Lindsey Vonn has decided to go home to the United States for an unexpected break in the middle of the World Cup ski season, and is unlikely to return to Europe until January.

"After talking with my family and consulting with my coaches and trainers, I have decided to take a break from the World Cup circuit," Vonn said on her Facebook page. "Since my intestinal infection last month, I have been struggling with my energy and strength. I believe that some time off the mountain will help me regain the physical strength that I require to compete at the level that I demand from myself."

Vonn added that she plans to be back skiing in 2013.

U.S. women's head coach Alex Hoedlmoser told The Associated Press on Monday that Vonn's heavy schedule has not allowed the four-time overall World Cup winner to recover from the intestinal illness that landed her in the hospital in Vail, Colorado, last month.

'Since my intestinal infection last month, I have been struggling with my energy and strength. I believe that some time off the mountain will help me regain the physical strength that I require to compete at the level that I demand from myself.'—Lindsey Vonn

Hoedlmoser said the timing of Vonn's return "depends on how she's feeling and exactly what her condition is."

"She's going home for now," Hoedlmoser said. "We'll have to see when she's ready.

"It's a little bit unknown, but the plan is to get her back strong … with the way the schedule has been and all the travel she just hasn't had a chance to get back to strength. We want her back at full strength."

Hoedlmoser said Vonn will miss this week's slalom and giant slalom races in Are, Sweden. The following races on the schedule are also technical races in Semmering, Austria, Dec. 28-29.

"It's possible she'll skip Semmering, so that would mean her next races would be in January," Hoedlmoser said. "It depends how she's feeling and exactly what her condition is."

Vonn won three consecutive speed races at Lake Louise, Alta,, earlier this season, and also took a super-G win in St. Moritz, Switzerland, on Dec. 8 for her 57th career World Cup win — moving her within five of record-holder Annemarie Moser-Proell on the all-time list. But she fared poorly in both of her races this past weekend in France.

On Friday in Val d'Isere, she had an uncharacteristic fall in downhill — the event she's Olympic champion in. Then on Sunday in Courchevel, she fell again in the opening run of a giant slalom.

Immediately after Sunday's race, Vonn posted a note on Facebook: "Hit a rock on my left ski in the GS and skied off course … struggling to find the energy I usually have … going to think hard over the next few days about my plan for the coming weeks and how to get strong again. Trying to stay positive. Now I'm packing up the Audi and heading to the airport."

'Get her back up in shape'

After Semmering, there is a special city event in Munich on New Year's Day and a slalom in Zagreb, Croatia, on Jan. 4 followed by speed races Jan. 12-13 in St. Anton, Austria — on one of Vonn's favourite courses.

Depending on how many races Vonn misses, it might affect her chances of defending the overall title.

Vonn is currently only fourth in the standings. Tina Maze of Slovenia leads with 799 points, Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany is next with 468, Kathrin Zettel of Austria has 440 and Vonn has 414.

However, Vonn might not miss any speed races, her specialty, so Hoedlmoser wasn't counting her out.

"In January, there are plenty of races left for her," he said. "The goal is to get her back up in shape."

In last week's issue of People magazine, Vonn revealed that she struggled with depression in 2008, and was prescribed an antidepressant to treat the condition. She added that she's happier these days, though, saying, "All the parts of my life are finally in sync. I accept who I am and I'm moving forward."

In her post to Facebook on Monday, Vonn made it clear that taking time off and the interview are not related.

"I want to be emphatic that this has nothing to do with my recent interview with People Magazine. I had completed that interview weeks before I was in the hospital with the intestinal infection," she said.

Vonn separated from her husband of four years, Thomas, last year.

With files from CBCSports.ca