LEVI, Finland -- Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin set the pace in the opening run of a women's World Cup slalom on Saturday.

The American timed 55.66 seconds to lead Petra Vlhova of Slovakia by 0.21 and Frida Hansdotter of Sweden by 0.73. Fourth-place Wendy Holdener of Switzerland had 1.20 to make up on the overall World Cup champion in the second run.

"I felt good, I felt like I was pushing," said Shiffrin, who came wide at a turn on the steep part of the course but quickly regained her rhythm.

"I was pretty clean for the most parts so I can be a little bit more precise maybe in a couple of gates," Shiffrin said. "But it felt like a good run. It was really fun to ski."

Shiffrin finished fifth in the season-opening giant slalom in Austria two weeks ago, when she complained about stiff legs.

"I had a much better feeling today," Shiffrin said. "This morning when I woke up I was a little bit nervous but when I went into the starting gate I sort of relaxed and tried to push me for that run."

Shiffrin won the traditional first slalom of the season in Finnish Lapland twice before, in 2013 and again last year.

The American has won 16 of the last 20 slaloms she competed in, and took the season title in the discipline for a fourth time last year.

Vlhova started faster than Shiffrin and trailed her by just 0.02 at the final split time but lost two-tenths at the bottom section.

Vlhova could become Shiffrin's main rival for the slalom title this season as Slovakian teammate Veronika Velez Zuzulova, who was runner-up the American last season, is out with a knee injury.