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In one form or other skiing has been a permanent feature on the Olympic Winter Games programme since 1924. The current six disciplines of skiing are alpine, cross country, ski jumping, Nordic combined, freestyle and snowboarding. The first four are rich in history whilst the latter two are relative newcomers growing in popularity. To compete in these various disciplines one needs to master speed, endurance, dexterity, and determination.
The alpine competition consists of ten events: five each for women and men. The downhill features the longest course and the highest speeds in alpine skiing. Super-G stands for super giant slalom, an event that combines the speed of downhill with the more precise turns of giant slalom. In these events each skier makes one run down a single course and the fastest time determines the winner.
The slalom is the alpine event with the shortest course and the quickest turns. The giant slalom has fewer turns and wider, smoother turns. In both events, each skier makes two runs down two different courses on the same slope. The times are added and the fastest total time determines the winner. In the so-called super combined event, one shortened downhill run is followed by a one-run slalom. The times are added together and the fastest total time determines the winner.
The cross country competition consists of 12 different cross country skiing events. Women compete in the sprint, team sprint, 10km individual start, 15km pursuit, 30km mass start and the 4x5km relay. Men compete in the sprint, team sprint, 15km individual start, 30km pursuit, 50km mass start and the 4x10km relay.
Ski jumping is currently competed by men and there are three events: the individual normal hill, the individual large hill and the team event on the large hill. In the individual events each athlete gets two jumps and the athlete with the highest combined score is the winner. In the team event, each team has four members and the field is reduced to the eight best teams after the first jump.
There are three Nordic combined events, each consisting of a ski jumping competition and a cross-country skiing race. For the normal hill Gundersen event, ski jumping takes place on the normal hill (90m). For the team and the large hill Gundersen events, ski jumping takes place on the large hill (120m). The cross country portion of the Gundersen events has a 10km race and the team event has a 4x5km relay.
There are six snowboarding events on the programme of the Olympic Winter Games: men’s and women’s halfpipe, men’s and women’s parallel giant slalom, men’s and women’s snowboard cross.
As of the Vancouver Games, there will be three freestyle skiing events each for women and men on the Olympic programme. In addition to the aerial and mogul competitions, ski cross will make its debut in 2010. The mass start of all four racers sets the stage for fast and exciting competition designed to test the skiers’ skills in turns of a variety of types and sizes, flat sections and traverses, as well as rolls, banks and ridges. The fastest skier wins.