Austria's Manuel Feller was fastest on the first run of the season

Paris (AFP) - Home skier Manuel Feller led an Austrian podium sweep after two descents of the Kirchenkar slalom for a combined time of 1min 47.23sec in the Alpine skiing World Cup’s opening men’s race on Saturday.

Feller swooped down from the 2475m altitude starting gate at Gurgl, taking 53.22sec to complete a rapid first run and then 54.01 for his second.

Olympic champion Clement Noel was just behind the Austrian heading into the second run but failed to mount any real challenge.

This left the door open to Marco Schwarz and Michael Matt to ensure an all-Austrian podium in front of a home crowd.

“I was awful, and it hurts. It cost me a lot,” Noel said after his 12th place finish.

The race marks the start of the 202324 season after the traditional curtain-raiser, planned for Soelden in Austria at the end of October, was cancelled due to high winds.

The Zermatt-Cervinia men’s downhill, an event overshadowed by environmental issues due to damage to a glacier, was also cancelled due to heavy snow at a cross-border meeting between Switzerland and Italy.

The first of two scheduled women’s downhill races at Zermatt was shelved earlier Saturday due to poor weather.