The foremost alpine ski racers at the moment, both slalom experts, are Mikaela Shiffrin, 23, from Vail, Co. and Marcel Hirscher, 29, of Austria.
Shiffrin has won two consecutive Audi FIS Alpine World Cup overall titles and, after eight seasons, boasts 43 World Cup victories (32 slalom) including 11 wins in 2016-17 and 12 in the 2017-18 season.
Three-time Olympian Hirscher tied the men’s season record of 13 wins in March and has claimed an unprecedented seven consecutive World Cup overall crystal globes. He has started 223 World Cup races and won 58 of them (26%).
Not surprisingly, they are the leading prize money winners in their sport—with Hirscher piling up $3.6 million in World Cup winnings over his 2012-18 stint at the top of the men’s heap including his personal-best $676,458 in 2018.
What’s more surprising is that Shiffrin has out-earned Hirscher in World Cup prize money each of the last two seasons. Shiffrin won $709,886 in U.S. dollars to Hirscher’s $676,458 in 2018, and led him by $603,740 to $534,230 in 2017.
In the last six seasons when she has never finished below fourth on the overall women’s list, Shiffrin has earned $2.34 million in prize money.
The International Ski Federation (FIS), governing body of ski sports, took notice of the differences between Shiffrin and Hirscher, and assessed all the top World Cup money winners since 2012, and published a revealing July 4 report on its fis-ski.com website.
It stated, “In a time when equal pay in professions around the globe is under scrutiny, the top ladies alpine ski racers in the world out-earned their male counterparts for the second season in a row.”
Shiffrin is aware of what is happening, and recently praised her sport as a model for equity and equal pay among men and women.
The FIS report continued, “In the 2017-18 season, all but one of the top 18 ladies out-earned the male with an equivalent ranking on the prize money list. All of the top 13 ladies achieved this same feat in 2016-17, including Mikaela Shiffrin who has earned more prize money than male No. 1 Marcel Hirscher for the past two winters.”
Shiffrin told fis-ski.com, “I think the fact that I was able to win the most prize money this year out of all athletes—female and male—means that, while there is still a big fight to eliminate gender bias in the workplace, progress is being made.”
Equal minimum prize money is offered at all Audi FIS Alpine World Cup events and individual organizers are allowed to offer more than the minimum should they have the funding to do so.
The minimum amount paid out at all ladies’ and men’s races is 120,000 (Swiss francs) or about $121,214 U.S. dollars across the top 30 finishers in each race.
Shiffrin’s $709,886 this year—highest on the World Cup since Tina Maze’s $708,899 season total in 2013—was earned in part because of the American’s podium results at women’s venues that paid out in excess of the minimum.
They included Courchevel in France, and Austrian resorts Lienz and Flachau. Flachau’s night slalom was the highest paying race on the ladies’ circuit at $196,018, with about $39,395 going to Shiffrin as the winner. Shiffrin also won at Courchevel and Lienz.
A 2017 BBC Sport study revealed that of 44 professional sports, 20 percent still fail to offer parity in prize money, the FIS report stated.
“It is very clear to me that equivalent jobs and responsibilities should be valued the same,” said Atle Skaardal, FIS Chief Ladies’ Race Director said. “Our competitions on the ladies’ tour are equally demanding and draw the same if not more spectators in some cases, so it is essential that ladies’ alpine skiing offers equal prize money to the men’s tour.”
Two-time Olympian and 11-season World Cup technical racer Nina Haver-Loeseth, 29, of Norway has earned more than the male with an equivalent ranking on the prize money list for the past three years running, averaging $107,249.
Haver-Loeseth has won a World Cup race only once, at Santa Catarina, Italy in Jan. 2016, the season she reached her high point with a ninth-place World Cup finish overall.
She cites parity in prize money as one of the reasons she was motivated and able to develop into a professional athlete in the sport.
“Seeing ladies earn a fair living in ski racing helped me maintain my interest in this sport,” said Haver-Loeseth.
“As a female athlete, it is a very good feeling to know that the prize money is equal. I am proud of where our sport is when it comes to appreciating both men’s and ladies skiing. It’s 2018, and it’s a bit sad to see that in some other sports the gap is still way too big when it comes to prize money and earnings.”
American Lindsey Vonn, 33, has 82 World Cup wins and is within striking distance of the career World Cup victory total of 86 held by Ingemark Stenmark of Sweden. Shiffrin credits Vonn for helping set the stage for the rise in women’s prize money on the tour.
In 2012, Vonn won $558,590 in capturing the World Cup overall title—with Hirscher starting his seven-year run as the top man at $465,350.
That was Shiffrin’s first year on the tour, and her first World Cup podium in third place at Lienz, Austria in Dec. 2011 helped her to 34th place in the overall rankings and $19,444 in season earnings.
Shiffrin has been ascendant ever since—placing third in 2016 with $232,984—the season Vonn won her last overall title with $435,057 in prize money.
Recently, Shiffrin was nominated for a second time as “Best Female Athlete” in the prestigious ESPYs. She was also nominated as “Best Female Olympic Athlete.”
The 26th annual ESPYs feature online voting at ESPYS.com. The winners will be announced July 18 in a television broadcast on ABC.
The fis-ski.com comparison considered only prize money winnings and didn’t account for sponsorship and endorsement money, which are not always published by the athletes or the sponsors.