What's the Average Speed of a Downhill Skier?

Downhill skier
Getty Images / Karl Weatherly

The average downhill speed of skiers varies by type—skiing speeds of professional athletes can reach upwards of 150 miles per hour but most recreational skiers travel at speeds between 10 and 20 miles per hour.

Downhill racers clock out at 40 - 60 miles per hour, and Olympians tend to ski between 75-95 miles per hour, depending on the conditions, their equipment, and their body composition; and speed skiers have recorded a record 156.2 miles per hour going downhill on some of the world's steepest slopes.

There are a number of ways to clock the speeds of these downhill skiers, whether it be a speedometer from the sidelines or one of any number of smartphone skiing apps that track speed, miles traveled, and vertical feet.

Speed and Cross-Country Skiers' Downhill Speeds

Speed skiers, who dress in aerodynamic apparel and ski straight down the mountain without turning, can travel up to 156 miles per hour, according to the current world record holder Simone Origone's speed of 156.2 MPH. One of the fastest female speed skiers in the world is Sanna Tidstrand, a Swedish skier who hit 150.6 miles per hour.

There really isn't such a thing as a casual speed skier, though, as this type of skiing requires a level of professional athleticism and control to avoid serious injury. Still, speed skiers are those with the least wind resistance and best control of their skis, and when in competition, the competitor to make it down the hill the fastest wins, which is not the case for a different form of competitive skiing: cross-country.

As for cross-country skiers, professional racers average 15 miles per hour for continuous distances up to 35 miles long; most top ski racers hit about 20-25 miles per hour on the flat and 35-40 miles per hour on the downhills while recreational cross-country skiers tend to clock out at around 7-10 miles per hour.

How To Increase Speed on Downhill Skiing

In general, the straighter the skis are and tighter the tuck is, the faster a skier will travel downhill, but oftentimes dodging obstacles like trees or jumping over small slopes will slow the athlete's movement significantly. The important part to remember when trying to increase speed on a downhill run is to first develop enough core strength to control skis at high speeds. 

Skiers attempting faster speeds should always wear the proper safety gear as increased speed leads to an increased likelihood of serious injury, and although the idea of speeding down a mountainside may seem appealing to amateur skiers, they should first develop the proper skiing techniques to avoid crashing and getting hurt.

Additionally, skiers should avoid attempting fast speeds in bad lighting like near sunset when the sun is glaringly reflective on the mountain as this can cause skiers to miss seeing small snow-covered obstacles in their path. Unpredictable snow conditions or crowded runs are also not good for attempting these fast speeds.