Alpine skiing first became part of the Olympic program in 1936 at the Olympic Winter Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Prior to this, only the slalom and the downhill were part of the Olympic sport program. At the 1952 Olympic Winter Games in Oslo, medals were awarded in three events — the slalom, giant slalom, and downhill. It was not until the Calgary Olympic Winter Games in 1988 that the super giant slalom was added to the alpine skiing program.
Alpine Skiing in Russia
In the early 1900s, so-called «hillmen» — who preferred racing downhill — began to stand out among Russian skiers, although they soon got carried away by downhill skiing involving turns, which would later be known as slalom racing. Alpine skiing’s popularity grew rapidly in the ensuing years. By the 1970s, about 28,000 athletes were being trained in sports centers for adults and children.
Alpine Skiing Today
Ten events make up the Olympic alpine skiing program, five for men and five for ladies. These include the downhill, slalom, giant slalom, super giant, and super combined races. Different courses are prepared for the different events. A total of ten sets of medals are awarded.
The downhill event features the longest courses and the highest speeds in alpine skiing, with athletes achieving speeds up to 120 km/h. Skiers cover the distance one at a time. The fastest skier wins the competition.
In the slalom, athletes must ski a course marked with flags and gates that are spaced much closer together than in the downhill event, giant slalom, or super giant slalom. In this competition, athletes must ski two courses, and the sum of their results makes up their total time.
In the giant slalom, the gates are placed farther apart than in the slalom, but not as far apart as in the super-G. Men’s races have 56 to 70 gates, while ladies’ have 46 to 58. The result is the sum of the skier’s times on two different courses.
The super giant (Super-G) incorporates aspects of both the downhill and the giant slalom. In the super giant, athletes achieve speeds just as high as in the downhill, but the course trajectory is similar to the course trajectory in the slalom. Athletes ski a course on which the gates are placed at about the same distance apart as in the giant slalom. Each skier gets only one attempt at the course.
The super combination incorporates aspects of both the downhill and the slalom. The downhill is sometimes replaced by the super giant.
- Reinforced plastic boots are specific to the competition discipline. Bindings are the link between the boots and the skis. Gloves are made of leather or synthetic material
- Special plastic boots. Bindings secure the skier’s feet to the skis. Alpine skiing gloves are made of leather or synthetic material.
- Ski goggles protect the eyes against wind, snow, increased UV radiation at high elevations, and glare from the snow.
- The helmet protects the athlete from injury and should fit the head tightly.
- Ski poles for the downhill and super giant are curved, allowing reduced air resistance during descent.
- Skis are made of various materials (wood or composite fibers) and are individually crafted for each athlete. Downhill skis are 30% longer than those used in the slalom. This allows for additional accuracy at high speeds.
- Skin-tight racing suits are made of materials that minimize air resistance.