ASPEN, Colo. (AP) — Lindsey Vonn has had her fair share of mishaps and misadventures on a mountain very close to home.
So much so the three-time overall World Cup champion from nearby Vail almost considers her eighth-place finish in Sunday’s World Cup slalom a success.
At least she didn’t ski off the course again.
“This hill is just tough and you try to do the best that you can,” Vonn said.
The hill seemed to fit Sweden’s Maria Pietilae-Holmner just fine as she glided through the tightly set slalom course to capture her first World Cup event.
Pietilae-Holmner finished the two runs in a combined 1 minute, 46.19 seconds, while Germany’s Maria Riesch was second, 0.68 back, and Finland’s Tanja Poutiainen placed third.
“My first win! Ahhhh, I can’t describe it. It brings me to tears,” Pietilae-Holmner said. “I feel super good.”
For Vonn, finishing at all was a measure of redemption on a course that’s produced more grief for her than glory. Despite a U.S. record 33 World Cup wins, she’s never finished higher than fourth at Aspen.
In order to change her luck on the mountain, she modified her mindset.
After skiing too aggressively the day before in the giant slalom and veering off the course, Vonn took a steadier approach Sunday.
That seemed to do the trick.
“It may not have been the fastest skiing that I’ve ever done, but I am in the top 10 and it’s really good points and so I am very happy,” Vonn said. “It’s just a hard hill. I just feel that no matter how many times I ski on it, it’s just as challenging as the last time. It’s the hill that never quits.”
Sarka Zahrobska’s reign in the Aspen slalom ended with a 12th-place performance. The Czech Republic skier won this event the last two years.
Austria’s Nicole Hosp, who missed last season with a right knee injury, ended up fifth. She was second after the morning run.
Riesch concluded a solid weekend, adding to a ninth-place finish in the giant slalom Saturday. With her second place in the slalom, she recaptured the overall lead in the World Cup standings.
“I can be happy with this race,” Riesch said.
Julia Mancuso of Squaw Valley, Calif., had her day end early after she hit a rut up top on her first run and had to ski aggressively to make up time. She later skidded off the course.
Still, Mancuso called it a solid weekend after finishing eighth in the giant slalom.
“I’m excited,” Mancuso said. “I think my slalom is going well. It’s definitely difficult getting back into race mode and skiing back-to-back races. But I’m getting there.”
Austria’s Marlies Schild, who won the event in Levi, Finland, two weeks ago, straddled the first gate in the morning run and was done, just like that.
“Short day,” said Schild, who captured the silver medal in the slalom at the Vancouver Olympics and bronze at the Turin Games. “This doesn’t happen. Never.”
Resi Stiegler of Jackson Hole, Wyo., was back on the course after three injury-riddled seasons. She skied well enough to finish 25th.
Stiegler said her recent string of crashes has caused her to ski scared, but she’s seeing a sports psychologist to help alleviate her fears.
This performance was a step in the right direction.
“That’s going to take a while. Getting to race every day is going to help,” said the 25-year-old Stiegler, who fractured her left femur in a crash during training last November.
Hosp has looked solid in her return from a knee injury, also finishing fifth in Levi.
The 2007 overall champion missed all of 2009-10 when she crashed at the season-opening giant slalom race on the Rettenbach glacier in Austria.
Sitting out was quite difficult, especially in an Olympic year.
“The week was OK, the weekend when the races were on TV, it was always a hard time,” Hosp said.
Hosp had another scare with her knee in September after crashing again. She took nearly three weeks off to rest the knee and said for the most part it’s holding up.
In January 2009, Hosp broke the upper part of her shinbone and tore ligaments in her left knee in a crash in Zagreb, Croatia.
The recent rash of injuries has only intensified her passion for the sport.
“Not racing one year and the year before, you’re really hot for skiing again and racing again,” Hosp said. “You’re not that strictly focused for just good results. You are happy that you are here and can race.”