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Two Alpine Skiing events (Slalom and Giant Slalom) were introduced at the first Paralympic Winter Games in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, in 1976. Athletes in Alpine Skiing events must combine speed and agility while racing down slopes at speeds of around 100km/h.
Paralympic competition accommodates male and female athletes with a physical disability such as spinal injury, cerebral palsy, amputation, les autres conditions and blindness/visual impairment. Athletes compete in three categories based on their functional ability, and a results calculation system allows athletes with different disabilities to compete against each other.
The rules of the International Ski Federation (FIS) are used with only a few modifications. Skiers with blindness/visual impairment are guided through the course by sighted guides using voice signals to indicate the course to follow. Athletes with physical disabilities use equipment that is adapted to their needs including single ski, sit-ski or orthopaedic aids.
There are four events on the Paralympic Program:
Skiers are timed as they race down a long, steep course that may include turns and jumps. They must pass through a relatively few number of gates that are used as checkpoints. The penalty for missing a gate is disqualification. One run determines the finishing order – the shortest time wins.
The course is shorter than Downhill but longer than Giant Slalom and Slalom. The number of gates is determined by the vertical drop, with a minimum of 35 direction changes for men and 30 for women. Gates are set at least 25m apart and the penalty for missing a gate is disqualification. One run determines the finishing order.
- Giant Slalom
The course is longer, there are fewer turns, and the turns are wider and smoother than the Slalom. The number of gates is determined by the vertical drop and the penalty for missing a gate is disqualification. Each athlete completes two runs on the same day on different courses. Times from the two courses are added to determine order of finish. (The ranking in the first run is the basis for the starting order in the second run, with the fastest skiing last.)
The course is shorter than other Alpine Skiing events with a high number of gates (55-75 gates on a men's course and 40-60 on a women's course) that the athletes must negotiate. The penalty for missing a gate is disqualification. Each athlete completes two runs on the same day on different courses. Times from the two courses are added to determine order of finish. (The ranking in the first run is the basis for the starting order in the second run, with the fastest skiing last.)
- Super Combined
This event combines two disciplines, like one Downhill and one Slalom run, or a Super-G and a Slalom run. In Vancouver, a Downhill run in the morning will be followed by a Slalom run in the afternoon. The lowest total time wins.
Alpine skiing is open to athletes with a wide variety of physical disabilities such as amputees or limb deficiencies, spinal cord injury and cerebral palsy; and to athletes with a vision impairment. These athletes are classified dependant on their functionality into classes LW1 – 9, for athletes who ski standing; LW10-12 for athletes who ski sitting down; and the classes of B1 – B3, for those athletes with a vision impairment.View a more detailed explanation of Alpine Skiing classification.
Rules & Equipment
The skis used in Alpine Skiing events are long and narrow (minimum of 60mm). Men's skis are a minimum of 165cm and women's skis are a minimum of 155cm. The maximum height of the binding plate is 55mm in all events.
Some athletes with a physical disability compete from a sitting position using a sit-ski, also called a mono-ski. As the name suggests, mono-skis have a specially fitted chair over a single ski. The chair includes seat belts and other strapping, as well as a suspension device to minimize wear and tear on the skier's body.
Poles or outriggers
Skiers in Alpine Skiing events use poles for propulsion and balance. The poles for Downhill and Super-G events are curved to fit around the body. Slalom poles are straight and usually have plastic guards to protect the hands from injury. Athletes in certain Paralympic classifications (e.g. single-leg amputees who ski without a prosthesis, sit-ski users) use special poles called outriggers. Outriggers have short ski blades on the end and help the skier with balance.
Boots and bindings
Boots for Alpine Skiing events have a hard plastic exterior with extensive foot and ankle support. The heel height of boots is regulated, with a maximum distance of 50mm between the sole and the heel. Alpine skiers use bindings that attach at both the heel and toe.
Hard-shell helmets are required in Alpine Skiing events.
Goggles are used to protect the eyes and to maximize visibility.
Alpine ski races wear lightweight, form-fitting clothing (all in one suit) to minimize air resistance. Slalom skiers frequently wear pads to protect from injury.
- Disabled Wintersport Australia
- International Ski Federation (FIS)
- International Paralympic Committee-Alpine Skiing