Winter Olympics 2018: A beginner's guide to alpine skiing ahead of the Pyeongchang Games

Alpine skiing is one of the most exciting events in the Winter Olympics. The sport basically comprises of events where an athlete has to ski down a hill in the shortest time possible.

Alpine skiing is an umbrella term which includes six events; two "speed" events, two "technical" events, one combined event and one mixed team event.

At Pyeongchang, there will be 11 gold medals on offer with there being five variations of skiing and each variation having a men's and women's event.

Here is all you need to know about the sport.

Olympic sport since: 1936 (combined), 1948 (downhill, slalom), 1952 (giant slalom), 1988 (super-G)

Categories and how are they different:


In downhill, the fastest of the skiing events, the skier only needs to make it down the hill in the shortest time possible without having to pass through gates. Skiers often reach speeds of over 90 m/h. These speeds are generally achieved near the top of the course with Frenchman Johan Clarey breaking the 100 m/h barrier in 2013.

The skis used are longer to provide stability at high speeds. The ski poles are bent so as to go around the skier when they are in the tuck position making them more aerodynamic. The vertical drop (course) for men ranges from 450m to 1,100m and for women, it is between 450m to 800m.

This is how the event looks like:


Super G

Along with downhill, Super G is among the speed events ski-sport in the category. Though similar to downhill with skiers having to make it down the hill in the shortest time possible, the Super G course has more turns than downhill with skiers required to go around gates. While the vertical drop for men tends to be around 350 to 650m , it is 350m to 600m for women.

This is how the event looks like:


Giant Slalom

A technical event alongside slalom, the giant slalom event has more gates which are closer to each other than in super G which results in slower speeds.

A giant slalom course can have anywhere between 56 to 70 gates for men and 46 to 58 gates for women. For men, the vertical drop is between 250m and 450m while for women, it is between 250m and 400m.

This is how the event looks like:



The most technical of all skiing events, slalom is the slowest as well as the shortest of all skiing events. A skier is required to go around poles in the course which number around 55 to 75 for men and 40 to 60 for women.

Earlier, the poles used to be made of bamboo which forced the skier to manoeuvre their entire body around the pole. However, poles are now made of flexible plastic which allows the skier to ski much closer to the poles. According to the International Ski Federation (FIS) rules, the boots and the skis of the skier have to go around the poles which helps skiers in getting as close to the poles as possible. Skiers use the cross-blocking technique in which the legs go around the poles while the upper body goes across the pole often knocking it down.

This is how the event looks like:


Super combined

The super combined event combines the downhill and slalom events. A skier takes part in one downhill run and one slalom run with the athlete taking the least combined time winning the event. However, only skiers who complete the downhill run can attempt the slalom run.

Parallel mixed team

Making its debut at the Pyeongchang games, the parallel mixed team event features two teams of four skiers — two men and two women from the same country — competing in a slalom race. In this event, two skiers (men vs men and women vs women) race against each other in a slalom course with the first one crossing the finish line winning a point for their team. In case of a tie, the team with the lowest combined time of their faster man and woman will win.

The event will be played in a knockout format. Teams will be seeded according to the FIS rankings with the first seed facing off against the sixteenth seed and so on.

This is how the event looks like:


Days of events: 8 to 24 February.

Medals at stake: 11

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Updated Date: Feb 07, 2018 23:27:04 IST

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