Top level success in Alpine ski racing takes years of training and commitment. Considering that it is a competition against the clock, there is a wide range of variables, which can affect a competitorís time: weather, snow conditions, wind, terrain, visibility, course setting
Generally, the further down the field a competitor starts, the more testing the course becomes, as snow conditions deteriorate. Any ski competition can have as many as 140 competitors, and for those outside the top 15, their start position is determined by their current level of FIS points on the FIS ranking list.
FIS points are calculated from an individualís performance in at least two competitions in a given discipline, within one calendar year. They take into account the competitorís time, in comparison with the winner, and the overall quality of the field. Using a mathematical formula a race penalty is obtained which gives an indication of the competitions level compared to every other FIS sanctioned ski race.
The bad news for someone with very few results, or coming into the sport, is that they start right at the back of the field! Instant progress is very difficult to achieve and very rarely do all competitors compete on the proverbial level playing field. The result is that ski racing is very much about a steady progression through the rankings and this is spectacularly illustrated when the average age of competitors is analysed, which shows an obvious linear progression, up to 28 or 29 years old, the average of the top 10 in the world for Men (for Women between 27 and 28). In real terms this can mean more than ten years of grueling training and competition before making a significant breakthrough at the highest level.
The blue riband event of Alpine skiing and the most frequently televised of the ski disciplines. It involves a combination of high speed technical turns, long straight sections and often impressive jumps. Courses are generally between one and a half and two and a half minutes long with an average speed of 60 miles an hour for menís events regularly recorded. At times, on certain courses, racers can be reaching speeds in excess of 80 miles an hour. The selection of the right line within the widely set control gates is crucial. The World Cup circuit features such long established classics as the Hahnenkamm in Kitzbuhel and the Lauberhorn in Wengen.
Featuring longer radius turns than Downhill this is often perceived as a slow Downhill or a fast Giant Slalom. In fact it is a very specific discipline in its own right, combining the higher speeds of Downhill with the need for very precise technical skiing.
Giant Slalom is universally recognised as the core to all competitive skiing skills and the most technically demanding discipline. The carved Giant Slalom turn is the basis upon which all other techniques are developed and to ski well in GS is a priority before skiers move on to the other disciplines. It involves skiing a very technically precise line through a fast, rhythmical course often with terrain changes.
This can be the most dynamic and explosive of the Alpine disciplines. Competitors must make rapid edge changes as they turn their skis very quickly between closely set, flexible rapid gates. Techniques have evolved over the years so that the rapid gates hinged at the base, form little more than notional turning points. The competoitors wear protection which resembles body armour. Technical innovation has changed the face of slalom skiing over the past few years and skis have become much shorter (min 165cm for men and 155cm for women - 2003/2004) with a deep side cut.
From Snowsport GB website