SELVA DI VAL GARDENA, Italy (AP) — The unique fusion cuisine mixing Italian and Austrian delicacies. Spectacular 360-degree scenery with jagged mountain peaks everywhere you look. Plenty of sunshine all winter.
There are plenty of reasons why Aleksander Aamodt Kilde loves skiing in Val Gardena, a resort in the heart of the Dolomites Range.
None bigger than a downhill course that World Cup racers regularly rank as the “most fun to ski” on the entire circuit because of the high speeds, big jumps and varied terrain.
Lately, though, nobody on the circuit has been enjoying himself more in Val Gardena than Kilde, who won a super-G on Friday for his third consecutive victory on the Saslong — stretching back to his sweep of the super-G and downhill last year.
Four of Kilde’s nine career World Cup victories have come in Val Gardena.
No wonder it’s his favorite course, coming out on top over his home downhill in Kvitfjell, Norway, or even the more famous races in Wengen, Switzerland, and Kitzbühel, Austria.
“If you look at my track record, I can’t say anything else,” Kilde said. “I have also a fun time in other courses but I just love the snow here, I love the vibes, and I love the terrain. Also, everything here is fantastic. It feels like home.”
Combining with the now retired Aksel Lund Svindal and the recently injured Kjetil Jansrud, Norwegians have now won eight of the last 10 super-Gs in Val Gardena.
“It’s a special place. We like to ski here, we have a great time and also in the hotel we get good food, we get the service we need and it’s fantastic,” Kilde said.
Austrian skiers Matthias Mayer and Vincent Kriechmayr finished second and third, respectively.
Mayer, who will be aiming for his third consecutive gold medal in as many Olympics at the Beijing Games in February, finished 0.22 seconds behind. Kriechmayr, who swept gold in super-G and downhill at last season’s world championships, was a further 0.05 behind in a race that was held in perfect conditions.
Mayer was the last of the top racers to start and he had the same time as Kilde through the final checkpoint but couldn’t match the Norwegian on the steep finishing pitch.
“I thought he was going to beat me in the finish,” Kilde said. “But I’m here now and that’s awesome.”
Kilde had already sensed that his was a special run, holding up a finger in the No. 1 position in the finish area before bowing to the crowd.
“If you look at the times, it was a pretty smooth run,” Kilde said. “I had maybe one turn I could have done a better job. In the middle there. But overall, my plan was money and it was awesome to ski today.”
Kilde won the overall title in 2019-20, then had last season cut short when he tore his ACL during a training crash in January. The main thing missing in Kilde’s career is a major championship medal — a hole he’ll aim to fill at the Beijing Games.
Overall World Cup leader Marco Odermatt finished 24th but still maintained a 63-point advantage over Mayer. Kilde is third overall, 124 points behind.
“He has a really good blend of (talents),” Ryan Cochran-Siegle, the top American finisher in ninth, said of Kilde. “He’s a good glider but he’s also incredibly powerful and he’s able to balance between those two aspects. He can stay aero but he can ski confidently and ski aggressive.”
Kilde is dating American standout Mikaela Shiffrin, who will compete in a super-G in Val d’Isere, France, on Sunday.