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The Olympics has five different alpine (downhill) skiing events:

  • Downhill
  • Slalom
  • Giant Slalom
  • Super Giant Slalom (Super-G)
  • Super Combined

What are the differences between these different events? I know that the number and spacing of the gates are different. Is that all it is, or is there more to it than that?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

There some more differences:

  • Slalom and giant slalow are technical events, super-G and downhill are speed events. Super combined, as the name implies, combines runs of slalom and downhill.

  • Downhill and super-G events have one run, slalom and giant slalom events have two runs - different courses on the same ski run.

  • Even the skis are different. Slalom skis are shorter and narrower, the better to manoeuvre quickly through gates which are close together without catching a tip on a gate. Giant slalom skis are longer and wider, but still not as long and wide as downhill skis.

  • Slalom skiers need more protection - helmets, face guards, hand guards, and shin pads are compulsory. The extra equipment lets slalom skiers physically knock the poles out of the way as they pass, a special technique known as blocking.

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The main differences are about number of gates, distance from each gate, vertical drop and lenght of the course.

  • Downhill Has the maximun of the lenght and the maximun distance from each gate. It runs on a single manche. It has the maximun speed.

  • Super Giant Slalom (Super-G) It runs on a single manche.

  • Giant Slalom The vertical drop for a GS course must be 250–450 metres (men), 250–400 m (women). The number of gates is 56–70 (men) and 46–58 (women). It runs on two manches.

  • Slalom Has the minimum of the lenght and the minumum distance from each gate. The course has 55-75 gates (men) and 40-60 (women). The vertical drop is 180-220 m (men) and slightly less for women. It runs on two manches. It has the minimum value of speed.

  • Super Combined It is a "small" downhill + a manche of slalom

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