2019-20 Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team Season Highlights
The 2019-20 season was a positive step in the right direction for the Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team, with 15 FIS Ski World Cup podiums, one Junior World Championship medal, and seven NorAm titles. Perhaps nothing wowed more than the two podiums on home turf by Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin at the HomeLight Killington Cup and Xfinity Birds of Prey victor Tommy Ford.
It was a solid start to the season for both the women’s and men’s teams that established a foundation for progress for the entire squad. That said, alpine athletes battled with challenging weather, shortened courses, unexpected accidents and a global pandemic that cut the season short. Even so, there are many positives to take away and focus on as the athletes showed insurmountable grit and perseverance in the face of adversity.
“The ’19-20 season started strong at the Soelden World Cup GS, with three U.S. Ski Team athletes in the top five; Mikaela, Tommy and Ted (Ligety),” noted Alpine Director Jesse Hunt. “This weekend performance followed with victories by Mikaela in Levi and Killington, and Tommy in Beaver Creek made it clear that teams were firing in both genders and there was nothing more satisfying than demonstrating that in front of the hometown crowds.”
With the best start to a season in years, the Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team hopped the pond to Europe, finding more strength and consistency. “When the team went to Europe, the men’s speed team consistently put up points by establishing five skiers in the top-30 and ultimately landing four athletes in the top-20 in the end of season standings—a feat not achieved as far back as 1967 when the FIS Ski World Cup began,” said Jesse. “At the development level, the NorAm titles were dominated by American athletes who secured 10 of 14—with seven of those 10 coming from U.S. Ski Team athletes. The abrupt end to the season due to the coronavirus left many opportunities hanging, and an unceremonious end for a developing and upward-trending U.S. Alpine Ski Team.”
Let’s start with the men, led by a trio of Olympians with impressive results from the World Cup kickoff in Soelden, Austria: Tommy, Ted Ligety, and Ryan Cochran-Siegle finished fourth, fifth, and 11th, respectively. With six top-15 results, four top-five results, two podiums, and a massive victory by .80 seconds at Beaver Creek, Colo., Tommy had his career-best season to lead the team.
With challenging conditions all season long in giant slalom, Tommy stayed calm when it mattered most. In Yuzawa Naeba Japan, when most athletes struggled on the dead, springlike snow, Tommy channeled his Pacific Northwest upbringing (shoutout to Mt. Bachelor) and moved from 10th first run to third for his second-career podium. When all was said and done, he landed in fifth in the world in giant slalom. With a more focused giant slalom schedule, Ted had a consistent and solid season, finishing ranked 12th in the world.
Ryan Cochran-Siegle really stepped it up this season, proving his multi-event talent. In 26 World Cup starts across five disciplines (parallel, giant slalom, alpine combined, super-G and downhill), Ryan had 22 top-30 results—scoring in every discipline. What was really impressive was Ryan’s touch on the speed boards. He skied into a career-best sixth place in Beaver Creek and then bested that in Bormio with a fifth place in the alpine combined. He was solid all season, finishing ranked 14th in the world in downhill, and 20th in both super-G and giant slalom. “RCS” is looking to bring that intensity into the World Championship year, and we can’t wait to watch.
The men’s speed team had more depth than ever before, with four athletes finishing in the top-20 in the world in downhill for the first time ever: Travis Ganong (13th), RCS (14th), Bryce Bennett (16th) and Steven Nyman (20th). Travis narrowly missed the podium, with two top-five results in downhill, and ended up ranked 12th in the super-G standings. Bryce laid down solid results once he found his flow in the new year, grabbing four top-15s and two top-10s—including his best-ever finish at Kitzbuehel, in eighth-place. That was after he wore jorts, a jean vest, and an American flag as a cape to the bib draw in front of thousands of roaring fans and then chose bib 1 with undeniable confidence. The crowd went WILD. Jared Goldberg had nine top-30 results, and two top-20s in downhill and ended the season with a Europa Cup victory.
With three women’s speed team athletes—Breezy Johnson, Alice McKennis, and Jackie Wiles— returning from significant knee/leg injuries, it was a rebuilding year. Alice started things off with a bang in Lake Louise, Canada, grabbing a top-10 in downhill. In just her third start back from back-to-back knee injuries, Breezy grabbed a top-five in Bankso, Bulgaria, just behind her teammate Mikaela in fourth. Despite missing almost half of the season, she ended up ranked 20th in the world in downhill. Alice Merryweather was a consistent point-scorer in downhill, super-G, and alpine combined this year, grabbing three top-15 results, and a career-best 14th in super-G. The whole team will look to come back strong in 2020-21, and ready for their favorite venue: Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy for World Championships.
