Things you need to know about the 2021/2022 FIS alpine ski World Cup season

After staying in Europe during the last Covid-impacted season, the 'White Circus' returns to North America with men and women racing the same number of technical and speed races.

By Alessandro Poggi
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

The 2021/22 FIS Alpine Ski World Cup season gets underway on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, as it has done traditionally since 2000, with giant slalom races for both men and women on 23 and 24 October.

After unbalanced schedules in recent years, the new ski calendar for men and women features the same number of speed (Downhill, Super G) and technical events (Giant Slalom, Slalom), 18 each, plus one parallel and one team event. For the second consecutive season there will be no combined events.

With a more equal distribution of disciplines, the battle for the coveted crystal globes is expected to be more open than ever: Petra Vlhova of Slovakia will look to defend her women's overall title from previous winners Mikaela Shiffrin and Lara Gut-Behrami, while reigning World Cup holder Alexis Pinturault of France headlines the men's field along with Swiss rising star Marco Odermatt and Austria's speed ace Vincent Kriechmayr.

After a year away from North American slopes, the 'White Circus' has stops scheduled in Lake Louise, Canada (23-28 November for men and 30 November-5 December for women); Killington, USA (27-28 November for the women); and Beaver Creek, USA (1-5 December for the men).

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics alpine skiing competition is scheduled from 6-19 February 2022 on the new pistes in Yanqing at China's new National Alpine Skiing Centre.

After the Olympic break, the World Cup season will resume in late February and racing will go through the Finals in Courchevel and Meribel, France, in March. The French resort will host the World Championships in 2023.

Here's a guide to the thing you need to know ahead of the new season.

Mikaela Shiffrin in action at the World Championships in Cortina.
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Shiffrin, Gut-Behrami leads chase for Vlhova's crown

Last season Petra Vlhova became the first Slovakian in history to win the women's overall title.

The slalom specialist prevailed by just 160 points over multi-talented veteran Lara Gut-Behrami, benefitting from a schedule which - after cancellations due to bad weather - in the end featured four more tech races than speed events (17 vs. 13).

This year the women will race nine events each across four disciplines, opening more opportunities for Gut-Behrami and other speed queens such as Olympic downhill champion Sofia Goggia or Cortina 2021 gold medallist Corinne Suter.

After overcoming the tragic loss of her father and battling back problems throughout the past season, double Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin is expected to fight for the big Crystal Globe again: the three-time overall World Cup winner found her best form at the last world championships in Italy, where she won four medals, and ended the season with six podiums in as many races.

Versatile Swiss Michelle Gisin and two-time world champion Katharina Liensberger are also tipped as possible globes contenders, along with Italy's Marta Bassino and Federica Brignone.

Marco Odermatt finished second overall in the 2021 World Cup season.
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Pinturault, Odermatt, Kilde among top contenders for men's overall title

Reigning overall men's champion Alexis Pinturault faces a tough title defence too.

The Frenchman remains one of the best all-rounders in the men's circuit, but the 2021/22 calendar features 11 downhills (including three challenging 'doubles' in Lake Louise, Wengen and Kitzbuehel) and more slaloms than his favourite GS event (10 vs 8).

With 18 speed events to race, true downhillers like Dominik Paris or powerful skiers like Matthias Mayer and Vincent Kriechmayr have more chances to challenge for the overall title. A more balanced calendar could also help athletes consistent across more disciplines, like last year's runner-up Marco Odermatt or former Crystal globe winner Aleksander Aamodt Kilde.

Another man to watch will be Marco Schwarz: last year the Austrian had his best season to date by stepping on the slalom podium seven times (including two wins) to secure the discipline globe. The two-time gold medallist from the 2012 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck finished third overall one year ago and his combined gold medal at the Worlds in Cortina proves that he can collect points also in the speed disciplines.

Last year Lucas Braathen became the first male skier born in the new millenium to win a World Cup race.
Picture by 2020 Getty Images

Skiing rising stars: Robinson, Braathen and McGrath

There's also a crop of young talents coming through the ranks.

19-year-old Alice Robinson is competing in her fourth season in the top-tier circuit: the Kiwi skier - who works by Lindsey Vonn's former coach Chris Knight - hopes to find more consistency after ending the past campaign with her third GS career win at the World Cup Finals in Lenzerheide.

Norway can probably field the best young men's prospects: last season in Soelden, 21-year-old Lucas Braathen became the first male skier born in the new millennium to win a World Cup race, while his friend Atle Lie McGrath came close to upsetting Pinturault on the Gran Risa slope in December, finishing second at the Alta Badia Giant Slalom.

The 22-year-old Italian Alex Vinatzer hopes to continue his progression after making her second career podium at the home slalom in Madonna di Campiglio last December, while Team USA's Ben Ritchie will look to build up on his junior world title in Bansko, Bulgaria, which came after a 13th place in the slalom event at the senior World Champs in Cortina.

