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Alpine skiing

Giant Slalom skier

Winter Olympics guide - Giant slalom (UK users 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 and slalom.

The downhill is for speed freaks, and the slalom for master turners.

The other two are somewhere in between, and a fifth event - the combined - provides an all-round test by putting downhill and slalom together.


The giant slalom is similar to the slalom, but there are fewer turns and they are wider and smoother.

There are usually about 50 sets of gates, but the exact number depends on the elevation and vertical drop of the selected terrain.

The distance between gates is shorter than in downhill and super-G.

Alpine skiing made its Olympic debut at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1936

The gates are between four and eight metres wide and are set at least 10m apart down the run.

Giant slalom races are contested in two runs on two separate courses, with the winner successfully finishing both courses with the lowest combined time.

The structure of each run is designed by two representatives from competing nations, usually one of the coaches.

The skiers decide their own starting position with a complex formula using the skiers' world ranking points determining the order they choose in.

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

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.

Length, width and shape all affect a ski's performance, and they vary depending on the discipline.

For giant slalom, men's skis must be at least 185cm long, and women's skis at least 180cm long.

Other equipment includes gloves and goggles.


Because of the specialist nature of giant slalom skiing, you first need to become an accomplished skier.

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.


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