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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The downhill is an alpine skiing discipline. The rules for the downhill were originally developed by Sir Arnold Lunn for the 1921 British National Ski Championships.

"Downhill skiing" is also commonly a term synonymous with "alpine skiing" to denote the sport and recreational activity of alpine skiing in general.

More generally, the term may be used in any sport involving the speedy descent of a hillside. Examples include snowboarding, mountain biking, different skateboarding variants, such as street luge and longboarding, freebording and mountain boarding and even municycling.

The "downhill" discipline involves the highest speeds and therefore the greatest risks of all the alpine events. Racers on a typical international-level course will exceed speeds of 130 kilometers per hour (80 mph) and some courses, such as the famous Lauberhorn course in Wengen, Switzerland, and the Hahnenkamm course in Kitzbühel, Austria, speeds of up to 150 km/h (93 mph) in certain sections are expected. Competing in the downhill event requires of racers considerable strength and technical expertise.



A typical downhill course begins at or near the top of the mountain on a piste that is closed off to the public and groomed specially for the race. Water or salt are often spread throughout the course to ensure that it gets icy, which inhibits dangerous rutting of the course, but also increases speed. Gates (which are always the same color in downhill, in contrast to the other alpine skiing disciplines) quite far apart, but not out of sight from each other. The courses in the world's most famous ski areas are well-established and do not change much from year to year.

The course is designed to challenge the best skiers in a variety of tasks: skiing at high speeds over ice, through difficult turns, extreme steeps, flats, and huge airs (jumps). A good course will have all these elements in it, as well as some jumps intended to challenge matters and thrill both the racer and the spectators.


Austrian downhill racing suit

Equipment for the downhill is quite a bit different from the alpine events that are lower-speed. Skis are 30% longer than those used in slalom, for more stability at high speed. They usually have rounded, low-profile tips rather than pointed tips. Ski poles are bent so as to curve around the body as the racer stays in a "tuck position" and may have aerodynamic, cone-shaped baskets. As in other alpine disciplines, downhill racers wear skin-tight suits to minimize drag, and helmets are mandatory.

In an attempt to increase safety, the 2003-2004 season saw the FIS increased the minimum sidecut radius for downhill skis to 45 meters (from 40 m) and impose minimum ski lengths for the first time: 215 cm for men and 210 cm for women.


In all forms of downhill, both at a local youth-level as well as the higher FIS international level, racers are allowed extensive preparation for the race, which includes daily course inspection and discussion with their coaches and teammates as well as several practice runs before the actual race. Racers do not make any unnecessary turns while on the course, and try to do everything they can to maintain the most aerodynamic position while negotiating turns and jumps.

Unlike slalom and giant slalom, where racers have two combined times, in the downhill, the race is a single "run." Times are typically between 1:30 (1 minute, 30 seconds) and 2:30 for World Cup courses and must be over 1 minute in length to meet international minimum standards. Tenths and hundredths and, occasionally, thousandths of seconds count: World Cup races and Olympic medals have sometimes been decided by as little as one or two hundredths of a second, and ties are not unheard of.


Safety netting and padding are placed in worrisome areas where race officials anticipate crashes. Despite these safety precautions, the ski racing community is well aware of the inherent risks in downhill skiing, for it is possible for racers to suffer serious injury or death while practicing or competing. Two downhill-related deaths on the World Cup in recent years were those of Austrian Ulrike Maier in 1994 and Frenchwoman Régine Cavagnoud in 2001. Also in 2001, Swiss downhiller Silvano Beltrametti was paralyzed in a high-speed crash.

See also

External links

  • Sports Illustrated - The Downhill: Majesty and Madness, February 11, 1980
  • YouTube video - The Thin Line: Life on the Edge - trailer - downhill racing - 2007

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Alpine skiing article)

From Wikitravel

Alpine skiing in Blue Sky Basin, Vail, Colorado
Alpine skiing in Blue Sky Basin, Vail, Colorado

This article is a travel topic.

Alpine Skiing, also known as downhill skiing, is a popular sport involving sliding down snow-covered terrain with skis attached to each foot. Alpine skiing is one of two skiing disciplines the other being Nordic skiing.


Skiing is a major travelling activity with many enthusiasts, occasionally known as "ski bums," planning entire vacations around skiing at a particular location. Sometimes nearby resorts that can be skied with the same ticket are grouped together.

Major skiing destinations include:




North America


Canadian Rockies
Canadian Rockies

United States of America



See also Winter Sports in Australia

New Zealand


Virtually all ski resorts have a ski school where you can sign up for lessons. It's recommended that you learn to ski at a smaller, cheaper mountain nearer to your location before going off to a major ski resort so you won't have to pay a large fee to just use the bunny hill (which would be the same more or less anywhere).


There are many types of skiing within alpine skiing, from contests to downhill (going straight without turns) to moguls (going around the bumps). Cross country skiing is usually also available. Nowadays most resorts allow snowboarders as well, but if you plan to do so double check beforehand.

Most resorts also offer a variety of other activities such as horseback-riding and ice skating. There are also usually great stores for shopping and wonderful restaurants in the area that are worth looking into after a day of hitting the slopes.

Ski resort areas are also frequented during the summer months because of their numerous hiking, mountain bicycling, etc opportunities.


Any serious skier has their own equipment, which consists of the following:

  • Skis with binding
  • Poles
  • Ski boots

If you're not certain of if skiing is right for you or you're travelling a great distance, consider renting your equipment (which should be very easy to do at the resort area). Also consider renting equipment, particularly ski boots, for small children because they will continue to grow and need to change sizes.

Regardless of if you buy or rent your ski equipment, because of the typically cold conditions, cold outdoor equipment (such as heavy jacket, hat, mittens, etc) are a must! Also invest in a good pair of snow pants as you only need to fall once in order to be wet and miserable for the rest of the day should you not have them. Ski goggles and/ or sunglasses are also highly recommended to keep your eyes safe from the glare off the snow.

Stay safe

Skiing takes place in some of the most treacherous terrain in the world under very cold conditions. Be sure you are properly protected against the cold so you will not suffer from frostbite or hypothermia. When you are skiing you will be exposed to the elements all day and need to act accordingly. If you feel particularly cold, particularly if you begin to shiver, call it a day and head indoors to warm up.

When the sun comes out, the reflection from the snow around you can cause serious problems as well! Be sure to wear snow goggles or sunglasses to protect your eyes from snowblindness and wear sunscreen to protect yourself from sunburn. Snow can reflect more than 50% of the light that hits it, so wear sunscreen even if it's cloudy outside! You'll thank yourself later.

Ski terrain can often be very dangerous and can lead to hazards that can potentially injure or kill a careless skier. Do not ski any terrain that is above your skill level and pay attention to all signs and Ski Patrol instructions. Also heed avalanche warning signs and avoid areas where avalanche buildup can occur. Also always ski in a group or let someone know where you are.

If you injure yourself on patrolled terrain, ask a fellow skier to fetch the resort's ski patrol for you. Lift operators can help contact them. Mark the location of an injured person by planting skis or snowboards in an upright cross just uphill.

See also Altitude sickness.


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