What Is Alpine Ski Racing?

Men's Slalom
Men's Slalom. Stanko Gruden/Agence Zoom/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Alpine skiing is the proper term for what most people call downhill skiing. This distinguishes it from nordic skiing (cross-country) and freestyle skiing. International alpine ski racing consists of five men's events and five women's events. The rules and race configurations are the same for men and women, but the courses typically differ in length for the men's and women's events. 

Types of Alpine Skiing

Downhill is the longest and highest-speed event in alpine ski racing and involves the fewest turns.

Each skier makes one run only. The skier with the fastest time is the winner. As in all alpine events, skiers are timed to one hundredth of a second and any ties stand as that.

Slalom is the shortest race and includes the most turns. Each competitor makes one run, then the course is reset on the same slope but with positions of the gates changed. The same day, those skiers qualifying for the second run make their run. The skier with the fastest combined times of the two runs ​is the winner.

Giant slalom (GS) is similar to the slalom but with fewer gates, wider turns and higher speed. As in slalom, skiers make two runs down two different courses on the same slope in the same day. The times of both runs are added together, and the fastest total time determines the winner.

Super-G is short for super giant slalom. The race course is shorter than the downhill but longer and faster than the GS. The skier with the fastest time over one run is the winner.

Combined events include one downhill run followed by two slalom runs. All times are added together and the fastest total time determines the winner. The downhill and the slalom of the combined event are run on different, shorter courses than the regular downhill and slalom events. Super combined (super combi) ski races include a single slalom race and either a shorter than normal downhill run or a super-G race.

In the super combined, the times of each race are added together and the fastest total time determines the winner.