American Mikaela Shiffrin raced to a win Friday at Squaw Valley as she tries to maintain her top ranking in the ladies World Cup series.
The event marked the first time in 48 years that the world's top level of ski racing got underway in Northern California.
A grandstand full of cowbell rattling fans were on hand Friday for the first of several races. Spectators also took up positions along the Red Dog race course.
One of those fans was Tamara McKinney, a World Cup champion turned instructor. She said the event’s biggest impact will be on young ski racers.
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"It's an opportunity for the kids to see world-class skiing," said McKinney, who won four world cup titles including the women's all around title in 1983.
Nevada City resident Stan Sanderson is no kid but was thrilled non-the-less to watch the world's best skiers.
"The world cup doesn't get through here often," said Sanderson, who was there with three longtime friends to watch the action. "These are the best women skiers in the world."
The ladies giant slalom was teeming with suspense. Since Shiffrin had the lead after the qualifying run, she raced last in the final race.
She had the lead most of the race, then fell behind the time of second-place finisher Federica Brignone before capturing a .07 hundredths of a second win.
Shiffrin, who calls Colorado home, said the international tour's four stops in the US stops will help the sport. This season the tour had two races in Killington, Vermont. The tour also takes them to Aspen, Co.
Ski racing used to be a staple on network television. But as channels have become more specialized and the snowboard-heavy X-games emerged its become harder to find coverage of ski racing.
"We are kind of touching each corner in the US," said Shiffrin, who turns 22 on Monday. "I think its really important for these young athletes and very important for ski racers in general."