Shape of Things

5 Race Types and 4 Turn Sizes That Define the Competition

Before you hit the stands, brush up on your downhill vocabulary.

By Catherine Lutz February 21, 2017 Published in the Midwinter/Spring 2017 issue of Aspen Sojourner

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1. Slalom

In racing’s most technical discipline, skiers make fast, short turns around 55 to 75 closely spaced gates over a vertical drop of some 700 feet. Extra-credit fact: In the early 1980s, a pair of Aspenites invented the hinged slalom gate, allowing racers to take a more direct path down the race course than the rigid bamboo poles of old, which forced skiers to turn entirely around each gate—or get painfully smacked.

2. Giant Slalom

The other technical discipline features racers making larger turns through more widely spaced gates over a greater vertical drop than in slalom.

3. Super-G

A hybrid of downhill and giant slalom, this speed event includes more turns than a downhill on a slightly shorter course.

4. Downhill

Racers can reach speeds of about 75 miles per hour on Alpine racing’s longest and straightest course, which features small jumps, steep turns, and flat sections that challenge racers to maintain their speed.

5. Nations Team Event

Exclusive to major events like the World Cup Finals, this race pits team members from the top 16 countries in head-to-head dual slalom races, with bracket-style elimination until the three winning nations are determined.

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