As the premier event in the Olympic Winter Games, skiing has a rich history, beginning in France. In 1924 when the Olympics were held in Paris, a town called Chamonix held a winter sports festival that they petitioned to have included in the Olympic Games. In 1928, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) held the first official Winter Games, inspired by the “Winter Olympic Carnival” of 1924. Later, the IOC retroactively renamed the carnival as the 1924 Winter Games.
At the 1928 games in St. Moritz, Switzerland, competitors from 25 nations vied for medals in the bobsleigh, figure skating, ice hockey, Nordic skiing (cross-country skiing, Nordic combined and ski jumping), speed skating and tobogganing (which is now called skeleton) events. Norway was ranked number one in the events with 15 medals.
Since then, the Winter Games are held every four years at various locations across the globe. The United States and France have hosted the events more than any other nation (U.S. hosted it four times and France, two). The latest events were held in Vancouver, Canada in 2010.
Women's and men's alpine skiing became an Olympic sport in 1936. The sport began in the European Alps over 150 years ago. Alpine Ski events are divided by two categories, technical and speed. There are five events that constitute Alpine Skiing: Downhill, Super-G, Giant Slalom, Slalom and Super Combined.
As the name suggests, the downhill event for men and women is judged by how fast an Olympian can speed down the slope in a single race. The course is specially groomed to make it more slick so skiers can move faster down the slope. The equipment is also slightly different from other ski events. The skis are longer with rounded tips to increase stability. The poles are also curved to fit around the body better.
A slalom is a gate made of two poles that competitors must ski through as they speed down the slope. Each set of poles is 30 feet apart (vertically) and there are 55 to 75 gates for men and 40 to 60 gates for women.
Similar to the Slalom event, the Giant Slalom has gates spaced farther apart. The skis are longer for this event compared to the slalom, but not as long as Super-G skis.
The Super Giant Slalom, which is also called the "Super-G," is a combination of downhill skiing and the Giant Slalom race. Competitors must race down the slope for the fastest time as they weave through slalom gates (35 for men and 30 for women).
For multi-talented Alpine skiers, the Super Combined event is a combination of one run of downhill and two runs of slalom. The collection of times for the races are added together. The fastest total time wins.
Created in the sixties by mixing Alpine Skiing and acrobatics, Freestyle Skiing now encompasses a range of Olympic events including aerials, moguls and ski cross. These sports became a part of the Winter Games in 1992 (moguls), 1994 (aerials) and 2010 (ski cross).
Perhaps the most dangerous and acrobatic freestyle event, Aerials include launching 40-50 feet in the air off of a ski jump, doing flips and other tricks and landing. This is a judged sport with scores on the skiers' jump takeoff (20%), jump form (50%) and landing (30%). The degree of difficulty for the tricks is also factored in.
To compete in a mogul event, skiers must use a slope with moguls, or little bumps, that make the terrain bumpy. These moguls in combination with the grooves or troughs, force the skier to make small twists and turns. In Olympic mogul skiing, athletes must do tricks and jumps as the navigate down the bumpy slope.
As the newest addition to the Winter Games, Ski Cross, or Skiercross as it is also called, will begin in the 2010 Vancouver games. The event, which is inspired by motocross racing, includes a modified snow terrain that skiers must race over to reach the finish line. The first time trial includes 16 (in women's events) or 32 skiers (in men's events). In the next race, four Olympians compete. The athlete with the fastest time wins.
Cross-country skiing and ski jumping are the two winter sports that make up the Nordic Combined Olympic event. Beginning in the 1800s, this sport originated as an annual ski carnival in Norway where skiers compete in events that demanded endurance (cross-country) and physical strength/technical control (ski jumping).
Nordic Combined made its Winter Games debut in 1924. The order in which these events are performed has been contested for years. Currently the jumping event is held first. The "free technique cross-country race" follows afterward. There are three sets of competitions:
Individual Normal Hill Event
Skiers jump a normal-sized hill and race 10 km cross-country.
Individual Large Hill Event
Skiers jump from a larger hill and complete a 10 km cross-country race.
The Nordic combined event is also played with teams where each skier must make the jump and the cross-country ski portion is a relay where each team member skis 5 km. The team with the first skier across the finish line wins.
There is no International Ski Federation sanctioned event of Nordic Combined for women.
Possibly one of the most interesting winter events to watch, ski jumping is a winter sport where skiers launch themselves from a take off ramp and a jump, propelling into the air.
The take off ramp is called an inrun and the distance that skiers jump depends on their skill and strength. Judges analyze the distance and the grace of the competitors. Skiers with the highest scores win.
The sport began in 1808 when a Norwegian lieutenant named Olaf Rye, launched himself 9.5 meters. Soldiers in Norway began to jump greater distances and many competitions began. In the Winter Games, athletes compete in, Normal Hill Individual, Large Hill Individual and Team events.