I'm watching the women's slalom event in the 2022 Winter Olympics, and every single skier has bent over to put their head forward as they cross the finish line. It is similar to how a runner in a track and field event will lean their body forward as they cross the finish line.

Why do these skiers do that? Are the rules different for alpine skiing and cross country skiing events? I know that for cross country skiing events, it's when the front tip of their ski touches the finish line that matters. So cross country skiers will push their leg forward as they cross the finish line.

1 Answer 1


It does appear that the timing specifications for cross-country and alpine are slightly different.

My understanding is that photo finish systems (line-scan camera system) are currently only used as backup systems for FIS alpine events. These would note when any part of the skier crossed the finish line.

But today photocells are specified as the primary system, with both targeted below the knee.

From the FIS timing booklet (alpine)

The cells must be mounted so that both beams are triggered at a height that is lower than the knee of racers at the finish. It is recommended that the lowermost photocell be connected to Timing System A.

Diagram of finish photocell placement

This information could be out of date for the 2022 Olympics, but the 2022 US Ski & Snowboard Advanced Timing Study Guide suggests that it hasn't changed yet.

Photo Finish timing has been approved for use at FIS events for backup purposes only.

It's hard for me to tell specifically what the purpose of the skiers position is at the finish, but I wonder if they are leaning down and trying to trip the cell with their hand rather than with their leg. On some finishes I watched, the arm was down very low compared with someone just trying to lean forward and trip with helmet or chest.

Also, I believe cross-country events are currently timed from the boot, not the ski tip. Timing Booklet Cross-Country Nordic Combined (Cross-Country)

Electronic timing The following electronic timing technologies can be used to identify the official finish times:

  • Electronic timing system based on photocells. The measuring point of the light or photo barrier must be at a height of 25 cm above the snow surface.
  • Photo finish system. The measuring point will be the toe of the first boot meeting the finish line
  • I think you're right - it seems like the skiers are trying to extend their hand(s) forward as low as possible as they cross the finish line. Commented Feb 9, 2022 at 7:03
  • Interesting enough, ski cross has its own rules. In a photo finish in Semifinal 2 of the Women's Ski Cross event, three skiers stretched their hands out (above their knees) as they crossed the finish line. The announcers said it's whatever body part crosses the finish line first. Commented Feb 17, 2022 at 7:45

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