23-year-old Meta Hrovat of Slovenia has already made a name for herself after securing four World Cup podiums and she can further improve with her new coach Livio Magoni, who led Vlhova to a historic title last year. After a beginning of career hampered by a serious knee ligament, Swiss two-time junior world champion Camille Rast rediscovered her form at the end of the past season with a top-10 finish at the slalom event in Cortina and the national Giant Slalom title.

Killington(pictured below) rejoins the World Cup calendar along with Lake Louise and Beaver Creek.
Picture by 2019 Getty Images

2021/22 FIS Alpine Ski World Cup calendar - Women

Information subject to change. Correct as of 8 October, according to the FIS World Cup Calendar.

23 October 2021

Soelden (Austria): Giant Slalom

13 November 2021

Lech/Zuhers (Austria): Parallel Slalom

20-21 November 2021

Levi (Finland): Slalom (x2)

27-28 November 2021

Killington (USA): Giant Slalom, Slalom

3-4-5 December 2021

Lake Louise (Canada): Downhill (x2), Super G

11-12 December 2021

St. Moritz (Switzerland): Super G (x2)

18-19 December 2021

Val d'Isere (France): Downhill, Super G

21 December 2021

Courchevel (France): Giant Slalom

28-29 December 2021

Lienz (Austria): Giant Slalom, Slalom

4 January 2022

Zagreb (Croatia): Slalom

8-9 January 2022

Maribor (Slovenia): Giant Slalom, Slalom

11 January 2022

Flachau (Austria): Slalom

15-16 January 2022

Zauchensee (Austria): Donwhill, Super G

21-22 January 2022

Cortina d'Ampezzo (Italy): Downhill, Super G

25 January 2022

Kronplatz/Plan de Corones (Italy): Giant Slalom

29-30 January 2022

Garmisch Partenkirchen (Germany): Downhill, Super G

26-27 February 2022

Crans-Montana (Switzerland): Downhill (x2)

5-6 March 2022

Lenzerheide (Switzerland): Super G, Giant Slalom

11-12 March 2022

Are (Sweden): Giant Slalom, Slalom

16-17-18-19-20 March 2022

Courchevel/Meribel (France): Downhill, Super G, Team Parallel, Slalom, Giant Slalom

Total events: 38

Speed: 18 Downhill: 9; Super G: 9;

Technical 18 Giant Slalom: 9; Slalom: 9;

Parallel: 1

Team Event: 1

2021/22 FIS Alpine Ski World Cup calendar - Men

Information subject to change. Correct as of 8 October, according to the FIS World Cup Calendar.

24 October 2021

Soelden (Austria): Giant Slalom

14 November 2021

Lech/Zuers (Austria): Parallel Slalom

26-27-28 November 2021

Lake Louise (Canada): Downhill (x2), Super G

3-4-5 December 2021

Beaver Creek (USA): Super G, Downhill, Super G

11-12 December 2021

Val d'Isere (France): Giant Slalom, Slalom

17-18 December 2021

Val Gardena/Groeden (Italy): Super G, Downhill

19-20 December 2021

Alta Badia (Italy): Giant Slalom (x2)

22 December 2021

Madonna di Campiglio (Italy): Slalom

28-29 December 2021

Bormio (Italy): Downhill, Super G

5 January 2022

Zagreb (Croatia): Slalom

8-9 January 2022

Adelboden (Switzerland): Giant Slalom, Slalom

14-15-16 January 2022

Wengen (Switzerland): Downhill (X2), Slalom

21-22-23 January 2022

Kitzbuehel (Austria): Downhill (x2), Slalom

25 January 2022

Schladming (Austria): Slalom

26-27 February 2022

Garmisch Partenkirchen (Germany): Slalom (x2)

5-6 March 2021

Kvitfjell (Norway): Downhill, Super G

12-13 March 2021

Kranjska Gora (Slovenia): Giant Slalom (x2)

16-17-18-19-20 March 2022

Courchevel/Meribel (France): Downhill, Super G, Team Parallel, Slalom, Giant Slalom

Total events: 38

Speed 18: Downhill: 11; Super G: 7;

Technical: 18 Giant Slalom: 8; Slalom: 10;

Parallel: 1

Team Event: 1

The course at the National Alpine Ski Center in Yanqing district where alpine events for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will be held.
Picture by 2020 Getty Images

Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics - Alpine skiing events schedule

6 February: Men’s Downhill (Reigning Olympic champion Aksel Lund Svindal)

7 February: Women’s Giant Slalom (Reigning Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin)

8 February: Men’s Super G (Reigning Olympic champion Matthias Mayer)

9 February: Women’s Slalom (Reigning Olympic champion Frida Hansdotter)

10 February: Men’s combined (Reigning Olympic champion Marcel Hirscher)

11 February: Women’s Super G (Reigning Olympic champion Ester Ledecka)

13 February: Men’s Giant Slalom (Reigning Olympic champion Marcel Hirscher)

15 February: Women’s downhill (Reigning Olympic champion Sofia Goggia)

16 February: Men’s slalom (Reigning Olympic champion Andre Myhrer)

17 February: Women’s combined (Reigning Olympic champion Michelle Gisin)

19 February: Team event (Reigning Olympic champion Switzerland)