Ligety leads in men's giant slalom
Ted Ligety of US competes during the Men Giant Slalom race at the Alpine ski World Cup finals on March 16, 2013 in Lenzerheide
The 29-year-old triple world champion raced down the course in 1min 00.44sec, ahead of young French talent Alexis Pinturault at 1:01.34 and Austrian star Marcel Hirscher at 1:01.42.
Ligety had already stunned the competition last year by winning the opening race of the World Cup season with a 2.75sec lead.
A victory on Sunday would see him equal legend Hermann Maier's three wins here, but Ligety would be the first to score them in straight seasons.
Twenty-two year old Pinturault, one of the favourites, showed fighting spirit down the course to finish with the second fastest time.
Hirscher, one of Ligety's biggest rivals and overall World Cup winner for the past two years, put in an extremely risky run and almost looked like skiing out on several occasions.
The race start had been lowered due to strong winds, but conditions were otherwise sunny on the Rettenbach glacier, at 3,000 metres (9,840 feet) altitude.
Austrian veteran Benni Raich, a double Olympic gold-medallist and two-time world champion, deserved an honourable mention, finishing fifth in his 13th race here.
The 35-year-old has taken part in every Soelden race since 1998 but never landed on the podium.
US ski king Bode Miller, making a comeback after an 18-month break, was 13th just behind another top contender, downhill world champion Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway.
The men's second run kicks off at 12:45 local time (1145 GMT).