Fact file – Alpine Ski Racing Events
If you are new to following ski racing it can take a while to get used to all the different types of races on the calendar.
All the events involve skiing down a course set with flexible red and blue poles. These are known as gates, and are normally set in pairs. A skier must pass through all the gates to complete the course, and the fastest skier wins. There are no time penalties – a skier who fails to pass through all the gates correctly is disqualified. There are four disciplines, divided into technical and speed, with the main difference being how far apart the gates are set.
The main events you need to know about are as follows:
The most technical discipline. Slalom races have the tightest, quickest turns and the shortest, most agile skis. The gates are made of two single poles without flags, with 6-13 metres between successive gates. Slalom skiers wear a lot of protection and are expected to hit the gates with hands or shins.
GS – Giant slalom
GS is the most accessible event for a recreational skier, but the hardest to master. The gates for GS and other events comprise two sets of double poles with flags, or panels. Speeds are faster, but this is still a technical event with the skier passing a gate every 1-2 seconds. Gates are at least ten metres apart and typically 20-30 metres.
Super G is classed as a speed event, with the gates being set further apart than GS giving higher speeds, but not as far apart as downhill. Gates must be at least 25 metres apart.
This is the fastest of the four disciplines, raced on the longest, straightest skis over a course with the fewest gates. Gates are set where needed, with no rules on how far apart they are. Unlike the other three disciplines, gates do not have to alternate in colour but can be all red or all blue.
An event where a run of downhill or super-G is combined with a run of slalom. While most racers specialise in either speed or technical events, combined races favour the all-rounders. Although in a sense it is not a separate discipline like the four above, it does have its own discipline prize in the World Cup and offers the chance of an Olympic medal to more all-round skiers.
Parallel GS, Parallel slalom, City Event
In parallel events, skiers race each other head to head on parallel courses, rather than against the clock. The two courses are set carefully to be as near to identical as possible. Parallel slalom races are often held close to cities under floodlighting, and are sometimes described as City Events. Parallel GS is a recent addition to the calendar; the first World Cup race was only held in 2015.