Meillard Wins Aspen Slalom

Loic Meillard charged to victory under snowy conditions in Aspen. It was a Rocky Mountain high for Meillard (SUI) as he attained an elusive first victory this season and the 11th of his career with a slalom win in Aspen on Sunday.

It was quite a day for Great Britain’s Laurie Taylor who won the Stifel Bibbo Award, going from bib 49 to eighth place, a career-best finish for the Brit. However it was ultimately the best weekend for Loic Meillard of Switzerland who followed up his two second place finishes in giant slalom with a slalom win. Germany’s Linus Strasser took second place and Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen claimed third place. 

World Cup slalom leader Manuel Feller (AUT) had the opportunity to close out the season title, but couldn’t quite get the job done, settling for fifth place. The Austrian still owns a comfortable 169-point lead over Linus Strasser (GER), who finished second to Meillard, with two races remaining.

Meillard hammered home the victory by a substantial 0.89 second margin over Strasser. The 26-year-old Swiss thrived over three days of racing in Colorado, having also finished second on consecutive days in giant slalom. Meillard was runner-up to his otherworldly Swiss teammate Marco Odermatt in both of those races.

The victory belonged to Meillard after first run leader Clement Noel (FRA) straddled a gate on the Lower Ruthie’s Run course, in a race contested under tricky conditions. The first run start was delayed an hour due to diligent course work following heavy snowfall on the overnight.

“Definitely very bumpy, very difficult, but it was a race to fight. I’m more than happy – it has been a long weekend, but very happy how it went and can’t dream of anything better,” Meillard said, in the Aspen finish area.

“It takes energy, it takes focus and definitely today is was a long slalom race – difficult to ski and that makes it even harder as you have to go deep within your body,” he said, asked about the keys to succeeding over three consecutive days.

Meillard has previously stood on five career slalom podiums dating to December 2018, but Sunday was his first triumph in the discipline.

“It definitely took some time in slalom – was always there, but never quite on top, so it was amazing to finally do it today,” Meillard said.

Racing regularly across three disciplines, Meillard’s confidence was shaken earlier this season considering a few DNF’s and other lackluster results. He commended his coaches and team for the dream weekend of racing high in the Rocky Mountains.

“Just hard work and a good team around me, In the beginning of the season, there was the same skiing as now, very light, very easy, very fast, and then I kind of lost all my confidence in two races, but now I guess that it is back.”

Feller vaulted four places in the second run to finish fifth, 1.35 seconds behind Meillard. A victory or higher finish would have secured his first World Cup slalom title. Two slalom races remain with 100-points on offer for a victory – in Kranjska Gora on March 10th and at the Audi FIS World Cup Finals in Saalbach, Austria, on March 17.

The Austrian “Mr. Consistency” has finished inside the top five in all nine men's World Cup slalom events this season (1-5-1-1-4-5-4-1-5), including victories in Gurgl, Adelboden, Wengen and Palisades Tahoe.

Trailing by 169-points, Strasser is Feller’s only opponent with a mathematical, albeit slim chance, for the small crystal globe.

Strasser – who leaped four positions after his first run – was more than satisfied with his performance considering the tough conditions.

“I think the course was pretty much like the first run, just a bit more speed and more fluid, so I watched some guys and applied that and I think it worked out pretty well,” Strasser said.

“I was just afraid of the wind this morning, because snowfall and wind is a bad combination, but the wind wasn’t there so it wasn’t a problem,” he said.

Still, only 39 of 65 racers finished the opening run on the Lower Ruthie’s Run, which hasn’t held a World Cup race since Finals in 2017.

The 31-year-old German has two slalom victories this season and was also on the podium in the United States, finishing third in Palisades Tahoe on Feb. 25.

“It’s not common to be on the podium – you have to work hard for it, so I tried to enjoy it as much as I can,” Strasser said.

Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) maintained his third-place position after the morning run, finishing third to achieve a staggering 86th career podium. The former World Cup slalom champion finished 1.17 seconds behind his friend Meillard.

“Of course I wanted to win myself, but when I don’t win it’s good to see a guy like Loic and a skier like Loic win – his first slalom win, he’s been fast for many years,” Kristoffersen said.

It’s onward to Kranjska Gora, Slovenia for Kristoffersen and company as the Audi FIS World Cup season enters the homestretch, with a slalom and GS on tap next weekend.

“I think the conditions in Kranjska are going to be much different with the warm weather in Europe, which can suit me pretty well,” Kristoffersen said.

The 29-year-old Norwegian is already looking to the future after a disappointing season with just three podiums to his credit and no victories.

“I’m already starting to look forward to next season because with the changes we’re working on, I think the possibilities are greater for next year.”

For the USA Jett Seymour and Ben Ritchie skied to 25th and 27th place, respectively.

“It was a challenging course and I had a pretty big mistake, but I am proud of my skiing today,” said Seymour.

It snowed 18 inches overnight and the course workers were up before dawn to help get the race off. They were able to push all the snow off to get back the ice from the day before for the world’s best slalom skiers. The Stifel U.S. Ski Team squad had three skiers - Seymour, Ritchie and Luke Winters - punch it into the top 30 after the first run, a positive step for the team.

On the second run, the slalom course was anyone’s for the taking. Seymour was knifing his second run until he had a huge bobble at the bottom. With an incredibly athletic recovery, he still made it to the finish to earn World Cup points. Ritchie also skied solidly with a few bobbles to land another top 30 finish. Winters skied out and did not finish.

“It can be tough to fight through the pressure of home races, but when you ski through it can be really rewarding,” said Seymour. 

Share This Article