Sölden, Austria, Confirms Green Light for FIS Alpine Opening After Positive ‘Snow Control’

Julia Schneemann | | Industry NewsIndustry News
The snow control on the Rettenbach Glacier today. | Picture: Ski Austria Instagram

Ski Austria (‘ÖSV’), the Austrian federal skiing body, has confirmed that after the positive ‘snow control’ today, October 19, 2023, the International Ski & Snowboard Federation (‘FIS’) has given the green light for the FIS Alpine World Cup season opener in Sölden. Snow control for FIS races is an inspection of the conditions on a World Cup race course prior to a race to ensure the course is prepared according to FIS standards and is safe for World Cup athletes to compete on. The season opener on the Rettenbach glacier is scheduled for October 28 and 29, 2023, with the woman’s Giant Slalom on Saturday and the men’s Giant Slalom on Sunday.

Last year, the women’s Giant Slalom event and season opener in Sölden had to be called off due to poor visibility and precipitation, making conditions unsafe for racing. Team USA race skier Mikaela Shiffrin is the defending champion from the 21/22 season on the race course. The men’s race went ahead after the weather improved, and victory las year went to 22/23 season’s Giant Slalom and Overall Alpine Crystal Globe winner Marco Odermatt from Switzerland.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the FIS Alpine World Cup opening in Sölden. The race at the Rettenbach Glacier is a staple on the FIS calendar and the race course features the steepest downhill stretch in the entire Sölden ski area. It is a highlight for spectators and racers alike and almost the entire race course can be observed from the stands in the finish area.

“On the one hand, we would like to congratulate the team around organizational committee boss Jakob Falkner on the anniversary, and at the same time express our thanks, as they manage to offer top conditions for athletes from all over the world year after year. The World Cup opening in Sölden not only has a sporting component, it is the first strong signal of winter and has a high economic importance for the ski industry, for winter tourism and thus for the whole of Austria.”
Christian Scherer, ÖSV Secretary General

The Giant Slalom race course on the Rettenbach Glacier in Sölden, Austria. | Picture: Soelden.com

There has been some debate between alpine athletes around the timing of the season opener and calls were voiced to postpone the season opener to a later date. This year’s race had been moved to a week later than last year, however some international alpine ski racers like Mikaela Shiffrin, Lara Gut-Behrami and Michelle Gisin, still believe the timing is too early in the season. Other athletes, like Marc Giradelli, have come out in support of the early start, highlighting the importance of the pre-season date for attracting important sponsors. Zermatt LOC boss Franz Julen explains the importance of the early date from a marketing perspective, “We discussed in the LOC about the running of World Cup races in spring. But none of our sponsors were interested in a Matterhorn descent in April. At this time of year, these companies logically want to invest their money in summer sports. At Intersport, we have always invested a lot of money in ski sponsorship, but only until the end of February, because the TV ratings fall sharply afterwards.”

Sölden saw some natural snow falls this week and temperatures stayed below freezing, enabling snow cannons to operate, which helped the Local Organization Committee (‘LOC’) get the course ready for snow control today. “Despite the long-lasting and above-average high temperatures, our team has managed to prepare the World Cup slope perfectly in a timely manner and to provide slopes for public skiing. We are looking forward to the 30th anniversary and see ourselves confirmed in our work,” adds Jakob Falkner, LOC boss Ski World Cup Sölden.

All lights are go for the season opener in less than 10 days. | Picture: Ski Austria Instagram

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