Zettel edges teammate Schild to win Aspen slalom
ASPEN, Colo. -- There's just something about the Aspen hill that suits Kathrin Zettel's style of skiing.
The Austrian standout feels right at home on a course that features sharp turns, deep ruts, dark shadows and rolling bumps. It may be difficult for some -- maddeningly challenging, even -- just not for her.
"I always want to come back here," said Zettel, who held off teammate and training partner Marlies Schild to win a World Cup slalom Sunday.
Only, she won't be coming back for a while. The World Cup will skip Aspen next season and take the tour instead to Beaver Creek.
That way, the women can get used to the new course in advance of the 2015 world championships which will be held at that site.
This wasn't exactly welcome news for Zettel. Not after picking up her eighth career podium finish at this venue. The last thing she wants to do is not come back for a season.
"I love this little city, the people here, the slopes," Zettel said. "Aspen is a great place for me."
Zettel finished in a combined time of 1 minute, 42.46 seconds to edge Schild by 0.67 seconds. Tina Maze of Slovenia was third in a race Lindsey Vonn skipped as she recovers from an intestinal illness.
Schild was seeking her 34th career slalom win, which would match the discipline record of Swiss great Vreni Schneider.
She looked on her way, too, after a swift second run through a challenging course. But Schild was eclipsed by Zettel, the last skier of the afternoon.
Maybe she's teaching Zettel too well in practice and surrendering too many of her slalom tips.
"I don't think that I have to teach her. She's skiing very fast for many years now," Schild said, laughing. "I have to work to be faster than she is.
"She was pretty tough to beat."
Always has been in Aspen. She also finished second in the giant slalom the day before, making it a highly productive weekend.
"I don't even know what to say," said Zettel, who won her first slalom race since 2010. "I never had that big of expectation for the day."
Teenager Mikaela Shiffrin of the U.S. was in the lead for a few skiers before winding up seventh. Still, it was another solid showing for the 17-year-old who's from down the road in Vail.
Very rapidly, Shiffrin is making quite a name for herself.
"I'm just trying to establish myself as a competitive racer with all these other guys," she said.
Shiffrin's definitely succeeding, with skiers such as Schild saying she "has a great future." Others refer to her as skiing's next prodigy.
"I don't know what I am. I just know I love to race, love to ski and love to go fast. I guess let people think what they want," Shiffrin said. "But it's very flattering."
Shiffrin was third at the last slalom event in Levi, Finland, a competition won by Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany.
Hoefl-Riesch wasn't sure she'd be able to start after bruising her left arm during a crash Saturday. But she recovered enough to not only race Sunday, but do well, taking fourth.
Vonn is still regaining her strength after a bad stomach bug recently landed her in the hospital. She competed in the giant slalom Saturday -- finishing 21st -- but was clearly winded at the end. She collapsed in the snow after her final run.
Her plan all along was to skip the slalom. The four-time overall champion is conserving energy for next weekend's races in Lake Louise, Alberta, a venue Vonn has typically dominated. She won all three speed races there last season.
Vonn will have some ground to make up with Maze jumping to a big lead in the overall standings. Maze finished runner-up to Vonn last season.
So far this season, no one is skiing any better than Maze, who already has two wins, along with third- and fourth-place finishes.
"I'm feeling fit and strong," Maze said. "Everything is going well for me."
Thoughts of an overall title?
"Yes, I was dreaming about that. But dreaming is not enough," said Maze, who's also a budding singer with a new song burning up the musical charts in Slovenia. "You need to make your dreams become reality.
"I want to show who I am and ski the way I can."
Pat Graham can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pgraham34
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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