November 03, 2015

Lindsey Vonn's healing left ankle no longer aches or gives her any sort of discomfort whatsoever when she steps into her ski boot.

The four-time overall World Cup champion pronounced she's ''definitely 100 percent'' ready for the giant slalom race in Aspen, Colorado, later this month.

Now, a new dilemma: Finding some snow. Vonn flew back from Europe for a long weekend that included a photo shoot in New York, a friend's wedding in Vermont and the Broncos-Packers game in Denver.

With the slopes in her hometown of Vail not open - 57 degrees Fahrenheit (13.8 Celsius) there Tuesday - Vonn may train at nearby Copper Mountain. Or head back to Europe. Or simply do what she's been doing since breaking her ankle in a training crash in New Zealand nearly 12 weeks ago - working out intensely in the gym.

Bottom line: She's raring to race.

''I have a really good feeling about this season,'' Vonn said in a phone interview. ''This is going to be a really good year.''

Sitting out the season opener in Soelden, Austria, was a difficult choice for Vonn. She was on the sideline as Italy's Federica Brignone won the giant slalom on Oct. 24, while American Mikaela Shiffrin finished runner-up. Vonn possibly could've given it a go, but ''I was worried that if I hit a bump or something, I would have problems. I erred on the side of caution, because I'm really happy with where I am at.''

She will also sit out a slalom event in Levi, Finland, on Nov. 14. But that's by design since she no longer competes in the slalom.

Vonn's keeping her goals modest this season. Well, as modest as someone can after winning a women's record 67 World Cup races over her career. Vonn simply hopes to defend her titles in the downhill and super-G disciplines.

If it so happens, chase after her fifth big crystal globe as well, which would make the 31-year-old Vonn the oldest female skier to win the overall title. The record is held by Swiss great Vreni Schneider, who was 30 when she won in 1995.

''For me, it's just to try to continue to win races,'' said Vonn, the Olympic downhill gold medal winner at the 2010 Vancouver Games who couldn't defend her crown in Sochi because of a knee injury. ''Because whenever I can focus on skiing and trying to win one race at a time, that's when I accumulate the most amount of points. That always puts me in a good position for the overall.''

These days, Vonn looks around at her fellow racers and barely sees anyone she knows. Austrians Nicole Hosp and Kathrin Zettel retired this season and Tina Maze of Slovenia took a break. Last season, Vonn's good friend Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany stepped away.

''I'm seeing more and more of my friends coming to watch the races instead of being a part of them,'' said Vonn, who returned last season from serious knee injuries to break the record for most women's World Cup wins. ''And then, some of the girls that are racing against me are literally half my age. It's awesome.

''Don't know if you can hear my sarcasm - really awesome,'' she chuckled.

Another member of the younger generation is quickly revving up to speed as Shiffrin plans to venture into super-G events this season. Vonn's biggest piece of advice for Shiffrin? Just keep being Shiffrin, the fearless skier who won the slalom at the world championships in Beaver Creek, Colorado, last winter.

''She's done so much in her career already that I don't really know if I have any advice I can give her that she doesn't already know,'' Vonn said. ''Speed skiing requires time and getting used to the tracks. It's something I'm sure she'll master and I have no doubt she will be successful at as well.''

As for Vonn, her confidence is soaring as she gains more trust in an ankle that no longer causes her pain.

''I'm skiing really well,'' Vonn said. ''I'm 100 percent ready for the season.''

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