But there’s always a target on his back: who might spoil his party, as Braathen did last season?
Veterans most likely to mount challenge
Men’s slalom had for many years been dominated by two racers – the legendary Marcel Hirscher (AUT), followed by Kristoffersen – before Marco Schwarz (AUT) grabbed the 2021 World Cup title, and then Braathen looked to be injecting further new blood into proceedings.
It looks like the battle-hardened veterans are likely to foil any young guns this time around, however.
Schwarz can be a contender but it depends on his schedule. The 28-year-old Austrian is a gifted slalom skier – in 2021, he utterly outclassed the field.
But he’s also a speed merchant these days, and has found success on the longer skis. The risk is that he becomes too stretched: last season he finished 13th in the slalom standings, the year before that he was 12th, while he found podiums in 2022/23 in the GS and super-G.
Whether he gets involved in this year’s overall slalom tussle depends on how he starts: he will drop some events, based on results. “I am aware that all 45 races will not be possible,” Schwarz said recently. “It makes no sense. But until Christmas I will race everything.”
Recapture the spirit of ’21 in Gurgl and he might fancy another shot at this crystal globe; start slowly and the shorter skis could get packed away for some of the new year.
More laser-focused on slalom will be 31-year-old Ramon Zenhaeusern (SUI). The six-foot-eight (2.03m) racer finished third in the slalom standings last season and in 2021, and has come fourth on two other occasions.
The big Swiss will definitely see this season as an opportunity to make that final leap to the top – and he’s been tuning up in style over the summer, including trying out some ‘seated waterskiing’…