Slalom, also known as special slalom is one of the four disciplines of
In slalom, the gates are just two poles through which you have to pass.
The gates usually alternate one blue, one red. A gate can either be set
horizontally or vertically, ie. the two poles are either at the same level or
placed one below the other. As the object of a slalom is to go through the
gates as quickly as possible (both skis and both feet have to go through
the gate), the idea is to go as close to the inside pole as possible, often
having to hit it with some part of the body.
When they are set horizontally, they are called open gates, when there
is one gate set vertically, it is called a banana (because of the shape of
the long bend you are forced to make) or undergate ; when two or more
vertical gates are set one below the other, they are called verticales
(pronounced v'ertic''a:li). Open gates are separated by a distance
of 12-15m and verticales by 7-10m. There has to be at least 70cm between the
bottom pole of one verticale gate and the top pole of the next.
| .| <--- open gate
· <--- verticale
| |. | <--- outside pole
| .| <--- inside pole
· <--- banana
| .| |
A typical run will usually have around 35 open gates along with several
verticales (both double and triple) and usually a banana. A course will be as
hard and icy as possible so as to keep the same conditions for all racers.
A slalom is run in two different legs, each of which will take around 50
seconds to complete. The end result is the sum of the times on each leg. If a
racer does not complete the first leg, he can not start the second. If the
racer does not go through the course according to the rules, he will be
disqualified : either because he missed a gate or because he straddled
(passed a gate with a foot on each side of the inside pole).
As racers often hit the gates with their hands, their arms or their shins,
they wear shin guards, padding on their arms and protections on their
ski poles. Most racers also wear helmets or at least a gum shield.
Because of the progress in ski manufacture, slalom racers now use very
short skis (
155 - 160cm 165cm1) which are heavily waisted (carving skis which
are much wider at the tips than in the middle) and the technique is growing
similar to that of giant slalom.
Slalom is probably the most spectator friendly of the alpine skiing
disciplines, as it is usually possible to view the whole course from a single
vantage point. Because of the shortness of the skis, any racer that leans
back gets caught on the tails is quite likely to fall on his back or even
do some sort of flip.
In a FIS (International Ski Federation) race, a racer's starting
position is determined by his fis points. The first 15 get shuffled around
and the rest follow in fis point order. For the second leg, the first 30 of
the first leg get to run in reverse order as the course tends to
deteriorate. This makes it harder for the first of the first leg to keep
his place and gives others a better chance. There is a maximum of 140 racers
at the start, so it often gets very difficult for the last runners to get
- Because of the number of accidents involving flipping, in 2004, the FIS brought the minimum length up to 165cm for men, and from 150 to 155cm for women.