Downhill (ski competition)

Downhill is a form of alpine skiing competition. Whereas the other alpine skiing events (slalom, giant slalom, super giant slalom, and combined) emphasize turning and technique, downhill emphasizes "the six components of technique, courage, speed, risk, physical condition and judgement", according to the FIS "International Ski Competition Rules (ICR)".[1] Speeds of up to 130 km/h (81 mph) are common in international competition. Athletes must have an aerodynamically efficient tuck position to minimize drag and increase speed.[2]

The term, "downhill skiing", is also used as a synonym for alpine skiing as a recreational activity.[3][4]


The rules for downhill skiing competitions were originally developed by Sir Arnold Lunn for the 1921 British National Ski Championships. A speed of 100 miles per hour (161 km/h) was first achieved by Johan Clarey at the 2013 Lauberhorn World Cup,[5] beating the previous record of 98 mph (158 km/h), set by Italian Stefan Thanei in 2005.[6][7]


The FIS has rules for downhill courses that encompass their general characteristics, width, safety precautions, vertical drop, course length, style and placement of gates.[1]

  • General characteristics – As a test of "technique, courage, speed, risk, physical condition and judgement", the course requires the athlete to adapt to the technically demanding terrain and layout of gates.
  • Width – Courses are typically 30 metres (100 ft) wide with allowances for the approaches to "lips, drop-offs and jumps".
  • Safety – Obstacles on courses are expected to be protected with nets, fences, or pads.
  • Vertical drop – Vertical drop ranges from 450 to 1,100 metres (1,480 to 3,610 ft) for men and 450 to 800 metres (1,480 to 2,620 ft) for women. Races with two runs may be shorter.
  • Course length – Courses require an accurate means of measurement for length.
  • Gates – Gates consist of pairs of twin poles with a rectangular panel between the poles. Gates have an 8-metre (26 ft) or larger opening.


Equipment for the downhill is different from the alpine events that are lower-speed. Skis are 30% longer than those used in slalom, for more stability at high speed. They usually have rounded, low-profile tips rather than pointed tips. Ski poles are bent so as to curve around the body as the racer stays in a "tuck position" and may have aerodynamic, cone-shaped baskets. As in other alpine disciplines, downhill racers wear skin-tight suits to minimize drag, and helmets are mandatory.

In an attempt to increase safety, the 2003–2004 season saw the FIS increase the minimum sidecut radius for downhill skis to 45 metres (148 ft) from 40 metres (131 ft), and impose minimum ski lengths for the first time: 218 cm (7 ft 2 in) for men, and 210 cm (6 ft 11 in) for women.


In all forms of downhill, both at a local youth-level as well as the higher FIS international level, racers are allowed extensive preparation for the race, which includes daily course inspection and discussion with their coaches and teammates as well as several practice runs before the actual race. Racers do not make any unnecessary turns while on the course, and try to do everything they can to maintain the most aerodynamic position while negotiating turns and jumps.

Unlike slalom and giant slalom, where racers have the times of two runs combined, the downhill race is a single run. Times are typically between 1½ and 2½ minutes for World Cup courses and must be over 1 minute in duration to meet international minimum standards. Tenths and hundredths and, occasionally, thousandths of seconds count: World Cup races and Olympic medals have sometimes been decided by as little as one or two hundredths of a second, and ties are not unheard of.

The most successful all-time winners of World Cup downhill races are Annemarie Moser-Pröll of Austria (36 wins, 7 women's titles)[8] and Franz Klammer of Austria (25 wins, 5 men's titles).[9] Lindsey Vonn of the U.S. is currently dominant in woman's downhill racing with a lifetime total of 37 World Cup downhill wins and 7 women's titles.[10][11]


On some courses, such as the Lauberhorn course in Wengen, Switzerland, and the Hahnenkamm course in Kitzbühel, Austria, speeds of up to 150 km/h (93 mph) are common. Safety netting and padding are placed where race officials anticipate potential crashes. Despite these safety precautions, the ski racing community is well aware of the inherent risks of downhill skiing, for it is possible for racers to suffer serious injury or death while practising or competing. Three deaths among World Cup racers in recent years in downhill training or during a race were those of Austrians Gernot Reinstadler (1991) and Ulrike Maier (1994), and France's Régine Cavagnoud (2001). Also in 2001, Swiss downhiller Silvano Beltrametti was paralyzed in a high-speed crash and 1984 Olympic gold medalist Bill Johnson suffered permanent brain damage that eventually led to a crippling stroke which left him unable to function without assistance. Most recently Frenchman David Poisson was killed in a training crash in 2017. Speaking to media after Poisson's death, French former downhiller Luc Alphand noted that "eliminating risk entirely in downhill is impossible".[12]

Men's World Cup podiums

In the following table men's downhill World Cup podium results in the World Cup since the first season in 1967.[7] Winners receive a distinctive crystal globe.[13]

