Ski Racing 101

So what is this ski racing thing?


Ski Racing got it’s start in Norway in 1843, but since then has grown to a global sport. Easily the biggest skiing Austria. In Austria skiing is more religion than sport, they treat their skiers like American’s treat their Football players (The NFL kind that is…) America is no slouch when it comes to ski racing though either, with greats like Lindsey Vonn and Bode Miller and current greats like Mikaela Shiffrin, the Americans have taken center stage on the “White Circus”

How Does It Work?

Skiing is basically split into 4 major events. Slalom (SL), Giant Slalom (GS), Super G (SG) and Downhill (DH) make up the bulk of the season. There are multiple championships going on throughout the competetors. The first and most prestigious is the Overall title. That goes to the person (1 man and 1 woman) who have the most points overall across all events. Then there is a championship for each individual event, which goes to the man and woman who have the most points in one single event such as SL or DH. There are also combined events where atheltes take one slalom run and one downhill run or one slalom run and one super g run (but we will get to that later) there is also a combined championship.

Now the wording for ski racing is all a bit confusing, besides for the technical terms which I will keep away from for right now, but the names of the events themselves. The whole series is call the FIS Alpine World Cup. FIS is skiings governing body like NFL or MLB. Alpine refers to the type of skiing, Alpine is downhill skiing, as opposed to Nordic which is cross country. World Cup is the tricky part, the name World Cup probably brings images of Soccer to your mind, as a sort of one huge event, well that is not what skiing refers to as the world cup. The World Cup just means it is skiing at it’s highest level. Nations bring teams of ski racers to compete in each event and they call that traveling league the World Cup.

Now to make things even more confusing they have what normally you would think is a World Cup like event and that is called the World Championships. The World Championships happen every two years and are like a smaller Olympics, and it is the  most prestigious thing you can win, behind the Olympics.

To make it even more confusing, there is a Championships outside of the World Championships that is the World Cup Finals, which again is an event similar to the Olympics but it happens every year and that is where they award the championship in each discipline.

Now ski racing isn’t just first one to the bottom wins – well it is but, there are different rules. You have to navigate your way through varying courses and you can not miss a single gate (or flag/pole looking thing they ski around in laymen’s terms.) If you miss a gate you are disqualified.

On the inside of the U.S. Ski Team’s speed suit is printed the phrase “Hundies Matter.” Which brings to mind that every hundreth of a second counts in ski racing. In ski racing many times (unless you are compteting against Mikaela Shiffrin) the differnce between first place and last is less than a second. That means every single mistake can cost you and that it is a game of milimeters. Skiers spend a lot of time preparing for their run. They must plan everything they are going to do on the course, because if you make a mistake you have lost.

ted-ligety-660Ski racers take advantage of a technique called ‘carving’ which is where you put the ski totally on its edge and the ski bends causing you to turn. The shape of the ski and the amount of camber (how much the ski looks like an hour glass) all determines how much it will turn. Each different discipline uses a different size ski and the gates are placed at different distances.

Now that thats out of the way my next post will cover the disciplines of ski racing.



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