Olympics: Alpine skiing races at Sochi Olympic Games

The February 7-23 Sochi Olympic Games will feature male and female skiers racing in 10 events at the resort of Rosa Khutor.

There are two speed races, the downhill and super-G, and two technical races, the slalom and giant slalom.

The super combined completes the line-up over 14 days of racing.

Speed events


The self-proclaimed blue riband event of alpine skiing, the rules for which were drawn up by Briton Sir Arnold Lunn in 1921, is a bone-rattling, danger-laden race which regularly features gruesome crashes.

Dressed only in figure-hugging catsuits and helmets, the skiing speed kings and queens hurtle down long, steep and icy slopes at speeds sometimes topping 140kph, with an altitude drop of 800-1,100 metres for men and 500-800m for women.

The margin of error over the one-run race is tiny for skiers who put their trust into physical form and technical proficiency on the two skis strapped to their feet.

Given the risk involved in downhill racing, skiers have the chance to try out the course three times in training and enjoy regular pre-race course inspections.


The super giant slalom, or the super-G as it is more commonly known, combines elements of the downhill and the giant slalom, and is decided over one race.

Skiers must negotiate widely-spaced gates, as in giant slalom, over a long course with speeds approaching those in downhill over a course that drops 500-650m for men and 400-600m for women.

The minimum number of gates for men is 35 and 30 for women. Unlike the downhill, skiers do not have the chance of a pre-race training run, only a one-hour visual inspection on the morning of the race.

Technical events


The slalom is the slowest of all the alpine skiing disciplines, but also the trickiest and most technical, featuring the shortest course but gates that are closer together.

Skiers are obliged to make quick, rapid-fire turns over two runs on the same slope. One centimetre out with a turn and a skier risks adding himself to the estimated 10 percent of the field that does not complete the course or is disqualified for straddling or missing a gate.

The men have to negotiate between 55-75 gates, the women 40-60, marked with alternating red and blue poles.

The skiers are not allowed to have any practice runs on the actual course but are allowed to ski alongside the course in a one-hour pre-race inspection.

Giant Slalom

Giant slalom demands that skiers pass through a series of gates not as close to each other as the slalom but not as displaced as the super-G.

The number of gates for men is between 56-70 and 46-58 for women, with an altitude drop of 300-450m for the former and 300-400m for the latter.

The discipline is raced over two runs on the same slope, with the starting order for the second run dependant on results from the first run: the skier placed 30th will start, with the leader running last.

Skiers do not have the chance of a pre-race training run, only a one-hour visual inspection on the morning of the race.

Last season saw the introduction of longer, thinner skis for this event, with racers and manufacturers split over whether the FIS decision will prove more dangerous for racers. So far, not.


Super combined

The super-combined discipline comprises a slalom and a downhill, the winner being the skier with the fastest aggregate time.

The two runs are held on the same day, with the skiers having the benefit of having trained on the downhill course.