The FIS Alpine Ski World Cup is the pinnacle of alpine skiing competitions, with some rating it even higher than competing at the Winter Olympics. The competition launched in 1966 when a group of ski racing friends and the International Ski Federation backed it as an official event a year later.
The World Cup sees competitors battle it out across four disciplines: downhill, giant slalom, slalom, and Super G. There is a fifth event called combined that combines one run of downhill and two runs of slalom, with the winner being the skier with the best aggregate time. French star Jean-Claude Kelly won the first two World Cups in the men’s competition, with Canada’s Nancy Greene winning back-to-back titles, too.
Some of the greatest skiers of all time have competed and excelled during the FIS Alpine World Cup, including the following record-breaking superstars.
Experts consider Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark the sport’s greatest-ever slalom and giant slalom specialist. He began skiing when aged only five years old and won his first national competition only three years later.
Stenmark competed in 16 seasons of the World Cup from 1974 to 1989, and his record is nothing short of phenomenal; if he raced today, all the betting sites online would have him as the firm favorite for glory, of that, there is no doubt.
Stenmark achieved 155 career podiums in World Cup races, made up of 26 thirds, 43 seconds, and an incredible 86 victories, the most of any Alpine World Cup skier. He even found time to win two Olympic golds and three World Championships during a long and illustrious career. He retired at the end of the 1989 season, mere days before his 33rd birthday.
Austria’s Marcel Hirscher made his World Cup debut in 2007, and he dominated the sport for several years. Hirscher predominately raced in slalom and super slalom, but it was not a surprise to see him don his skis for the combined events.
Hirscher won a record eight consecutive World Cup titles between the 2011-12 season and the 2018-19 season, a feat that is unlikely to be matched or beaten in our lifetimes. The Austrian is second, regarding career podiums, only to the legendary Stenmark. He enjoyed some 138 podium finishes, including 24 thirds, 47 seconds, and 67 wins, the latter second only to Stenmark and some 20 victories more than his nearest rival.
He won two Olympic gold medals and seven golds at the World Championships, the last in 2019 in Are, Sweden. Hirscher retired from professional racing in September 2019 but set tongues wagging a year later when photographs circulated of him wearing a racing suit. He is still only 33 years old, so perhaps a return to racing could happen?
Luxembourg may be a tiny country, but it has produced some fantastic skiers over the year, but none of them has enjoyed as much success as Marc Giardelli. He competed at the World Cup between 1980 and 1996 and finished on the podium precisely 100 times, including 46 victories.
Giardelli has legendary status within the alpine skiing community thanks, in part, to his winning the World Cup five times. Where most skiers specialized in one or two disciplines, Giardelli shone in all five. He won the World Cup five times but was rather unlucky with injuries towards the end of his glistening career.
He last raced a the 1996 World Cup at Val Gardena in December 1996 in a downhill race. A new knee injury kept him from racing again, and he retired a month later, aged only 33-years-old.
Giardelli is still heavily involved in skiing because he organizes skiing events at several European winter sports resorts and has a spots fashion brand called Marc Giardelli Skiwear.
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Fred Felton is a copywriter, editor and social media specialist based in Durban, South Africa. He has over 20 years of experience in creating high end content. He has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world. Currently Fred specialises in the winter outdoors space, focussing on skiing and snowboarding. He is also a keynote speaker and has presented talks and workshops in South Africa.