What are the different types of ski racing events?

In competitive ski racing there are four primary types of disciplines. To an average on looker they may look similar; however, each has its own set of rules, skills and equipment required. What they do have in common is that each event requires the athletes to ski the course, one at a time, making turns around and through all of the gates, with the goal of having the fastest time. There are no “style points” in ski racing, it’s all about speed. Here are the four events explained in more detail.


Slalom is the most technical event with the most turns, typically the shortest course and slowest relative speed. Slalom consists of two runs. The times from each run are combined for an overall time. Each course isdifferent and both run on the same day. Racers are allowed to inspect each course prior to their run but there are no practice runs. One unique element of Slalom is that the course is set with single poles. Poles alternate between red and blue. 


Giant Slalom, or usually just called GS, is once again a technical event requiring precise turns to yield the fastest times. The speeds are faster than slalom and the courses are longer. Like slalom, GS requires two runs on different courses on the same day. Once again no training runs in GS and the athlete with the lowest combined time of the two runs is the winner. GS gates consist of two poles with a panel between the two. They alternate between red and blue.


Super G is pretty much like what the name implies, it is a supersized GS. The course is longer than GS, speeds are greater, and distance between gates is larger. With Super G there is only one run. Athletes are allowed to inspect the course but typically no training runs. Super G may have terrain and speeds where the racers catch air in the course. Gates are like GS consisting of two poles with a panel in between and alternate between red and blue.


Downhill is the fastest event with the longest course. It is the most thrilling event, often with multiple terrain elements that send the racers airborne. It appeals to athletes with the greatest desire to take risks. The courses have the fewest turns. Downhill races are usually multi-day events as there is a requirement of at least one training run. The race itself is a single run. Gates are similar to GS and Super G however all gates are a single color, most typically red. Skis used in downhill are also unique in that they are the longest, made specifically for the high speeds and big long turns.