Season 1st 2nd 3rd
1967 Jean-Claude Killy Guy Périllat Franz Vogler
1968 Gerhard Nenning Jean-Claude Killy Karl Schranz
1969 Karl Schranz Henri Duvillard Heinrich Messner
1970 Karl Cordin Karl Schranz Henri Duvillard
1971 Bernhard Russi Bernard Orcel Karl Cordin
1972 Bernhard Russi Karl Schranz Mike Lafferty
1973 Roland Collombin Bernhard Russi Marcello Varallo
1974 Roland Collombin Franz Klammer Herbert Plank
1975 Franz Klammer Werner Grissmann Herbert Plank
1976 Franz Klammer Herbert Plank Bernhard Russi
1977 Franz Klammer Josef Walcher Bernhard Russi
1978 Franz Klammer Josef Walcher Herbert Plank
1979 Peter Mueller Peter Wirnsberger Toni Buergler
1980 Peter Mueller Ken Read Herbert Plank
1981 Harti Weirather Steve Podborski Peter Mueller
1982 Peter Mueller Steve Podborski Harti Weirather
1983 Franz Klammer Conradin Cathomen Harti Weirather
1984 Urs Raeber Erwin Resch Bill Johnson
1985 Helmut Hoeflehner Peter Mueller Karl Alpiger
1986 Peter Wirnsberger Peter Mueller Michael Mair
1987 Pirmin Zurbriggen Peter Mueller Franz Heinzer
1988 Pirmin Zurbriggen Michael Mair Rob Boyd
1989 Marc Girardelli Helmut Hoeflehner Daniel Mahrer
1990 Helmut Hoeflehner Atle Skardal Pirmin Zurbriggen
1991 Franz Heinzer Atle Skardal Daniel Mahrer
1992 Franz Heinzer Daniel Mahrer A.J. Kitt
1993 Franz Heinzer Atle Skardal William Besse
1994 Marc Girardelli Hannes Trinkl Patrick Ortlieb
1995 Luc Alphand Kristian Ghedina Patrick Ortlieb
1996 Luc Alphand Guenther Mader Patrick Ortlieb
1997 Luc Alphand Kristian Ghedina Fritz Strobl
1998 Andreas Schifferer Hermann Maier Nicolas Burtin
1999 Lasse Kjus Andreas Schifferer Werner Franz
2000 Hermann Maier Kristian Ghedina Josef Strobl
2001 Hermann Maier Stephan Eberharter Fritz Strobl
2002 Stephan Eberharter Fritz Strobl Kristian Ghedina
2003 Stephan Eberharter Daron Rahlves Michael Walchhofer
2004 Stephan Eberharter Daron Rahlves Hermann Maier
2005 Michael Walchhofer Bode Miller Hermann Maier
2006 Michael Walchhofer Fritz Strobl Daron Rahlves
2007 Didier Cuche Marco Buechel Erik Guay
2008 Didier Cuche Bode Miller Michael Walchhofer
2009 Michael Walchhofer Klaus Kroell Didier Defago
2010 Didier Cuche Carlo Janka Werner Heel
2011 Didier Cuche Michael Walchhofer Klaus Kroell
2012 Klaus Kroell Beat Feuz Didier Cuche
2013 Aksel Lund Svindal Klaus Kroell Dominik Paris
2014 Aksel Lund Svindal Hannes Reichelt Erik Guay
2015 Kjetil Jansrud Hannes Reichelt Guillermo Fayed
2016 Peter Fill Aksel Lund Svindal Dominik Paris
2017 Peter Fill Kjetil Jansrud Dominik Paris

Downhill at the "big competitions"

Medal table

Country Gold Silver Bronze All Host nation
Austria 27 12 26 65 7 (2 x WOG, 5 x WCH)
Switzerland 17 21 12 48 4 (4 x WCH)
France 8 9 6 21 3 (2 x WOG, 1 x WCH)
United States 7 9 10 26 6 (3 x WOG, 3 x WCH)
Germany (+West Germany, United Team of Germany) 6 4 7 16 2 (2 x WCH)
/ Canada 7 4 5 16 2 (2 x WOG)
Norway 4 12 2 18 1 (1 x WOG)
Slovenia 4 0 0 4 0
Italy 1 8 6 15 6 (2 x WOG, 4 x WCH)
Sweden 1 1 3 5 2 (2 x WCH)
Croatia 1 0 0 1 0
Liechtenstein 0 1 1 2 0
Australia 0 0 1 1 0
Czechoslovakia 0 0 1 1 0
USSR 0 0 1 1 0


