Svindal roared down the course at Bormio in 1 minute, 54.08 seconds and edged second-place Hannes Reichelt of Austria by 0.39 seconds.
Erik Guay of Canada finished third with a time of 1:54.59. Travis Ganong was the top U.S. finisher with a 10th-place time of 1:55.26.
Snow falling during the early stages of the event may have slowed down the first skiers on the course. There was a 30-minute delay in the start of the race so excess snow could be cleared away.
"The top part this year was bumpy and soft so it was quite hard to be precise in those conditions and Bormio is a slope that is as tough as the conditions make it," said Svindal, who leads both the downhill and overall World Cup standings. "It might not be spectacular...but it can sure be as tough."