In competitive alpine ski racing, there are four disciplines: Slalom, Giant Slalom (GS), Super Giant Slalom (super-G) and Downhill. These four events are separated into two categories; Slalom and Giant Slalom are technical events, while super-G and Downhill are speed events. All of the events are time-based, but the technical events have a focus on quick, short turns, while the speed events are more geared towards gaining momentum and high speeds.
While the events are similar in that the racing occurs between sets of poles or gates, the main difference in each discipline is how far apart the gates are spaced. Closer gates mean faster and shorter turns, causing the skiers to go at slower speeds. The Downhill event has the most widely spaced gates, allowing the skiers to get up to the fastest speeds. In GS, a well-trained racer may hit speeds of 50+ mph, and a super-G racer can reach speeds 80+ mph, while slalom racers average out at 25 mph.
In slalom skiing, a discipline recently added to Nastar’s 2014 National Championships events, the gates are spaced much closer together than in GS, super-G or downhill. A slalom course will have 55-75 gates for men and 40-60 gates for women. The gates will generally be spaced 9 meters apart vertically and 2 meters apart horizontally.
Giant slalom is the standard for Nastar racing. A GS course must have a vertical drop between 250-450 meters, and the number of gates in this event is 56–70 for men and 46–58 for women. In both slalom and GS, racers take two runs and combine their times. Click here for more on what a Nastar GS course looks like.
Super-G and Downhill are both “speed” events; the racers are more focused on gaining speed than making quick turns. In Downhill, skiers attempt to become perfectly aerodynamic by minimizing drag with the iconic “tuck” position. Downhill involves the highest speeds and highest risk of all the disciplines; the current speed record for Downhill is 100.6 mph. Aside from high speeds, Downhill challenges include turns, shallow dips, flats and small jumps.