Over the decades, petroglyphs have been able to uncover evidence that suggests skiing dates back to as much as over 5,000 years. Historians believe it emerged in icy Scandinavia – Finland, Norway and Sweden, alike. There is also ample proof that people living in Russia and China also used skiing as a means of transport across the deep snow.
As such, skis at first were over 10 feet in length and had basic straps for buckling purposes. This made maneuvering almost impossible. These early skiers had to make poles for themselves to navigate through the terrain.
It goes without saying that the practice has undergone plenty of changes since then. Granted, the concept remains the same but as with everything else, scientific research and modern technology have greatly impacted what is now one of the most popular winter sports to ever have existed. Not only have the skis improved, but a variety of new rules and regulations have also been established, as a result of which skiing is now divided into many different categories, contingent upon the level of difficulty of each. In this post, we will be focusing on one of the hardest, yet most exhilarating forms of skiing: Super G.
What is the Super G in skiing, you ask? Well, without any further ado, let us begin by sharing some common facts about Super G.
What is Super G in Skiing?
For the uninitiated, Super G is merely short for Super Giant Slalom – a form of alpine skiing that marries downhill skiing with navigation through a slalom skiing course. It rose to widespread popularity in the 1970s, and made its debut as a World Cup even in 1982.
What sets Super G apart from its relatively easier counterparts is that it requires the skier to be proficient in both slalom skiing and downhill skiing, thereby making the experience all the more intense, especially when competing in professional Super G skiing competitions. One needs to maintain significant speed and accuracy, particularly at the turning points, seeing as how missing a turn around a gate may result in an immediate disqualification for the skier.
How is the Super G different from regular slalom skiing?
While it may sound similar, there are some vast differences between Super G and slalom skiing. The former is but a more complex version of the latter, one could say.
One of the main differences is that the angles involved in slalom skiing are less sharp compared to those of downhill skiing. Secondly, it also requires skiers to do part of the race in a tucked or downhill position so as to boost their speed. The gates are also placed further from one another to accommodate for the higher speed, lest they be missed.
Another key point of contention is that slalom skiing allows two runs with a combined score. Super G scores, meanwhile, are based on one run only. They also include fewer gates – typically about 35 for males and 30 for female skiers, as opposed to the 70 gates and 55 gates for men and women in traditional slalom skiing respectively.
How is Super G different from regular downhill skiing?
While all ski races technically are downhill, Super G is usually a shorter event. It is very difficult to navigate turns properly while skiing in a tucked position and so, skiers tend to move at a relatively slower pace herein than other forms of skiing. Unfortunately, they are forbidden from taking practice runs on the course prior to the competition.
That is not to say Super G skiers are going at snail’s pace. The emphasis is on the term ‘relatively slower’ as they zoom across the race course at eye-watering, incomprehensible speeds, sometimes reaching up to 55 mph to 60 mph (88.51-96.56 kph! Making turns and moving around the gates at that velocity truly lends credence to their skills and talents. And for the record, this is still slower than downhill speeds, which have been recorded at over 90 mph (144.84 kph) as well!
What are the rules of Super G skiing?
While the terrain and the amount of time it takes for one to cover it are unique to the different forms of skiing, Super G is distinctive in that it has specific guidelines and speed limits participants must adhere to as well.
For example, the vertical drop for a special Super G course must be between 350 m to 650 m (1,150 feet to 2,130 feet) for men, 350 m to 600 m (1,150 feet to 1,970 feet) for women and 250 m to 450 m (820 feet to 1,480 feet) for children. Many professional Super G competitions, such as the Olympic Winter Games, the FIS World Ski Championships and the FIS World Cup, raise the minimum to 400 m for both male and female skiers.
Also, the gates that dot the entire course must be at least 75 cm (30 inches) in width and stand no less than 4 m (13 feet) apart from one another. When slalom skiing was first being developed, tiny red and blue flags wedged into the snow served as the gates through which skiers would have to move on their way downhill. These have now been replaced by longer bamboo canes which can snap back into the straight position in case a skier hits them as they go.
Does Super G skiing require any special equipment?
Considering they are so many different disciplines of skiing, each with its own set of rules and regulations, it is but natural that they would require ski gear especially tailored to them. After all, the length, width, and shape of a ski all have a direct impact on a skier’s performance.
When it comes to Super G skiing, these factors become all the more important. In professional Super G skiing, it is necessary for men’s skis to be at least 205 cm long, while women’s skis can be 200 cm. Also, the minimum turning radius has been 45 m (148 feet) since the 2014 season.
