Super G

More broadly, what is the difference between the Olympic ski events?

By Deane Barker tags: sports, olympics, skiing

There are five alpine (meaning “gravity-based”) skiing events in the Olympics:

All of them involve navigating a course down the side of a mountain while turning to go through “gates” demarked by flags. They’re differentiated by how close the gates are, which dictates how often the skier has to turn and therefore how fast their average speed is.

  • Slalom: Lots of gates; the skier is constantly zig-zagging back and forth; average 20 m.p.h.
  • Giant Slalom: Fewer gates, further apart; the skier is making wider, sweeping turns; average 40 m.p.h.
  • Super Giant Slalom (“Super G”): Even fewer gates, even further apart; the skier is really concentrating on speed, with the gates just there to slow them down a bit; average 60 m.p.h.
  • Downhill: Very few gates; in fact, the “gates” basically just exist to define the course, like the pavement of an automobile racetrack; can go up to 90 m.p.h.

(I got the speed numbers from a video of an Olympian describing the events. They were all highly estimated.)

And there’s one more, which is a combination of two of the above:

  • Super Combined: skiers post a combined time of one slalom and one downhill run

Finally, there are four other categories of ski events:

  • Ski Jumping
  • Cross Country
  • Freestyle
  • Nordic Combined (a combination of a ski jump event and a cross-country event)

Why I Looked It Up

I had dinner with a friend who was a skier in the 1992 Albertville Olympics. I vaguely remember her telling me that she skied Super G. I didn’t know what that was, and I realized that all the Olympic ski events kind of run together in my head.

This is item #730 in a sequence of 825 items.

You can use your left/right arrow keys to navigate