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What are the different ski events at the Olympic Games? (From ski jumping to cross-country skiing)

By on October 11, 2022 0

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The Winter Olympics are one of the biggest winter sports events in the world. The competition is so big that there are several different events just for skiing, but what are they all?

The Winter Olympics have several skiing events. Racing is the most common event, found in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, freestyle skiing and Nordic combined. There are also points-based events in freestyle and ski jumping.

Whether you like massive jumps, extreme airs or classic slalom races, there is a skiing discipline that appeals to everyone.

1. Alpine skiing

Alpine Skiing Olympiads
Photo by Special Olympics 2017 under CC0 1.0

Alpine skiing, or downhill skiing, is what most people think of when they think of skiing. It consists of athletes who ski downhill in a number of different timed events. These events are available in technical skiing and speed skiing.

There are five individual alpine events at the Winter Olympics, slalom, giant slalom, Super G slalom, downhill and alpine combined. All three slalom events focus on technical skiing, racing from checkpoint to checkpoint around tight turns. Giant Slalom and Super G raise the stakes with wider and faster course layouts.

The downhill event focuses on racing the course as fast as possible. It is the fastest form of skiing in the Olympics, where athletes reach incredible speeds. The combined event is, of course, a combination of downhill and slalom.

This was created to determine the skills of the best all-around skier in competition. Alpine skiing is one of the purest forms of skiing, reproduced by amateur skiers around the world.


National Guard photo under CC BY 2.0

The biathlon event is unique to the Winter Olympics. The event finds cross-country athletes in a group race, but then there’s an interesting twist. Athletes must shoot their rifle at several targets along the course.

There are five different events under the biathlon heading: sprint, pursuit, individual, mass start and mixed relay. Biathlon athletes are highly skilled and incredibly fit. Cross-country skiing is hard enough without racing against others and then there’s the precision required to hit the target, which makes it an incredibly difficult sport.

Biathlon grew out of the survival skills Norse people used to hunt and survive in freezing cold conditions. Skiing is one of the best ways to cross the snow, while hunting was a necessity to gather food.

The combination might seem a bit odd, but when you understand the story, it makes a whole lot more sense. In times of war, military groups in colder climates are often trained in ski warfare. In fact, military skiing was present in both WWI and WWII.

3. Cross-country skiing

Cross country
Photo by Special Olympics 2017 under CC0 1.0 license

Cross-country skiing is the oldest form of skiing. Before skiing became a sport or hobby for enthusiasts, it was a regular means of travel for people living in snowy regions. Cross-country skiing events consist of races of skiers over difficult and varied terrain. Five cross-country disciplines are organized at the Winter Olympics.

The skiathlon includes a 15 km and 30 km race for women and men respectively. Then there are sprint races, which are by far the most tense and exciting versions of cross-country skiing. These races pit athletes against each other over a short 1.5 km course.

There is even a form of cross-country skiing marathon. The mass start free race consists of a 50 km and 30 km race respectively for men and women. Finally, there are cross-country relay races where athletes complete four circuits in teams of four men or women.

4. Freestyle Skiing

Freestyle Skiing Aerial Competition

Freestyle skiing is one of the newest disciplines at the Winter Olympics, only joining the roster in 1992. There are six freestyle skiing events held at the Winter Olympics, which include jumps, moguls, ski cross, halfpipe, slopestyle and big air.

These events vary widely, with some being categorized as races and others based more on skill and technique. The common theme between them is that athletes ski through various features in terrain parks.

Some events are in a race format, while others are score-based. The moguls and ski cross events are races between skiers, while the points events see the Olympians marked by a panel of judges.

Their points are based on their speed, flair and the difficulty of their tricks while hovering above the course.

5. Ski jumping

ski jumping

Ski jumping is certainly one of the most exciting and popular events at the Winter Olympics. In fact, it’s the most popular skiing event at the Winter Olympics, second only to figure skating. Ski jumping events are divided according to the size of the ski jump, normal and large hills.

The event is further divided into individual men’s and women’s teams. There is also a mixed team event which was added in 2022.

Jumpers win by landing as close to their designated K-point as possible. Point K is the point on the slope where the gradient begins to flatten.

The jumpers are also marked on their audacity, their style, their stability and their reception. Jumpers can reach incredible distances, the world record being a monumental 253.5 meters!

These events are very technical as athletes are not allowed to pump their skis to increase speed. All of their momentum comes from gravity and their initial push from the starting block.

This means that all the distance they accumulate is the result of their technique. The skier’s weight, technique and even aerodynamics play a huge role! All of the events are truly remarkable, so it’s no wonder the sport is the second most-watched Winter Olympic sport.

6. Nordic Combined

Nordic combined

Similar to biathlon events, Nordic combined sees athletes complete two events in one. Skiers must perform a ski jump, followed by a cross-country run.

There are several different combinations of run lengths and hill heights for athletes. As with the ski jumping event, there is both a normal hill event and a large hill event. As for the races, they range from the women’s 5 km to the men’s 15 km, which is the longest format.

You might be wondering how skiers transition from ski jumping to cross-country running, and with good reason. The two events are played separately and the scores of each are combined.

Skiers jump individually to determine their starting position in the group race later. The farther you jump, the better your starting position. Unfortunately, Nordic combined does not attract many followers in the Olympic winter sports, despite being one of the very first sports included.

7. Snowboarding

skiing snowboarding

Although technically not a skiing event, snowboarding is often lumped into the same group of sports.

Snowboarding is one of the newest sports to join the Winter Olympics, which isn’t surprising considering how long it took for the sport to gain full acceptance among skiers. In fact, even now there are still ski resorts that haven’t caught up with their time.

Snowboarding events cross among the most popular events hosted by skiers. These include parallel slalom, parallel giant slalom, halfpipe, slopestyle and snowboard cross.

These events are identical to their skiing counterparts, of course, except that the athletes are on a snowboard rather than on skis. The biggest difference is that parallel slalom and parallel giant slalom are a head-to-head race between two snowboarders.

The Olympics are special

The list of skiing events at the Winter Olympics is multiple and continues to grow over the years. As new snow sports grow in popularity, they become staples of the Winter Olympics for fans to admire.

Currently, there is everything from Nordic combined to freestyle snowboarding. The majority of events use a race format, but as freestyle skiing becomes more prominent, the Winter Olympics have included various point-based events for skill.

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