIS World Cup downhill title. Sadly her 2018/2019 chances have been hit with a fractured right ankle in training that rules her out until January.

–  German Thomas Dressen graduated from two silvers at the Junior World Championships to having a breakthrough season last year. He secured his first downhill podium in December 2017 at Beaver Creek and his first win the following month at Kitzbühel with another in Kvitfjell in March to finish third overall in downhill. He is also a super-G threat after his first podium in Åre, so he will be looking to kick on after winning German ski athlete of the year for 2018 amidst stiff competition.

–  Canadian Erik Guay suffered a frustrating 2017/2018 season due to a back injury after his heroics at the 2017 World Championships in St. Moritz where he scooped gold in the super-G and silver in the downhill. Allied with his 2011 Garmisch downhill gold and 2010 World Cup super-G title, the 37-year-old has enjoyed an impressive career. He will be looking to finish his final season on a high as Canada’s most accomplished alpine ski racer.

–  Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal, 35, has had a stellar career that includes seven major championship golds and 11 World Cup titles. He enjoyed a solid season last time out to finish third in the overall FIS World Cup standings after productive campaigns in downhill and super-G. It was his Pyeongchang Winter Games gold in downhill, though, that elevated him above the other true speedsters.

–  Italian Dominik Paris’ form was mixed last season with only a home downhill win in Bormio and a second down the fearsome Garmisch course to look back on. Nevertheless, the 29-year-old remains a serious threat and he will be looking to make it 10 World Cup victories this season as well as break through the 25 podium barrier too.

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