BBC Sport wintersports


Related BBC sites

Page last updated at 12:49 GMT, Tuesday, 3 November 2009
Alpine skiing

GB skier Noel Baxter

Winter Olympics guide - Slalom (UK only)

Skiing has been helping humans conquer the white stuff ever since Norwegian hunters started using bits of wood strapped to their feet to chase their prey.

Five thousand years on, it is one of the most popular pastimes in the world.

Alpine skiing has four different disciplines - downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom.

The slalom is the most technically challenging of all, and putting a ski a fraction out of place can be the difference between a gold medal and instant disqualification.

Slalom racers can also test their skills in the combined event, which has one slalom and one downhill run.


The slalom has the shortest course of the alpine skiing disciplines - but it also has the quickest turns.

The skiers decide their own starting position with a complex formula using the skiers' world ranking points.

The top-ranked skier gets to decide first, with their choices being based on weather and course conditions.

Each skier has two runs down the course. They must pass through alternate red and blue gates, set along the course at intervals of between 0.75m and 15m.

There are approximately 55 and 75 gates for men and 45 to 65 for women on each run. Gate positions are changed after the first run.

Times from the two runs are added together and the fastest aggregate time wins.

The structure of each run is designed by two representatives from competing nations, usually one of the coaches. This is usually determined by a random draw from countries with skiers in the world's top 15 slalom rankings.

Competitors are not allowed any practice runs, although they can inspect the course on the morning of the event.

Missing any of the gates results in disqualification.

Slalom skis have reduced drastically in size over the past 25 years, so much so that no ski is allowed to be shorter than 165cm for men and 155cm for women.

Slalom skiers also need extra protection from the spring-loaded poles, so shinpads, hand guards, helmets and face guards are all compulsory.


Because of the specialist nature of slalom skiing, you need to become an accomplished skier before you start dodging poles.

But if you think you are ready for the challenge, Snowsport GB has details of how to get involved.

And for more information on the ski world, visit the International Ski Federation's website.


Print Sponsor

related internet links:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2020 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.