SOELDEN, Austria -- World giant slalom champion Ted Ligety wants to use the upcoming World Cup season to work on the next big step in his skiing career -- becoming a contender for the overall title.
The 27-year-old American earned his third giant slalom crystal globe last year and is eyeing a return to better times in slalom.
"It's nice to concentrate on the World Cup race to race," said Ligety about the season, which kicks off Sunday with a GS on the Rettenbach glacier. "It's cool to just focus on the World Cup and not having to think about world championships or Olympics."
Ligety called winning another GS title a main goal -- but admitted he had other things in mind.
"Getting back on the podium in slalom is also a big goal," he said. "If I achieve both these goals, I should be closing in on the overall. That's the plan for the next three years, to be a contender for the overall title."
Ligety's teammate Bode Miller has won overall titles in 2005 and '08. The 34-year-old Miller returns to the U.S. ski team after a two-year break, when he toured the circuit independently.
"I expect Bode to work hard and to be a team player, to be a role model within the team," U.S. men's ski team coach Sasha Rearick said. "Since Bode came back to the team, he has been great."
Ligety specialized in slalom before becoming a dominating force in GS. He was on a World Cup slalom podium six times, though his last silverware in the discipline came in January 2008 in Wengen, Switzerland.
"If I can get back into the top 5 in the world in slalom and get better in super-G skiing, that's a pretty good formula for the overall title," Ligety said.
Rearick acknowledged that Ligety will need some time to compete with the top all-rounders like defending champion Ivica Kostelic, Aksel Lund Svindal or Carlo Janka.
"Kostelic was a dominating force in January," Rearick said. "Just unbelievable, that was impressive. I hope someone else can give him some competition though I don't know how he's skiing now. We haven't trained with other nations. Aksel and the regular guys will be up there again."
Rearick put a strong focus on slalom training with Ligety in the offseason.
"GS got a little less focus because this year we really focus on improving the other events," Rearick said. "Ted is dedicated to work hard and in Portillo, we started to see some exciting things. He was skiing like he did three, four years ago. I don't how fast he really is yet ... at least, I saw some movements and the fun of slalom skiing again. And on the speed side ... instead of being two seconds out, he is now half a second."
Ligety will start as a favorite in Sunday's GS though he is yet to win in Soelden. Except for his first start in 2005, when he finished eighth wearing bib No. 64, he's been on the podium for every race there.
"There is definitely some pressure, but I don't worry much about external pressure," Ligety said. "The pressure that I put on myself to ski well is more than anyone else could ever put on me. It's important to get a good start as it gives you a lot of confidence."
The coach said that Miller was hungry for success going into the new season, despite the lack of major events.
"When he came out of (the U.S. team's training camp in) New Zealand, he was very excited about skiing," Rearick said. "He was so excited that the young guys were pushing him."
Rearick has high expectations of some younger talent on the team.
The 22-year-old Nolan Kasper had a breakthrough performance last season finishing second in the Kranjska Gora slalom in March, while Tommy Ford and Tim Jitloff could be the next to make World Cup headlines.
"Nolan has been injured and will start skiing in November," Rearick said. "Tommy has been out with small injuries as well. He started skiing two weeks ago ... He is skiing well, but the timing is not there yet. And Tim has made great progress in his technique, I am proud of him."