Alpine skiing: France's Worley sets down giant slalom marker

France's Tessa Worley stole a pretty march on her rivals after scorching to the fastest first leg in the women's giant slalom at the World Ski Championships on Thursday.

Worley, born to a French mother and Australian father and partly raised in New Zealand, was first out of the start hut but mastered icily treacherous conditions in the bottom half of the Planai course to time 1min 04.90sec.

"I've been able to develop my skiing on this snow and this hill, which I really like," said Worley, who won giant slalom bronze in the last worlds in 2011.

"I tried to ski both cleanly and with committment. Now I've got to stay in the same spirit for the second run."

Worley added: "I don't know if I'd call it a perfect run, but it was very good. The piste was pretty unforgiving.

"Today, I just wanted to produce my best skiing on the first and second runs. The first is done and now it's time for the second: I'll try to be as accurate and committed on a run starting in 30th spot."

Austrian duo Kathrin Zettel and Anna Fenniger were the closest to the French racer, at 0.52 and 0.85sec respectively.

"It's very icy. But I felt pretty good. I'm glad it worked out with the placing," said Zettel.

Slovenia's defending champion Tina Maze was in fourth at 1.09sec, a margin that will require Worley to make a big mistake in the second leg to give her a chance of going for gold.

Maze, also the Olympic silver medallist, has made every giant slalom podium this season and is the runaway leader in the World Cup rankings in that discipline.

Germany's Olympic champion Viktoria Rebensburg finished in tenth, 2.07sec off Worley's pace, while teammate Maria Hoefl-Riesch was at 2.44sec in her bid to win a fourth medal here after super-combined gold, and bronzes in downhill and the team event.

US teen sensation Mikaela Shiffrin was tied for fifth with Swedish slalom specialist Frida Hansdotter, at 1.65sec.

The second leg will start at 1:30pm.