Rain, snow lead to cancellation of women's skiing season opener

SÖLDEN, Austria -- Rain and snowfall wiped out the first women's race of Alpine skiing's World Cup season Saturday and made the men's event for the next day doubtful.

Wet snow on the Austrian glacier affected the visibility on the softened course and made a safe race impossible.

Organizers initially delayed the planned start time of 10 a.m. by one hour but decided to call off the race soon after as conditions didn't improve.

"This was the worst-case scenario -- but this happened exactly," FIS women's race director Peter Gerdol said. "We had a couple of hours of rain tonight and then this wet snow around five or six o'clock this morning, so the surface was actually too soft to guarantee a safe race."

The giant slalom will likely be rescheduled at another venue, to be confirmed in a few days, Gerdol said.

Weather conditions were expected to improve in the afternoon, allowing organizers to start preparing the course for the men's race Sunday. Chief of race Rainer Gstrein said they might need to use water and salt to make the weakened course suitable again for a World Cup race.

"It's going to be a major effort," Gstrein told Austrian broadcaster ORF.

It is the first time since 2006 that the women's race of the traditional season-opening weekend in Austria was canceled. The men's race was most recently called off in 2017 and 2018.

"Well, we're trying. We're all ready to go, everything's been packed up," Mikaela Shiffrin said in a video posted on her Twitter account. "But the race has been canceled because, unfortunately, it's really, really, really wet outside. But air smells fresh and that's nice, but we won't be racing today."

Also, two men's World Cup downhill races set for next weekend that start in Switzerland and finish in Italy have been called off due to a lack of snow on the final 300 meters of the course following an unseasonably warm fall.

Added to the calendar this season, the Zermatt-Cervinia downhill against the spectacular backdrop of the Matterhorn was set to become the first cross-border event in Alpine skiing's World Cup history.

The International Ski and Snowboard Federation said the Oct. 29-30 races had to be canceled "due to the lack of snow and the safety situation on last section of the race track" and will not be replaced. A decision on two women's races scheduled on the same course for Nov. 5-6 was expected Tuesday.

Shiffrin won the traditional season opener on the Rettenbach glacier last year, and the American went on to win the overall World Cup title for a fourth time. Marco Odermatt triumphed in the first men's race of the 2021-22 season, and the Swiss skier became overall champion for the first time.