A new alpine discipline, first proposed by athletes, turns the individual sport of ski racing into a team effort.
St. Anton, Austria, Jan. 20, 2023 — The 2023 FIS Alpine Junior World Ski Championships (JWSC) today served as the first-ever test venue for a brand-new event called the Team Alpine Combined. At the WJSC, the event consisted of two racers (men’s and women’s teams), with one athlete racing Super G and their teammate racing slalom. Each nation could enter up to four teams. In St. Anton, the event kicked off in the morning with Super G, with finish times determining a reverse start order for the slalom racers in the afternoon.
Two IOC members were on hand at Junior Worlds to observe the new format for consideration at the 2026 Winter Olympic Games in Milano-Cortina. If the event ends up on the Olympic schedule, the big difference is that it will combine downhill and slalom. At the WJSC, organizers decided to test the discipline out with Super G (rather than downhill) because the Super G field was larger.
The FIS Athletes’ Commission proposed the new format last season as an event to replace the Alpine Combined, an event raced by a single athlete, explained Janez Fleré, Alpine Coordinator for FIS. “It’s also a discussion about interest—of the media and the public—in seeing the best races. For example, we don’t have Alpine Combined specialists who can run downhill in Kitzbuehel and slalom in Wengen.”
Pros and cons of the new team combined
Some feel the single-athlete Alpine Combined event has lost its appeal as more ski racers specialize in either tech or speed. “I really think it’s something that we should pursue because it’s fairer than the Alpine Combined,” said Ava Sunshine, a Stifel U.S. Ski Team (USST) racer who paired up with teammate Lauren Macuga today. “That event really favors all-around skiers but also slalom skiers. It means a lot when you’re skiing for another person.”
The downside of this new format: If the first racer DNFs, their teammate doesn’t get to run. “Yeah, I tanked us today,” said Park City-based USST racer Justin Bigatel, who had been paired up with USST and Team Summit’s Camden Palmquist—but did not finish the Super G. “Sorry, Camden!” Bigatel quipped at the bottom. In St. Anton, the Super G was a race of attrition, with only 34 of 72 starters finishing the race, which served as both the WJSC Super G event and as the first run of the Team Alpine Combined. “Unfortunately, today, many of the athletes went out [in the Super G],” said Fleré of the FIS.
Women’s Super G
Lara Colturi, the Italian first-year FIS athlete who races for Albania, took gold in the Super G at the 2023 FIS Alpine Junior World Ski Championships (JWSC) in St. Anton. Stefanie Grob of Switzerland (+.65 ) took silver, and Alice Calaba of Italy landed in the bronze position (+.72). Colturi’s mother is Daniela Ceccarelli, an Italian World Cup national team member who won a gold medal in the Super-G competition at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
USST racer Lauren Macuga (+1.38) was the top finisher for the U.S. women, placing sixth. “It was a hard set. The course was really turny, more like a GS than a Super G,” Macuga said from the finish. “I think they were trying to slow us down with a junior set, but the hill is a World Cup hill, so you have all this terrain. It was hard to set it up just right.” Today’s Super G and the Alpine Combined Team event are Macuga’s Junior Worlds swan song, as she’ll age out this season.
Aspen Valley Ski Club racer Stella Johansson was the other finisher for the U.S., coming in 21st (+4.20). “I heard it was turny, and I kept getting pulled low. I think I should have attacked more,” Johansson said after her run.
Women’s Team Alpine Combined
For the U.S. women, just two duos started the race. The American matchup of Lauren Macuga (Super G) and Ava Sunshine (Slalom) put the U.S. team in 4th place in the combined. While Stella Johansson (Super G) and Zoe Zimmerman (Slalom) placed 10th for the U.S., “Ski racing is an individual sport, and as much as you root for your teammates on race day, you’re also very much rooting for yourself,” said Zimmerman, who skis for both the USST and Dartmouth College. “Whereas today, it just felt more personal, so much more team-oriented.”
The gold medal in the JWSC women’s Team Alpine Combined race went to Switzerland (Stefanie Grob and Janine Mächler); silver to Germany (Emma Aicher and Elina Lipp) +0.25; and bronze to Italy (Alice Calaba and Beatrice Sola) +0.40.
Men’s Super G
Two Swiss skiers were at the top of the podium at the JWSC Men’s Super G race: Livio Hiltbrand took gold and Lenz Hächler took silver. (+.03). The bronze medal went to Austrian Vincent Wieser (+.11)
“It was a very technical Super G course, super tight and turny,” said Finnigan Donley, who placed 13th in the Super G race (+1.21). “The course today rewarded skiing smart. Guys were skiing fast and just exploding.” Other U.S. finishers for the day: Jay Poulter was 19th (+1.57) and Hunter Salani finished 23rd (+2.56)
Men’s Team Alpine Combined
The team format did create a new vibe at the race today, with high emotions in the finish corral. “I’ve seen only positive reactions from the coaches and the athletes,” Fleré said. The U.S. athletes gave the new event positive reviews.
USST racer Finnegan Donley paired up with University of Utah racer Oliver Parazette, who was the first to congratulate Donley after a fast Super G run (Donley ended up in 13th in the Super G.) “We’re buddies and wanted to be together, so it’s awesome. I hope I put him in a good enough position to go for it,” Donley said after his Super G run. For Parazette, the team format didn’t add any additional pressure. “I ski in college, so I already ski for a team instead of just for myself,” he said. Parazette’s finish in the slalom left their US team in 8th place. The other three American pair-ups for the men DNFd.
The top finishers in Team Alpine Combined: Gold went to Italy (Marco Abbruzzese and Corrado Barbera); Germany took silver (Luis Vogt and Nickco Palamaras) +.39; and Austria went home with the bronze (Vincent Wieser and Jakob Greber) +.40.