How do ski races work?
How do ski races work?
May 19, 2024 3:30 AM

Skiing is a winter sport and arguably one of the most important sports in the Winter Olympics. There are different types of competitions in this sport, although they are generally different ways of descending a mountain in the shortest possible time. That is the concept of the sport in general, the one who goes down the hill the fastest wins.

However, this concept is divided into different disciplines that are based on certain techniques or speed. Each discipline has different characteristics; while it is always about who gets there first, Ski Races vary in terms of the length of the course, the number of turns or runs, the vertical drop or speed.

The FIS (International Ski Federation) is in charge of establishing the rules that apply to ski races, which we will detail below for each discipline.

Ski disciplines

Ski Races are organized according to six different disciplines: Super G, Downhill, Slalom, Giant, Combined and Parallel.

The courses of each discipline are marked with red and blue “gates” (sticks stuck in the snow and joined by a banner at the top), which must be touched by the competitors in a specific pre-established order in order not to be disqualified.

Speed disciplines


It is considered one of the riskiest and difficult disciplines as it involves technique, speed, courage, good judgment and very good physical condition. It is considered one of the fastest disciplines, since it can reach speeds of 150 km/h, and one of the longest, since it can cover distances of 4.20 km/h. The gates are positioned to prevent competitors from shortening the paths, but the course is mostly marked by the terrain of the hill itself.

In addition, downhill is also considered one of the main disciplines. It is really quite a spectacle since it is not only about speed but also includes jumps and tight turns that are very complex as they imply a very abrupt decrease in speed in order not to go off the circuit.

It should be noted that the skis used for this discipline are longer than those used in disciplines such as Giant and Slalom. FIS is in charge of regulating the length and sidecut of the ski for each discipline.

Generally, athletes who are dedicated to this discipline tend to be taller and heavier than those who are dedicated to technical disciplines. They are also usually stronger and more muscular since they need a lot of strength in their legs to be able to stay on course during the descent.

Super G

The second speed discipline. Super Giant Slalom (Super G) was introduced in 1983 and, like Downhill, consists of a high-speed downhill course with set gates; although in Super G there are more doors, which means more turns. This also causes the speed to be a little lower.

This discipline is more technical than Downhill since the slope is smaller and the gates are closer together, which means that the skier must have the ability to maneuver quicker.

The specific conditions for this discipline are:

Vertical drop between 350 and 650 meters for men’s competitions. 350 and 600 meters for women’s competitions.The distance between gates must be between 6 and 8 meters for open gates, and between 8 and 12 meters for vertical gates.The distance between gates cannot be less than 25 meters. There must be between 28 and 45 gates.

Technical Disciplines

These disciplines are also fast, but in these cases speed is not as important as technique.

Giant Slalom (GS)

This discipline is the fastest of the technical disciplines. This circuit is the one that covers the most turns and the most number of gates.

The specific conditions for this discipline are:

The free fall in this discipline must be between 250 and 450 meters (men) and 250 and 400 meters (women).The number of gates goes from 30 to 65.There are two sleeves in two different layouts.


It is considered to be the most difficult technical discipline of all. The skier must have extreme precision and the right timing to ski the circuit in the most optimal way possible.

In this type of event the gates are deployed in a variety of configurations which imply different challenges. It is also necessary to clarify that in this discipline the gates do not have a banner at the top that joins one stick to the other, but rather there are only two sticks. This is because the skier must pass between the two poles. These are flexible at the bottom so they can be easily bent to avoid hurting the skier.

It is necessary to clarify that in this case there are different types of gates; there are “Open gates” and “Flush gates”. Skiers must go directly through the gates and in order not to hurt themselves, they lower the sticks with their hand; this is called Blocking.

Parallel Slalom

It is a kind of duel between skiers who face each other on two identical circuits. These circuits are shorter than the ones traced in other disciplines and use gates with double pole. In this case the colors do not alternate, but one circuit is red and the other blue.

The event takes place as follows; first, a qualifying round is carried out in which each skier performs a circuit on his own. Then the skiers are grouped in pairs based on the time they did to complete the circuit. Then, each pair performs the circuit twice, once each in each circuit. The one who loses the round is eliminated and the one who wins goes to the next round. This type of competition can be extremely tiring, since as the final approaches the time between races gets shorter.


It is a combination of a speed discipline (Downhill or Super G) followed by a Slalom circuit.

Formerly this event was held in the span of two days; the first day the speed circuit was carried out and on the second day the Slalom. However, today everything is done in the same day. Although it is very interesting, this type of race is carried out less and less

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