Alpine Skiing

General Principles


  • Alpine skiing is a popular sport worldwide, with approximately >200 million participants per year.

  • High speeds, variable terrain, and weather conditions, combined with equipment, can create a significant opportunity for getting injured.

  • Equipment changes have changed the nature of injuries, but with more recent studies showing some decline in injury rates.

  • Lower extremity injuries are the most common, but upper extremity injuries are also frequent.

  • Head injuries and chest wall/abdominal trauma are also of great concern because these injuries can be life threatening.

  • Medical issues include cold exposure, sun exposure, altitude issues, and general travel-related problems.

Levels of Competition

  • Alpine ski racing at its highest level is governed by Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS).

  • US Ski & Snowboard Association is the governing body in the United States.

  • The US national team is divided into four groups: A–D. Athletes are ranked according to skill, with elite skiers in the A team, down to the development team (D team).

  • Junior levels are divided by age groups (U21, U19, U16, U14, U12, U10, and U8).

  • Often, there is overlap between collegiate levels, high school levels, and junior race clubs.

  • Levels U12–U21 may compete locally, regionally, and nationally, with the best skiers competing internationally. U10 and younger usually compete locally and occasionally regionally.

  • Recreational skiers can compete in the National Standard Race (NASTAR). The NASTAR is a program wherein recreational skiers of all ages and abilities can test their skills on courses set up at resorts across the country. Times and scores are compared under a universal handicapping system similar to that used in golf.


Technical Events

  • Slalom is the most technical of events and involves short arc turns around single turning poles, which are set 7–11 m apart, rather than gates.

  • Giant slalom involves a course with technical turns marked by gates set 15–27 m apart.

Speed Events

  • Downhill is the fastest event, with speeds reaching 90 mph and is the only event that allows on course training runs. All other events allow only course inspection.

  • Super G combines downhill with giant slalom with gates that are farther apart, 25–45 m than those in the giant slalom, at speeds are slightly less than those in downhill.

Combined Events

  • Classic combined races usually involve one downhill run and a slalom run; occasionally, they may combine a single slalom with a Super G race.

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