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All About SKIING

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Skiing is an activity which is popular for both fun and for competition. It is a staple of the Winter Olympic Games.

The main equipment used for skiing will be boots, skis, and ski sticks. The clothing worn represents the climate where the slope is situated (i.e artificial (dry) slope, or mountain). See below for more about ski equipment.

The main types of competitive skiing will be concentrated on here. Within each category of event, are further variations. They are as follows:

Cross-country / Nordic



Alpine skiing consists of four main events.

Competitors race on a steep slope, with the course marked by alternating pairs of red and blue flags. These sets of two flags are known as 'gates'. The object of the slalom is to ski through the gates, which are between 4 and 6 metres (13 to 20 feet), in the fastest time possible. A slalom competition is decided over two runs on two different courses.

The total time is decided over two races, each on different courses, with the two results being added together to form an aggregate time. If a skier fails to keep the skis in between the gates, they are disqualified. A men's course must have a drop of 180 metres to 220 metres over the distance. A women's course must have a drop of 120 metres to 180 metres over the distance.

Downhill racing
This event requires great control at high speeds. Competitors will choose the fastest line on a course marked with widely spaced control gates, which will be at least 8 metres (26 feet) apart. A men's course must have a drop of 800 metres to 1000 metres over the distance. A women's course must have a drop of 500 metres to 700 metres over the distance.

Giant slalom and Super G
A cross between giant slalom and downhill skiing, with the similar emphasis on speed as downhill racing, with a longer course and fewer gates than the slalom. A giant slalom competition is decided after two runs, a Super G is decided after one.

A men's giant slalom course must have a drop of 250 metres to 400 metres (500 to 650 metres for Super G) over the distance. A women's giant slalom course must have a drop of 250 metres to 350 metres (350 to 500 metres for Super G) over the distance. The gates are between 4 and 8 metres (13 to 26 feet).

Alpine combined
This consists of two races; downhill and slalom. Points are awarded for both races, and added together to give the final score. The slalom race usually takes place first.

Cross-country (Nordic)

Cross-country skiing consists of three main events.

Cross-country racing
This event is not based on going downhill at high speeds. It is more to do with stamina and endurance, much the way track athletics can be. Tracks are usually cut into the snow before a race, to ensure that everyone has an equal chance.

For international events, the distances vary from 10 km (6 miles) for women, up to a possible 50 km (30 miles) for men. Obviously the winner is the skier who finishes the course in the shortest time.

Biathlon (See also Biathlon page)
As the name suggests, 'bi' meaning two, biathlon consists of two events, skiing and shooting, which are competed in during the same event. The ski course is usually a vague loop, with shooting targets placed at intervals. The skiers will ski around the course, stopping to shoot five shots at the targets.

If they miss any targets, there is a time penalty added to their total time. Their total time is calculated from all the time spent skiing, shooting, and going from one activity to the other. Again, it is the person with the shortest time who wins.

Ski jumping
Competitors make two jumps, skiing down a ramp, building up speed, then attempt to travel as far as they can in the air, using momentum gathered on the ramp, to land as far away as possible. Marks are given for the distance jumped. In competitions, points may also be given for the style of the jump.

The shape and size of the ramp is directly related to the maximum safe jump possible. On training hills, the ramp is set at 25 metres (27 yards) or 30 metres (33 yards). For competition hills, the ramp is set at 70 metres (76 yards) or 90 metres (98 yards) for international and Olympic events.

In international competitions, five judges assess the jumps. Scores are given in points and half points. Judging begins at the moment of take-off. A fall on the approach to the jump (the in-run) loses 20 points. Between 0 and 12 points are deducted for any other falls.

If a competitor touches the ground of the skis with both hands to maintain balance before reaching the out-run, this counts as a fall. A fall in the out-run does not count. If the competitor has no control of the cause of a fall, they may repeat the jump, or the jump is awarded as a standing jump.

A standing jump is a jump where the skier travels from landing to the out-run while fully balanced. This scores between 6 and 20 points.

Nordic combined
This consists of two races; ski jumping and cross-country skiing. Points are awarded for both events, and added together to give the final score.


Freestyle skiing consists of three main events.

Ski ballet
Similar in theory to synchronised swimming or ice skating. The emphasis here is on grace and style, with competitors performing routines with jumps, spins, and dancing, usually to music. The competitors are graded on composition and style (50%) and technical difficulty (50%).

A mogul is a bump made from snow. They are deliberately formed and placed at strategic points on the course. The bumps may be of varying sizes, from small humps, to considerable dunes. They are mainly used only for the specific mogul events.

Skiers will go down a steep moguled slope at speed, and they will perform a number of stunts - like twists, jumps, and so on, as they travel across the tops of the moguls. This events is scored on technical quality of turns (50%), speed (25%), form of the jumps (25%).

Competitors take off from a ramp, and perform a number of twists and somersaults while in the air, before landing, hopefully on their feet. The emphasis of this event is placed on style, and competitors are marked on take-off and height in the air (20%) style/form (50%) and skill - accuracy of landing (30%).


Different types of skiing require different equipment.

Compact skis - these are the most common type of skis used. They are very maneuvrable, and are slightly wider than other skis (68-72mm (2.68-2.83 inches). This makes them easier to turn. They are good for new and less experienced skiers. The skis should be about the same height as the person using them.

Mid-length skis - these skis are slightly narrower than compact skis, therefore they are more stable when moving at higher speeds. These are mainly used by new and intermediate skiers. The skis should be about 10cm (4in) above head height of the skier.

Sport skis - sport skis are detuned, which means that the construction is not as strong or as firm as the two types of skis outlined above, the advantage being that they require less strength and speed from the skier. They are mainly suitable for middling and more experienced skiers. The skis should stand at 10-25cm (4-10in) above head height of the skier using them.

Competition skis - specially designed for competitive skiing. As they require precision control, they are only suitable for advanced skiers. The length is usually 15cm (6in) above head height, although this can vary according to what event they are to be used for.

Freestyle skis - have a reinforced design to cope with the demands of ballet, moguls and aerials, and therefore, are mainly good for advanced skiers.

The skis will have a strip of metal along the sides of the base. This is used for control and steering.

Ski bindings
Ski bindings are like clips which attach the boot to the ski, and also release it in the event of the skier falling forwards, or twisting in the skis.

Ski brakes
A spring loaded prong, pointing from the skis, which prevent them from sliding away when there is no person on the skis.

Ski sticks
The sticks are used by skiers for general control when turning, moving up or down a slope, and so on.


Aggregate - more than one score combined to produce a total score.

In-run - the approach to the ski jump.

Out-run - the flat area at the base of the ski jump slope.

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