Insider’s Guide: FIS Ski World Cup disciplines (and where to find them)

Ski -racing

The FIS Alpine Ski World Cup was founded in the 1930s and for many it provides the traditional backbone to the ski season. Names of racecourses such as La Face, the Lauberhorn, and (of course) the Streif are iconic. These races are landmark events in the annual ski calendar. When skiers race on the Streif, the ski world stops to watch.

The International Ski Federation (FIS) is the world governing body for competitive winter sports. It is responsible for codifying various winter activities including Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, and snowboarding, as well as organising the Ski World Cup.

The Ski World Cup is formed of five different Alpine ski disciplines (including Alpine Combined – an aggregate score taken across multiple disciplines). Champions strive to achieve the fastest times in all the races at competitions hosted around the globe.

Many believe the pinnacle of Alpine skiing is to master each race type and win the Ski World Cup. Here is a guide to the different Alpine ski disciplines and the best places to go to see them:

 

Slalom

What is it?

Along with Downhill, Slalom is perhaps the most recognisable of the Ski World Cup disciplines. Unlike Downhill, where speed is of the essence, Slalom emphasises technical skill. Racers must navigate their way through a series of tightly spaced gates while trying to complete the course in the fastest time possible.

Where is it?

Val d’Isère provides the sternest of technical challenges to ski racers. The gates on Val’s infamous La Face course are so tight you can’t put a foot wrong! Slalom is tough at the best of times, but Val’s track really pushes the limit. Steep and narrow, the icy course looks like glass from a distance, providing skiers with incredible speed as they descend.

Find out more about Val d’Isère, France >

Levi became a World Cup stage in 2004 when it hosted the women’s world cup slalom. Since then it has be a regular destination on the Ski World Cup circuit. It is one of the biggest ski resorts in Finland and, owing to its position above the Arctic Circle, has an exceedingly long winter (from mid-October to early June).

Find out more about Levi, Finland >

 

Giant Slalom

What is it?

A form of slalom where the gates are positioned further apart than standard slalom – but not as far apart as on the Super-G. Considered a technical event, Giant Slalom emphasises the racer’s ability to turn.

Where is it?

Kranjska Gora in Slovenia has gained a reputation as a premier Giant Slalom event. Its steep incline leads to a speedy downhill run with high-speed, turning gates. You can’t afford to run wide or you’ll lose all your time.

Find out more about Kranjska Gora, Slovenia >

The Erta, meaning “the steep one” in the local Ladin language, is the location of the women’s Giant Slalom in Kronplatz, Italy. As you can imagine from the name, this course is formidable for its steepness. It has an average gradient of 32%, reaching 61% in places.

Find out more about Kronplatz, Italy >

 

Super-G

What is it?

The Super-G, or Super Giant Slalom, is a downhill speed event that encourages racers to turn as they head down the mountain. The course is laid with various wide gates that racers must pass through as they traverse the course. Failure to pass through a gate results in a penalty. The fastest man or woman down the mountain wins.

Where is it?

The Saslong course, in Val Gardena (where the resort of Ortisei is located), is regarded as one of the classic Ski World Cup events. Its undulating track and off-camber turns make it a fantastic test of bravery and commitment. Skis require sharp edges to make those intense turns!

Find out more about Ortisei, Italy >

One of the biggest annual, competitive ski events in Canada, the Lake Louise Ski World Cup is one of the few courses to host both men and women’s races. The fantastic setting of the Canadian Rockies provides a distinctive and evocative backdrop to this exciting race.

Find out more about Lake Louise, Canada >

 

Downhill

What is it?

It’s all about speed. While other Alpine ski disciplines encourage skiers to demonstrate turning technique through slalom gates, Downhill encourages speed above all else. Skiers tuck themselves into aerodynamic positions racing down some of the most treacherous courses on the mountain.

Where is it?

Downhill races capture the imagination like no other. They are the most infamous events in the Ski World Cup. The perilous turns and huge jumps capture the imagination of competitors and spectators alike.

The Hahnenkamm in Kitzbühel, Austria hosts perhaps the most notorious downhill race on the ski circuit– the Streif. The course is full of technical challenges, such as the terrifying Mausefalle jump, which racers must complete with precision and speed. There is no margin for error!

Find out more about Kitzbühel, Austria >

In Wengen, Switzerland the Lauberhorn race is a stalwart of the Ski World Cup. The longest downhill course in the world, racers reach speeds of up to 160kmph – the fastest on the world cup circuit -  as they attempt to complete the race in the fastest time possible.

Find out more about Wengen, Switzerland >

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