Poutiainen wins World Cup opener

SOELDEN, Austria -- Tanja Poutiainen of Finland won the opening race of the ski season Saturday, edging Kathrin Zettel of Austria by 0.01 second in the giant slalom on the Rettenbach glacier.

Poutiainen was trailing Zettel at the final checkpoint but made up time on the flatter bottom section, clocking a two-run combined time of 2 minutes, 24.96 seconds for her ninth career victory.

"It's a good way to start and know that everything is working and you've done the right training," she said.

Opening-run leader Denise Karbon finished third, 0.32 back, and Manuela Moelgg, who stood second after the morning leg, fell in her second trip down.

Two-time defending overall World Cup champion Lindsey Vonn placed ninth. American teammate Julia Mancuso, the Olympic giant slalom champion, fell shortly into her second run after placing 21st in the opening leg.

The start of each run was pushed back 30 minutes so organizers could clear four inches of freshly fallen snow off the course. Underneath the snow, conditions were challenging.

"I think everyone had a difficult go at it this morning," Vonn said. "It was pretty rough conditions. It was going from grippy ice to sheer ice to big ice chunks. It was hard to get the feeling for the snow and the terrain."

Giant slalom is the only discipline Vonn has not won in, and this marked her first race since switching ski brands from Rossignol to Head in the offseason. The Minnesota native was skiing well on the top section but then lost more than half a second when she emerged from shadows covering the course's midsection in her second descent.

"I don't think any of the top girls skied their best," Poutiainen said. "It was very tough with the shadows. You couldn't really see the bumps."

Poutiainen won her second World Cup giant slalom title last season and had finished second twice in Soelden -- including last year -- to go with two other top-five results. Her main goal this season is winning a gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics in February for her first major championship title.

Poutiainen took silver behind Mancuso in giant slalom at the 2006 Turin Games and has won two silvers and two bronzes at world championships.

"I like the sport and I like to train and I also have some things I still want to win, like a gold medal," Poutiainen said, looking ahead to the Vancouver Olympics in February.

Tina Maze of Slovenia placed fourth and two Swedes -- Maria Pietilae-Holmner and two-time overall champion Anja Paerson -- were fifth and sixth, respectively.

Former overall World Cup winner Nicole Hosp will miss the rest of the season after crashing and injuring her right knee. Hosp was airlifted by helicopter to a hospital in nearby Innsbruck, where she had ligament surgery on her knee.

In January, the Austrian broke the upper part of her shinbone and tore ligaments in her left knee in a crash in Zagreb, Croatia.

The Rettenbach is one of the steepest courses on the women's circuit. It begins with a sharp pitch, then flattens out down the glacier to the finish arena -- better known as the glacier stadium -- where 11,000 fans awaited the skiers.

A men's giant slalom is scheduled for Sunday on the Rettenbach.