American alpine skiers battle the elements while whizzing down the slopes for recreational or competitive purposes. Alpine skiers travel from the top to the bottom of a ski slope with skis that have a fixed-heel binding, unlike Nordic skiing or ski jumping. Generally speaking, alpine skiing takes place at ski resorts and ski clubs with well-groomed runs that help guard against avalanches, but backcountry alpine skiing is also an option for more skilled skiers.
American Alpine Skiers and Competitions
Alpine skiing includes competitive ski events that take place both nationally and internationally. The main alpine ski events include:
- Downhill races: The longest downhill ski races that generate the fastest downhill speeds; the fastest time wins the race
- Slalom races: Short races that involve quick turns around gates; skiers perform two separate runs and the fastest combined time of the two runs wins the race
- Giant slalom: A longer slalom race with wider turns; the winner is determined in the same way as the slalom races
- Super G: The super giant slalom is the longest slalom race that consists of a single run down the course; the fastest time wins
- Combined events: Generally includes a single downhill run and two slalom runs; the times of all three runs are added together and the fastest overall time wins the race
- Super combined: Combines a single run of a slalom course with either a downhill race or a super G race; the fastest combined times of the two races wins
American skiers interested in competing in ski races can sign up for ski teams at their local ski resort or through their high school. Promising athletes who show great skill may even qualify to travel for competitions around the country, competing for coveted spots on the U.S. ski team. Competing at this elite level requires a significant dedication of time and energy, but most skiers feel that the reward is worth the effort. Athletes on the U.S. ski team may compete at events like the Winter Olympics, Alpine World Cup, Winternational World Cup, Junior Ski Championships, Junior World Ski Championships and the U.S. Alpine Championships.
Recreational Alpine Skiers
You don't have to compete as an athlete in order to enjoy alpine skiing. Each year hundreds of thousands of Americans hit the slopes across the country for recreational ski opportunities. Popular ski resorts are located in Rocky Mountain states like Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Nevada, as well as in the Cascade Mountains of Washington and Oregon. East coast skiers may prefer to hit up resorts in Vermont, New Hampshire and even New York.
The cost of lift tickets, equipment rentals, parking, lodging and food can add up fast, generally making alpine skiing a past-time of middle or upper class Americans. If you live within driving distance of a ski resort, check to see if they offer deals on weekdays or nights that make skiing more cost efficient. Many American ski resorts also offer packages that include lift tickets with the price of a multiple-night stay at the resort, making it easier to afford a ski trip for the family.
If you've never skied before and you're nervous about trying it out, remember that all American alpine skiers had to start as beginners. Sign up for a lesson or a block of lessons to get the feel for the equipment and hit the bunny slopes for practice. Before you know it, you'll be whizzing down the slopes with all the other winter athletes.