Nicole Schmidhofer was a surprise winner of the first gold medal at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships after Lindsey Vonn and Anna Veith failed to finish Tuesday's super-G race in St Moritz.
Schmidhofer has never won a World Cup race, but the Austrian topped the podium l in Switzerland after an almost perfect run on the Salastrains course.
The 27-year-old took advantage of excellent visibility under blue skies to clock a winning time of one minute, 21.34 seconds.
Tina Weirather had held an early advantage, but the Liechtenstein racer had to settle for silver after Schmidhofer was 0.33secs quicker.
Lara Gut, the World Cup super-G leader, had plenty of support in her homeland, but finished third on the opening day of competition.
Legendary American Vonn said it was "all or nothing" for her first race of the week and it proved to be the latter after she went off course midway down.
Veith was unable to successfully defend her title, also failing to finish after missing a gate.
Schmidhofer has only twice finished on a World Cup podium and reflected on a dream day after she was crowned world champion.
"The course set suited me really well today," she said.
"I should thank the Italian coaches who set the course because it was ideal for me together with the snow conditions. It's just a perfect day."