Hirscher, Brem ready to start title defences in Solden
Marcel Hirscher starts his quest for a record-breaking sixth consecutive overall FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup title and Eva-Maria Brem begins her bid to take back-to-back giant slalom crystal globes when the season gets under way in Solden on Saturday.
Legendary Austrian Hirscher became the only man to be crowned world champion five years in a row back in March and has not lost his hunger for more glory seven months on.
Hirscher, whose main title rival is expected to be Aksel Lund Svindal, matched Marc Girardelli's tally of five overall titles after setting the standard once again last season and can break new ground in the 2016-17 campaign.
The 27-year-old will aim to make a statement in his homeland on Sunday, when he will look to hurtle down the Rettenbach glacier in a giant slalom discipline which he has won in each of the last two years.
Alexis Pinturault won four giant slalom races last season and the Frenchman will be out to deny Hirscher a dream start in his country of birth.
American Ted Ligety has won five giant slalom crystal globes, but was troubled by injury last season and is looking to return to the peak of his powers.
Brem can also expect plenty of support from a partisan crowd when the Tyrol-born 28-year-old looks to hit the ground round.
She will be out to become the third woman in seven seasons to retain her giant slalom title and will not have compatriot Anna Veith to contend with in her homeland on Saturday.
Two-time World Cup champion Veith, nee Fenninger, is not ready to return from a serious knee injury sustained in a training run accident in Solden last year which ruled her out of entire 2015-16 season.
Viktoria Rebensburg will also miss the start of the World Cup season after suffering a fracture in her right knee, but strong runs will be expected from overall favourite Mikaela Shiffrin and Lara Gut this weekend along with last year's winner Federica Brignone.
Tina Maze returns to the circuit after sitting out last season, but the two-time Olympic champion this week announced she will return following the World Cup race in Maribor next January.
Lindsey Vonn will not race in Solden after the American great opted to skip the giant slalom events.