The snow came down with such force it clouded the view of the course. Skiers were merely silhouettes scorching down the hill, but no skier did a better job overcoming the adversity of the first Audi FIS Alpine World Cup race of the 2012-2013 season than Ted Ligety.

In fact, the Parkite did more than just win -- he won in record-setting fashion. The winning margin of 2.75 seconds in Sunday's giant slalom race in Soelden, Austria, was the longest elapsed time between first and second place in a World Cup giant slalom race in 34 years, six years before Ligety was born.

It was the seventh-largest winning margin in World Cup GS history.

"This is kind of an unbelievable gap, something I wouldn't really expect," Ligety said. "I was just taking a ton of risks. Luckily it paid off. In hindsight, it may not have been the smartest approach, because it would have been pretty easy to go out right there."

Ligety's second run, which came in the midst of a whiteout blizzard, catapulted him from second place into first after trailing Thomas Fantara of France by .04 seconds going into the second run. It was his 12th World Cup victory and sixth-consecutive podium finish in Soelden.

"You couldn't do a ton with the snow pouring down. You had to kind of stay in the similar track as the first run," he said. "Maybe if we had our own track, it would have been a little bit different, but there's nothing to complain about on that. It was a tough day for everybody and I just fought and maybe took more risks than what was really smart.

"This is a once-in-a-career kind of margin and that's just surprising."

Sasha Rearick, head coach of the men's U.S. alpine team, said that Ligety's performance in Sunday's World Cup opener was due to his tremendous off-season workout regimen.

"That was an impressive execution -- complete ability and confidence in himself," Rearick said in a release. "We often talk about how you work hard, you train hard so that you can trust yourself. Today he did that. He couldn't see the track, but he trusted that the track was good and he was going to be able to ride a clean ski from top to bottom. You only gain that trust and confidence in yourself when you put in day after day of hard work."

Rearick said now that Ligety has set the bar so high this early, the field will once again be gunning for the 2006 Olympic gold medalist.

"The key now is he's won by 2.75. He put the rest of the world in the tank," he said. "But we can't rest. What do we need to do now? The rest of those guys also hate to lose. They're going to work extremely hard over the next month until the next race in Beaver Creek. It won't be easy next month."

Following another dazzling performance on the world's largest stage, Ligety celebrated with his parents, Cyndi and Bill, as the snow fell. He'll stay at the U.S. team's training spot in Soelden while speed skiers converge on Colorado this week for the opening of the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center at Copper Mountain.

In Saturday's World Cup opener for the women also held in Soelden, Slovenia's Tina Maze took advantage of a rough outing by defending champion Lindsey Vonn to win the giant slalom margin over Kathrin Zettel of Austria. Vonn was off the pace in her first run before going out in the second after hooking her left hand on a gate. Julia Mancuso of Squaw Valley, Calif., lost a ski and went down in the first run, while Mikaela Shiffrin of Vail, Colo., missed the top 30 second run by .01 seconds.

"That was definitely not the game plan," Vonn said in a release. "In the first run, I felt like I skied solid, but didn't risk enough. I was a little bit too conservative on the pitch."