Joana Hählen led the first training day at Crans-Montana ©Getty Images

Crans-Montana in Switzerland is gearing up to host two International Ski Federation (FIS) Alpine Ski World Cup downhill events, scheduled for February 26 and 27, as the best female skiers in the world are coming together to compete on the demanding Mont-Lachaux piste.

Known for being one the most difficult trail on the circuit, Crans-Montana is the 28th stop of the women's 2021-2022 Alpine Ski World Cup and the first since the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

The organisers of the event have worked hard to prepare the course despite the harsh weather conditions and have made it slightly less demanding compared to previous years, keeping in mind the health of the athletes after an intense Winter Olympics in Beijing.

All eyes will be on a strong 12-member Swiss squad, including Olympic champions Corinne Suter, Lara Gut-Behrami and Michelle Gisin.

Italian duo of Sofia Goggia and Nadia Delago, who won silver and bronze in Beijing respectively, will look to get the better of their Swiss rivals.

However, Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States, who was ranked 18th in Beijing, currently occupies first place in the overall standings with 1,026 points.  

Slovakian Petra Vlhová is second with 1,009 points while and Italy's Federica Brignone is placed third with 772 points.

Joana Hählen crossed the line after 1:32.36 to lead the pack in Crans-Montana ©Getty Images
Joana Hählen crossed the line after 1:32.36 to lead the pack in Crans-Montana ©Getty Images

Olympic champion Suter, on the other hand, is occupying sixth place with 570 points.

Vlhová, who won the slalom gold at the Winter Olympics, will be hoping to continue her fine form as she looks to pip Shiffrin at the top.

Today (February 24) was the first training day with Joana Hählen cruising to victory.

The 30-year-old Swiss athlete completed the Mont Lachaux course after 1min 32.36sec to record a perfect start to the four-day event.

Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway crossed the line just 0.65sec later while France's Laura Gauche rounded out the top-three with a time of 1:33.16.

Hählen has never won a World Cup event in her eight-year career but is looking like a strong contender in Switzerland.

She has podiumed twice both times in 2020, finishing third in the downhill event in Bankso in Bulgaria and third in the Rosa Khutor Super-G contest in Russia.

Another training round is scheduled to take place tomorrow in Switzerland before the World Cup runs are contested on February 26 and 27.

Following this weekend's competition, athletes will remain in Switzerland for the next leg of the World Cup due to be staged in Lenzerheide from March 5 to 6.