AUDI FIS Ski World Cup

World Cup racing 101: what you need to know

By Polly Lynn Mikula

The Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS) Alpine Ski World Cup is the top international circuit of Alpine ski racing. Athletes compete in four events: Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super-G, and Downhill, plus a fifth event, the Combined, in which the fastest aggregate time of one run of Downhill and one run of Slalom is assessed.

Slalom and Giant Slalom

The Giant Slalom and Slalom events make up the technical events in Alpine ski racing. The speed events are Super-G and Downhill.

While World Cup racers often hit top speeds of 75-plus mph in Downhill competitions, speeds in technical races are considerably slower, requiring racers to navigate more turns and complex gate sequences. Still, racers could reach speeds up to 50 mph (which is more than double what most recreational skiers would feel comfortable hitting on the steep slope of Superstar at Killington).

On Giant Slalom courses, vertical distances between turning poles on the World Cup can range from 24-28 meters depending on the venue, with an average around 26 meters, according to FIS/U.S. Ski & Snowboard course setting guidelines. The offset distances vary but 10-12 meters is about average, depending on terrain, speeds, width and length of trail, and vertical drop requirements.

On Slalom courses, distances between turning poles is generally 9-11 meters on the World Cup. Offset distances vary, but tend to average around 34 meters. Slalom courses are typically more arrhythmical, with multiple combinations (delay into hairpin, hairpin into hairpin, flushes, etc.) according to FIS/U.S. Ski & Snowboard course setting guidelines. Combinations are frequently set with less than 6 meters of distance between poles.

Gates consist of one pole in Slalom and four in Giant Slalom, Super-G, and Downhill. There is a turning pole and an outside pole set for each turn (sometimes two per turn if an undergate is used, requiring a racer to ski around the same side of two gates). The ski racer’s ski tips and boots must pass through the “gate,” breaking the imaginary line between turning and outside pole.

If a competitor loses a ski without having committed a gate fault or without coming to a complete stop, she may continue, as long as she does not interfere with the run of the next competitor or has not been passed by the next competitor, FIS rules state.

Bib draw

The Top 7 on the World Cup Start List are placed in a double random draw (the order of who draws and which number they draw are random) to be placed in start positions 1-7. Then, athletes ranked 8-15 on the WCSL are entered in the double random draw for start positions 8-15. The top 15 Giant Slalom athletes will be presented their bibs in a public ceremony in the Festival Village on Friday, Nov. 23 at 5:45 p.m.

Start order

The start order for the Top 30 racers is determined by a bib draw (see below), which is based on World Cup Start List points. The remaining racers’ start order is based on ranking. The fastest 30 racers from the first run will race in reverse order for the second run.


The FIS scoring system awards points to the top 30 finishers: 100 points to the winner, 80 points for second, 60 for third, winding down to 1 point for 30th place. The racer with the most points at the end of the season in mid-March wins the World Cup. The trophy consists of a 9 kilogram crystal globe. Prizes are also awarded in each individual race event, with a smaller 3.5 kilogram crystal globe.


World Cup competitions have been hosted in 25 countries worldwide: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States.

Photo by Lance

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