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Winter Olympics 101: Alpine Skiing, Freestyle Skiing, Ski Jumping and Snowboarding

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By Alicia Dziak

The XXII Olympic Winter Games are here, kicking off in Sochi, Russia, Feb. 6 and running through Feb. 23. While the Olympics offer a variety of exciting winter sports, probably none hit closer to home for residents and visitors of Ellicottville than the numerous skiing and snowboarding events.

Alpine Skiing

Alpine skiing first became part of the Olympics in 1936 and today makes up 10 events: downhill, slalom, giant slalom, super giant, and super combined races, each for men and women.

The downhill event features the longest courses with the highest speeds, with skiers covering one distance at a time.

In the slalom, the course is marked with flags and gates spaced close together. Athletes must ski two courses, with the sum of their results making up their total time.

In the giant slalom, gates are placed farther apart than in the slalom, but not as far apart as in the super-G. The result is the sum of the skier’s times on two different courses.

The super giant, better known as the super G, incorporates aspects of both the downhill and the giant slalom, with athletes achieving speeds as high as in the downhill, but on a course on which the gates are placed about the same distance apart as in the giant slalom. Each skier gets one attempt at the course.

The super combined incorporates aspects of both the downhill and the slalom.

Alpine events are scheduled for Feb. 9, 10, 12, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 21, and 22.

Freestyle Skiing

Olympic freestyle events include mogul skiing (debuting in 1988), aerials (debuting in 1992), ski cross (debuting in 2010), and ski halfpipe and ski slopestyle, both added in 2011 and making their Olympic debut in this year’s Winter Olympics.

The mogul event is a descent down a bumpy slope in which athletes are required to perform two jumps on their way through the course.

The aerials event includes a qualifying round and a final round in which athletes complete two special ski jumps each. Skiers are judged on technique for jump takeoff, jump form and landing.

Ski cross also includes a qualifying round and a final round, and athletes race individually down a course with turns and obstacles.

In the ski halfpipe, athletes perform on a halfpipe slope on freestyle skis, performing various tricks, such as flips and twists, with two runs per athlete in each of the qualifying and final rounds.

Ski slopestyle entails athletes performing on a slope with various types of obstacles, such as rails and quarter pipes. This competition follows an elimination format, with two runs in each round.

Freestyle events are scheduled for Feb. 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 14, 17, 18, 20 and 21.

Ski Jumping

Ski jumping has been a part of the Winter Olympics since 1924, with women competing in the event for the first time this year.

Four events make up this discipline: the men’s and women’s individual normal hill competition, the men’s individual large hill competition, and the men’s team competition.

The individual normal hill competition features athletes making two jumps from a hill (105 meters), the winner being the one whose total score of both jumps is the highest.  The winner is the athlete with the highest total score, based on distances of the jumps.

The individual large hill competition is structured the same as the normal hill event, but the hill size is 140 meters.

The team competition takes place on the large hill, with each member of the four-person teams jumping, and the combined high scoring team taking home the gold.

Ski jumping events are scheduled for Feb. 8, 9, 11, 14, 15 and 17.

Snowboarding

Snowboarding debuted in the Olympics in 1998, with parallel slalom and slopestyle appearing for the first time this year. Other events making up this discipline are halfpipe, parallel giant slalom and snowboard cross.

The halfpipe competition is held on a halfpipe-shaped course, where snowboarders come up over the rim and perform various aerial tricks.

In the parallel giant slalom, two athletes compete simultaneously on parallel courses. Winners of the qualifying round advance to the finals and then compete on an elimination basis.

Snowboard cross takes place on a course of moguls, obstacles, banks and jumps. Athletes are subject to elimination in qualifying runs, with qualifying round results determining athletes’ places in the final groups. The final group run determines who medals.

In the slopestyle event, snowboarders perform on a slope featuring various forms of obstacles. Like its ski event counterpart, snowboarding slopestyle follows an elimination format, with two runs in each round.

The parallel slalom features two athletes traversing parallel courses marked with flags. The athlete who covers the distance the fastest while following the course rules is the winner.

Snowboarding events are scheduled for Feb. 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 16, 17, 19 and 22.

Whether you enjoy acrobatics and tricks, or speed and precision, the Olympics’ skiing and snowboarding events offers nonstop excitement. Be sure to tune in on one of the many days these events will be televised to get in on the action!

Sources: www.sochi2014.com and www.olympic.org

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