Alpine Skiing: Disciplines – STO 015

While August may be coming to a close and it is still some time before the lifts start running again, ski season will be here before you know! For professional alpine skiers, they’ve already begun their training for the 18/19 season, so why not get a head-start yourself?

For this reason, I’ll be covering different disciplines within the realm of alpine skiing. Whether this is your first year on the sticks or you’re a returning all-star, you’ll have an idea of possibilities to focus on this season.

I know there are other forms of skiing out there, but for the purposes of today I’ll be covering the respective competitive alpine skiing disciplines. Also, these won’t be broken down into technical or physical techniques to gain skills within the respective discipline, but rather an overview and introduction. If you’d like more information surrounding a specific event, let me know in the comments below!

Without further ado, let us begin:


Slalom skiing utilizing “cross-blocking”

The slalom is the shortest event of the list compiled today, and while it may be the slowest event in terms of speed, the rhythm in this event is the fastest. This is due to close gate proximity. As the gates are placed close together (closer than downhill or super-g), they require the skier to be more agile. Zigging and zagging their way from gate to gate, they will make short, snappy turns to keep themselves lined up and within the course.

The course itself will typically be 500-700 vertical feet in length and consist of 55-75/40-60 (men and women respectively). This allows skiers to reach speeds in the 25-30 mph range. During races, the contestants will make 2 runs, and the total time of both runs will be combined to determine their standing.

In order to clear the gates, the skiers will use a technique known as “cross-blocking” in which they will use their upper body to block through the gate while their skis and shins clear around the gate. This will allow the skier to be lined up fort he upcoming turn and keep their momentum lined with the fall-line of the hill. This will require the skier to adapt a chin guard, hand guards, shin/leg guards, and in some cases a lightweight piece of body-armor.

Giant Slalom:

Giant slalom – notice gate placement

GS, or giant slalom, is most similar to slalom, but the spacing of the gates and course length is larger. Due to this, it is often seen as the pinnacle of technique in terms of ski-racing and will be far more accessible to untrained racers.

The course will consist of 55-70/40-60 gates (men/women) and will run a length of 800-1400 vertical feet. Due to the increased distance, this will allow skiers to reach speeds of 40-45 mph. As with slalom, GS will also be a 2 run event on race day.

Unlike the counterpart slalom, GS will not require the use of a chin-guard or shin guards. Typically skiers will wear addition forearm protection and hand protection as they will cut close to the gate, but not take the full force of the gate when passing.

Super – G:

super g.jpg
Super G = longer course

Super-G, or super giant slalom, is a longer version of GS designed all around speed. With a longer course and wider gates, the skier will have to maintain solid body posture throughout the entire race to ensure speed is maintained.

Racing down this course will be a total of 1200-2300 ft for men and 1200-2000 ft for women and will have gate spacing of 20ft in width, and 26-36ft between vertical gates. In addition, turning direction minimums are in place by the FIS at 7% or greater of the total course drop. Skiers in this event reach speeds in excess of 65 mph.


Long skis + fast course = downhill

If you’ve ever watched an Olympic Games, you’ve no doubt seen the downhill. This is all about going as fast as possible, all while being on the edge of control. It’s the big brother to the super-g, and requires a stout pair of legs and an iron will.

Because of the speed involved, their is an inherent risk to tackling a course like the downhill. As such, the FIS has set in safety parameters to limit the risks involved with the event, some of which include; course width of at least 100ft with allowances from drop offs, jumps, and lips, fences, pads, and nets will be used on course to prevent interaction with any obstructions, vertical course length of 1500-3600ft (men) and 1500-2600ft (women), and gates will have an opening of 26ft or greater.

As a result of speed, downhill skiers will don a totally different gear-set when getting ready for race day. They’ll almost always be wearing some sort of body-protection (especially for the spine), they’ll have longer skis, fitted with a lower profile nose and straighter cut for maintaining a longer turning radius as they descend down the hill. Also, they will have curved ski poles that mimic the aerodynamic flow of air around their body as they go into a “tuck” position.


The only skiing instagram and youtube seem to undertand

Changing up the pace from the previous events, freestyle is all about the flow the skier can bring to showcase a series of moments or ‘tricks’ that will be judged in a number of ways. Specific events within freestyle skiing include; aerials, moguls, halfpipe, and slopestyle. The events will mainly required aerial acrobatics and may include boxes or rails.

Aerials are performed off a 6-12ft jump and may lead the skier as high as 35ft in the air. Whilst airborne, the skier will need to perform flips and spins, all while landing on their feet to obtain a score upon landing.

Moguls are performed when the skier performs a run down the title name then off subsequent jumps to perform aerial flips and grabs. Upon completing a run, the skier will be judged on their body position/form and the difficulty of tricks they performed of each subsequent jump.

Half-pipe is exactly as the name describes. A skier will perform tricks and acrobatic moves all while descending through a half-pipe. The skier will be judge on the difficulty of their moves and the amount of air/hangtime they are able to achieve while in said halfpipe.

Slopestyle skiing is most closely related to what you may have seen performed at the X-games. The course will provide a plethora of features including jumps, ramps, boxes, and rails for the skier to link together moves and tricks. Ultimately, the skier is judged on the difficulty of their tricks and the variety of features they use.


ski cross.jpg
Yes, even gladiators ski

Ski-cross is the newest member of skiing competition, and will often require the lowest level of entry skill. This is not to say that it is in any way easy, as you will be pitted directly against 3 others competitors.

The competition of ski cross will require not only a timed run, but also a knock-out style competition in which racers directly compete to get to the finish line quickest. As the rounds pass, only the most skilled competitors will reach the final rounds.

There’s some basic info on a few alpine ski disciplines. Hopefully, it’ll get you fired up and another reason to head over to the gym so you can hit this ski season strong, otherwise maybe just inspired you to look into them a little more. Either way, skiing is a great way to burn some calories and get some fresh air, so I surely hope you go enjoy it this season. If there is a specific discipline you’d like to know more about in subsequent articles, please let me know down in the comment section!

If you found this content useful and would like more in the future please head over to my Patreon page. Every donation helps produce more outdoor content, even a donation as small as $1 helps!

If you’re like me, you enjoy utilizing the national parks every chance you can. I also run an ecommerce store which provides apparel that takes 1% of every sale and donates it to the parks.

Until the next one, get out there and enjoy YOUR adventure!!!



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