Nina O'Brien had a breakthrough season, scoring points in seven starts across three disciplines (slalom, giant slalom, and parallel). The highlight for Nina was her career-best 11th in the Sestriere, Italy parallel giant slalom debut. Nina proved that she can hang with the best in the world in multiple disciplines, and it was great to see multiple Americans in the second run on numerous occasions on the women's tech side. She and teammate Paula Moltzan, who struggled with some back pain this season but still put down fast splits and some solid results in slalom, will look to build on that momentum, along with Mikaela.
Then, there was Mikaela’s season. Certainly not 2018-19’s season, but still equally—if not more—impressive. Mikaela won six World cup races across four disciplines and podiumed in 13 of 19 starts. In Levi, Finland, she became the winningest slalom skier of all time, surpassing Ingemar Stenmark with 41 slalom victories. She finished the season with two more victories, bringing her career-win total to 43 slalom victories—tied for most discipline wins among women with former teammate Lindsey Vonn.
With her massive 1.36-second margin giant slalom win in Lienz, Austria, Mikaela made history yet again as she earned 63rd World Cup victory, surpassing Austrian Annemarie Moser-Pröll into fourth on the all-time win list behind Marcel Hirscher (67), Lindsey (82) and Ingemar Stenmark (86). Across men and women, she tied Slovakia's Petra Vlhova and France's Alexis Pinturault for most World Cup victories, with six wins.
In a near-perfect weekend in late January, with her mother and father there to witness her brilliance, Mikaela was first, fourth, and first, in two downhills and a super-G on a speed track she had never been down before, in Bansko, Bulgaria - amassing 250 points on the weekend. Her win tally? Career victory number 66, just one shy of Marcel’s 67 victories. Despite missing nine races due to her father's unexpected and tragic passing, Mikaela ended up second in the overall standings, second in the slalom standings (by just 20 points), third in the giant slalom standings, fifth in the downhill standings, and seventh in super-G standings. For the fourth-straight season, (again, despite missing nine races), Mikaela was the top earner in prize money on the World Cup circuit, among the men and women.
At the development level, it was a Youth Olympic Games year at Lausanne, Switzerland, where the Americans, including Emma Resnick, put down some solid results, landing just off the podium in fourth in giant slalom, followed by Nicola Rountree-Williams in eighth. Though World Juniors at Narvik, Norway, were cut short due to the coronavirus outbreak, Keely Cashman led the way with three top-10 results, including bronze in the alpine combined. She also won the NorAm overall and downhill titles. AJ Hurt finished in sixth just behind Keely in the super-G at Worlds, and multiple NorAm podiums under her belt.
For the men, Bridger Gile took home the NorAm overall, alpine combined and giant slalom titles, while Ben Ritchie grabbed the slalom title, and Kyle Negomir the super-G title—each securing World Cup start rights for next season. Ben and Kyle each got more starts on the World Cup this season, making good progress forward, along with their teammate Luke Winters, who put the Americans back on the map for slalom with showing glimpses of brilliance and proving he can hang with the big dogs. Though he had a challenging winter, River Radamus grabbed a top-15 in Alta Badia, Italy's parallel giant slalom, finishing in 14th. It’s a trending progression for this crew, and they’re looking forward to putting the pieces of the puzzle together in 2020-21.
The Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team will look to build on the foundation laid in the 2019-20 season, in hopes of bringing medal-contending athletes to the Cortina 2021 World Championships through to the Olympic Winter Games in 2026 and beyond. Buckle up and get excited, the 2020-21 season will be one for the ages.
Relive all the top moments of the year with the videos below!
Shiffrin Killington Slalom 4-Peat
Shiffrin Killington Slalom Run 1
Ford Beaver Creek GS Victory
Shiffrin Levi 41st Slalom Win
Bennett Kitzbuehel DH - Eighth
Shiffrin and Johnson Bansko DH
Cochran-Siegle Beaver Creek DH - Sixth
Ganong Garmisch DH - Fifth
Winters Slalom Val D'Isere - Run 1
Winters Slalom Val d'Isere - Run 2
O'Brien Sestriere PGS - 11th
McKennis Lake Louise DH - 10th