Ski Racing Discipline’s Explained

In my last post I explained the basics of ski racing. I now want to dive into the different disciplines or events of ski racing. Those comprise of Slalom (SL), Giant Slalom (GS), Super G (SG), and Downhill (DH). Those are the basic events, but there are also different events such as Parllel slalom and giant slalom and combined events. I will get into each of those.

SKI ALPIN - FIS WC Zagreb, Slalom, Herren
A racer visualizes his run

In every discipline the racer has to pick a perfered line. In order to turn at the opportune moment. If they turn to late then they come into the next gate with not much time to react and eventually can get so far behind that they miss the gate and are disqualified. In every event, both skis must go around the outside of the gate or esle they are disqualified.


Racers plan every part of the run while they inspect the course before the race. The racers can visualize the run and if you watch before they go you can see them going over the runs in their head. They lean over their ski poles and look quite silly but they are going over the line they intend to run.



This is the event with the straight up poles sticking out of the ground. Slalom (SL) is the slowest of all the disciplines, about 20-30 mph. The skis used in Slalom are the shortest of all the disciplines and they have the most pronounced hour-glass shape of them all, which means that when it is put on its edge to carve, the turns will be shorter. That is important in Slalom because the gates (or the poles) are placed closer together which means that the racers are forced to make more agile close together turns.

The racers in Slalom tend to be smaller and more athletic and agile. This is necessary for the tight turns. There are more turns in Slalom than any other discipline and that makes in a very physically demanding one

Slalom is done in two runs. The first run order is set by the season standings in slalom. The best person goes first and then so on until all the racers have run. The top 30 people get to make a second run. That run is set in an inverse order, the fastest first run goes last and the slowest goes first.

The most dominant slalom skier in the World currently, American, Mikaela Shiffrin

Giant Slalom

Giant Slalom is a little faster than Slalom, about 40-50 mph. The reason is that the gates are spaced further apart than they are in Slalom. The turn technique is different in Giant Slalom than it is in Slalom again because the ages are further apart. GS gates are also a different shape as you will see. The Slalom gates are jsut poles, but the GS ones are more like flags. Those gates are used in every event besides Slalom.

Giant Slalom is the second so-called “technical event.” GS and slalom are reffered to as technical events because of the amount of turns and how important form is in these events. It is important in GS to flow through the turns and always carve the turns.

Giant Slalom is also run in the same two-run format as slalom.

Ted Ligety Beaver Creek GS, 2010
The King of GS, Ted Ligety goes through a GS turn

Super G

Super G, or Super Giant Slalom is the first “speed event.” As opposed to the technical

Lara Gut in an aerodynamic tuck.

events speed events are all about, you guessed it, going fast. In Super G the gates are further apart than Giant Slalom and it is kind of a mix between GS and Downhill. The speeds are about 50-70 mph depending on the course.


In Super G they get no practice and they only get one run. Their is a course inspection so racers can view the course and plan the line they will take but mostly it is just one and done.

In Super G the racers get into an aerodynamic tuck which allows them to go as fast as possible with as little wind resistance as possible. There are straight stretches in Super G but also more turny parts where racers have to brake their tuck to stay in the course. Super G also incorporates jumps in the course.

Only the top 30 in Super G get points.

Lindsey Vonn on a Super G course. Notice how much bigger the turns are.


Now we come to Downhill. Downhill is the fastest event of them all. The speeds are 70+ mph and in Wengen Switzerland, Johan Clarey became the fastest man on skis when he went over 100 mph. Thats 100 mph not in a car, but on two pieces of wood and metal over ice. The skis in downhill are the most straight and narrow of all skis. They are really long, about 200+cm. The skis that length allow them to make long swooping turns and remain stable under such high speeds. Downhill is like NASCAR on snow. The racers find a line like on a race track and the fastest to the bottom wins.

Screen Shot 2016-11-24 at 2.11.37 PM.png
Ondrej Bank crashing at a DH in Colorado

Downhill is the most trecherous of all events and its easy to see why. When racers crash at that speed they seldom are able to walk off. Most commonly a racer will hurt their knee in Downhill crashes.

For the most part the racer tucks the whole downhill course, the turns are much much further apart and they are more long and swooping. There are also jump features in Downhill.

Downhill has two tranining runs where racers can see the course and then one race run. The top thirty get points.

Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway at the Hannenkamm in Kitzbuehl, Austria. Skiings Super Bowl

Other Events

There are a few other events I want to touch on. There are Combinied events which are one speed event and one technical event combined. Such as a Super G and a Slalom or a Dowhnill and a GS. They take one run on each and whoever has the fastest time combined wins.

There are also parallel events. These events have gained in popularity recently, thats because they are acutally really cool! There are two racers on the course at the same time going down a course that is a combiniation of a GS and SL course, (Not quite slalom, not quite giant slalom.) They race bracket style until there is one winner. The races are easy to follow and can be set up in the middle of a city if it is cold enough. They are fan favorites and for that reason there have been more added to the schedule. If downhill is like NASCAR on skis, this event is like drag racing on skis.

Racers on the new Alta Badia, Italy Parallel GS course.

In my next post I will talk about the stars of ski racing. Thank you for joining me.


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