In addition to this, the poles used herein are slightly curved down the middle. The idea is to sort of ‘fit’ them around the skier’s body to reduce air resistance. Other than that, skiers require the base necessities to be able to have a sound experience on the slopes, such as UV goggles, snow boots, hand warmers and insulated snow clothing. Some of the many things one needs for a successful ski trip include:
- Ski boots
- Powder skis (some operations offer skis for rent)
- Waterproof ski clothes
- Face buffs
- Mitts or gloves.
- Woolen hats or toque
- Ski socks
- Bathing suits for hot tubs/saunas
- Regular clothing for the lodge
This is, of course, a generic list. Irrespective of the type of skiing one is indulging in, it is also advisable to invest in strap carriers for skis, lest tired themselves out by carrying them in hand. Try the Volk Ski Strap and Pole Carrier to make transportation to and from the summit easier. They are cheap, durable and the best part is, the size can be adjusted for men, women and children, depending on who is using them!
Super G champions through the years
Many professional skiers have attempted to conquer Super G over the years but few have succeeded. Amongst those is Austrian icon Hermann Maier, widely regarded as of the most agile, brave and accurate skiers to have ever participated in the event. Maier is the proud owner of an Olympic gold medal, a gold medal from the World competition and a whopping 23 wins at the World Cup. And then, we also have Swiss man Peter Muller and Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt, who has three Olympic Super G gold medals to his credit.
Other than this, a number of American contenders were seen at the FIS World Alpine Skiing Championships held in Cortina d’Ampezzo, in February this year. These included famous skiers such as Olympic medalist Mikaela Shiffrin, world champion Breezy Johnson, Olympic gold medalist Ted Ligety, and silver medalist Travis Ganong. Alpine skiing events for the 2026 Winter Olympics will also be held at Cortina.
It is pertinent to mention here that Super G is one of the only events that does not have an age limit attached to it. Unlike nearly all other sports, where only younger players – mostly teenagers or those in their 20s – are allowed to play, this winter sport welcomes anyone who has managed to remain strong enough to compete. Many Super G skiers have remained active well into their late 30s, and even won. Aamodt, for instance, saw his most recent gold medal victory at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Italy, at the age of 35!
Upcoming Super G competitions
The recently-concluded International Ski Federation (FIS) Alpine Ski World Cup is one of the premier slalom and giant slalom skiing tournaments in the world, held in Austria every October since January 1967. The 2021-2022 season marked its 56th consecutive year.
Other than this, fans and Super G skiers can look forward to the upcoming Winter Olympics in China, to be held from February 4 to February 20 at the Yanqing Ski Resort in Beijing. Winners will be awarded the coveted crystal globes for their respective countries in Courchevel/Méribel, where the World Championships will be held in February 2023.
Top Super G locations around the world
For those looking to participate in or watch a Super G event from the sidelines, a trip to the challenging Rocky Mountains is a must. These stretch from southwestern United States – New Mexico, to be precise – all the way up to the northern end of western Canada, offering plenty of great ski game, along with breathtaking views from the summits.
Other than this, there are many alpine skiing destinations around the world to choose from. These include:
- St Moritz in Switzerland
- Chamonix in France
- Banf National Park in Canada
- Lech in Austria
- Macugnaga in Italy
- Aspen in the United States
- Lake Tahoe in the United States
- Yabuli Ski Resort in China
- Sochi Ski Resort in Russia
- Pico De Orizaba, Mexico
Insiders’ tip: If you plan well in advance, there are some great early-bird bargains to be had. During summer, ski tour operators around the US usually cut the costs of chalet accommodation, ski passes and equipment hire, etc, making it all the cheaper overall. Otherwise, a potential ski trip can be rather heavy on one’s pocket, what with skyrocketing airfares, expensive ski gear and the high resort maintenance costs operators often build into tourist packages.
Our Final Thoughts
Super G skiing is all about pace, power and precision. One wrong move and you could end up on the sidelines. But it is arguably one of the most thrilling, and so, the most rewarding forms of alpine skiing out there. If one can successfully teach themselves to master the one and a half-hour-long course, they could be well on their way to global stardom.
But before they zoom off, there is a checklist of prerequisites to complete. Remember: there is no practicing in Super G skiing. Experts recommend studying the course and the equipment before hitting Super G slopes, lest you run into a problem up there.