Alpine skiing, commonly known as downhill skiing, is a rigorous outdoor sporting and recreation activity filled with action packed athletics, excitement and enjoyment. Skiing challenges many skills including: coordination, balance, courage and confidence and the love of the outdoors. Skiing is one of the few lifelong family activities that skiers can begin as toddlers and enjoy well into their retirement years.
Alpine Skiing has been a sport in the winter regions of the Scandinavian Countries and the European Alps for at least 150 years, when skiers adapted cross-country techniques to suit their steeper slopes. Alpine skiers found they needed slightly wider skis to go downhill safely and developed different ways to use their poles and new turning techniques to match the more vertical terrain of the high mountains.
The sport became increasingly popular through the early 20th century with the development of T-bars, tows and ski lifts, when alpine skiers no longer had to climb up a slope before they could ski down.
The first recognized alpine competition were the World Ski Championships conducted in Murren, Switzerland in 1931. Slalom and Downhill were contested in 1931, then at the World Ski Championships in Aspen in 1952 giant slalom was added. Alpine combined for both men and women debuted as an Olympic sport in 1936 at Garmisch- Partenkirchen. In 1948, separate downhill and slalom races were added, but alpine combined was then not contested at the Olympic Winter Games until 1988 in Calgary. Super G was added by the FIS as an official alpine discipline in 1988.
The United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) and the United States Ski Team (USST) are important organizations affiliated with both the United States Olympic Committee and the Federation International de Ski.
USSA is divided into geographic regions, states and divisions responsible for delivering alpine competition to USSA alpine racers. Racers are assigned to their geographic areas based on their residence for training and competition.
In alpine skiing, racers can reach speeds of more than 90 miles an hour, traveling down a vertical drop that ranges from 140 meters (slalom) to 1100 meters (downhill) for men and 120 meters (slalom) to 800 meters (downhill) for women. The vertical drop is made even more difficult by a series of gates the skiers must twist and turn to pass through. Skiers who miss a gate must climb backup and go through it or be disqualified.
The five Olympic alpine skiing events for men and women are downhill, slalom, giant slalom, super G, and combined.
The downhill event features the longest course and the highest speeds in alpine skiing. Each skier makes a single run down a single course and the fastest time determines the winner.
Super G (for super giant slalom) combines the speed of downhill with the more precise turns of giant slalom. The course is shorter than downhill but longer than a giant slalom course. Each skier makes one run down a single course and the fastest time determines the winner.
Giant slalom is similar to the slalom, with fewer, but wider and smoother turns. Each skier makes two runs down two different courses on the same slope. Both runs take place on the same day, usually with the first run held in the morning and the second run in the afternoon. The times are added together, and the fastest total time determines the winner.
The slalom features the shortest course and quickest turns. As in the giant slalom, each skier makes two runs down two different courses on the same slope. Both runs take place on the same day. The times are added together and the fastest total time determines the winner.
The combined event consists of one downhill followed by one slalom run, using a shorter course. The times are added together and the fastest total time determines the winner.