Sandra Naeslund began the season with victory in Val Thorens ©Getty Images

Sweden's Sandra Naeslund made the most of Marielle Thompson's absence to win the opening women's race of the International Ski Federation Ski Cross World Cup season in Val Thorens.

Naeslund was the favourite on the French course with Canada's Thompson, the reigning Olympic, World Cup and Cross Alps Tour champion, missing due to a knee injury.

After qualifying in second position, the Swede won her quarter-final and semi-final races comfortably.

She then took control in the middle portion of the big final to beat Germany's Heidi Zacher into silver and Canada's Kelsey Serwa into bronze.

"It was a tough day with tight heats," said Naeslund.

"You had to be on it from start to finish, otherwise someone was going to pass you. 

"But I had good runs and made a few good moves and it took me to the win. 

"It's really nice to start the season out like this, and now I've got to just keep on going."

The World Cup curtain-raiser - also the opening leg of this season's Cross Alps Tour - was moved forward 24 hours to today with a large storm forecasted for this evening.

Val Thorens hosted the opening leg of the Ski Cross World Cup season today ©Getty Images
Val Thorens hosted the opening leg of the Ski Cross World Cup season today ©Getty Images

In the men's event, Canada did enjoy success as Chris Delbsoco chalked up a winning performance in front of two home French skiers.

He won all three of his heats and pulled away on the tricky top section of the Val Thorens course in the big final.

This was his first victory in two years as Arnaud Bovolenta, the Olympic silver medallist, came second and Terence Tchiknavorian third.

"I had two horrible days of training before today, I just couldn't get it dialed in," Delbosco said. 

"But once I was in the race, from that first run, I was feeling good. 

"It's tough being out front here, you've gotta protect your lines and that affects your exit speeds out of the turns, but I just kept battling and got the win. 

"I'm super stoked."

Olympic gold medallist Jean Frederic Chapuis, also the reigning World Cup and Cross Alps Tour champion, had to make do with ninth as he began the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic season on home snow.

A second World Cup competition is now scheduled for Saturday (December 9) in Val Thorens.

The World Cup will have 12 legs this season, with the opening six making up the Cross Alps Tour under "competition within a competition" rules.