Year Competition Venue Champions 2nd Place 3rd Place
2019 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Åre Kjetil Jansrud Ilka Štuhec Aksel Lund Svindal Corinne Suter Vincent Kriechmayr Lindsey Vonn
2018 Winter Olympic Games Pyeongchang Aksel Lund Svindal Sofia Goggia Kjetil Jansrud Ragnhild Mowinckel Beat Feuz Lindsey Vonn
2017 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships St. Moritz Beat Feuz Ilka Štuhec Erik Guay Stephanie Venier Max Franz Lindsey Vonn
2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Beaver Creek and Vail Patrick Küng Tina Maze Travis Ganong Anna Fenninger Beat Feuz Lara Gut
2014 Winter Olympic Games Sochi Matthias Mayer Tina Maze Christof Innerhofer not awarded Kjetil Jansrud Lara Gut
Dominique Gisin
2013 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Schladming Aksel Lund Svindal Marion Rolland Dominik Paris Nadia Fanchini David Poisson Maria Höfl-Riesch
2011 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Garmisch-Partenkirchen Erik Guay Elisabeth Görgl Didier Cuche Lindsey Vonn Christof Innerhofer Maria Riesch
2010 Winter Olympic Games Vancouver Didier Defago Lindsey Vonn Aksel Lund Svindal Julia Mancuso Bode Miller Elisabeth Görgl
2009 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Val d'Isere John Kucera Lindsey Vonn Didier Cuche Lara Gut Carlo Janka Nadia Fanchini
2007 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Åre Aksel Lund Svindal Anja Pärson Jan Hudec Lindsey C. Kildow Patrik Järbyn Nicole Hosp
2006 Winter Olympic Games Torino Antoine Dénériaz Michaela Dorfmeister Michael Walchhofer Martina Schild Bruno Kernen Anja Pärson
2005 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Bormio Bode Miller Janica Kostelić Daron Rahlves Elena Fanchini Michael Walchhofer Renate Götschl
2003 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships St. Moritz Michael Walchhofer Mélanie Turgeon Kjetil André Aamodt Corinne Rey-Bellet Bruno Kernen Alexandra Meissnitzer
2002 Winter Olympic Games Salt Lake City Fritz Strobl Carole Montillet Lasse Kjus Isolde Kostner Stephan Eberharter Renate Götschl
2001 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships St. Anton Hannes Trinkl Michaela Dorfmeister Hermann Maier Renate Götschl Florian Eckert Selina Heregger
1999 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Beaver Creek and Vail Hermann Maier Renate Götschl Lasse Kjus Michaela Dorfmeister Kjetil André Aamodt Stefanie Schuster
1998 Winter Olympic Games Nagano Jean-Luc Crétier Katja Seizinger Lasse Kjus Pernilla Wiberg Hannes Trinkl Florence Masnada
1997 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Sestriere Bruno Kernen Hilary Lindh Lasse Kjus Heidi Zurbriggen Kristian Ghedina Pernilla Wiberg
1996 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Seirra Nevada Patrick Ortlieb Picabo Street Kristian Ghedina Katja Seizinger Luc Alphand Hilary Lindh
1994 Winter Olympic Games Lillehammer Tommy Moe Katja Seizinger Kjetil André Aamodt Picabo Street Ed Podivinsky Isolde Kostner
1993 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Morioka Urs Lehmann Kate Pace Atle Skårdal Astrid Lødemel A.J. Kitt Anja Haas
1992 Winter Olympic Games Albertville Patrick Ortlieb Kerrin Lee-Gartner Franck Piccard Hilary Lindh Günther Mader Veronika Wallinger
1991 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Saalbach-Hinterglemm Franz Heinzer Petra Kronberger Peter Runggaldier Nathalie Bouvier Daniel Mahrer Svetlana Gladisheva
1989 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Vail Hans-Jörg Tauscher Maria Walliser Peter Müller Karen Percy Karl Alpiger Karin Dedler
1988 Winter Olympic Games Calgary Pirmin Zurbriggen Marina Kiehl Peter Müller Brigitte Oertli Franck Piccard Karen Percy
1987 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Crans-Montana Peter Müller Maria Walliser Pirmin Zurbriggen Michela Figini Karl Alpiger Regine Mösenlechner
1985 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Bormio Pirmin Zurbriggen Michela Figini Peter Müller Ariane Ehrat Doug Lewis Katharina Gutensohn
1984 Winter Olympic Games Sarajevo Bill Johnson Michela Figini Peter Müller Maria Walliser Anton Steiner Olga Charvátová
1982 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Schladming Harti Weirather Gerry Sorensen Conradin Cathomen Cindy Nelson Erwin Resch Laurie Graham
1980 Winter Olympic Games * Lake Placid Leonhard Stock Annemarie Moser-Pröll Peter Wirnsberger Hanni Wenzel Steve Podborski Marie-Theres Nadig
1978 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Garmisch-Partenkirchen Josef Walcher Annemarie Moser-Pröll Michael Veith Irene Epple Werner Grissmann Doris de Agostini
1976 Winter Olympic Games * Innsbruck Franz Klammer Rosi Mittermaier Bernhard Russi Brigitte Totschnig Herbert Plank Cindy Nelson
1974 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships St. Moritz David Zwilling Annemarie Pröll Franz Klammer Betsy Clifford Willi Frommelt Wiltrud Drexel
1972 Winter Olympic Games * Sapporo Bernhard Russi Marie-Theres Nadig Roland Collombin Annemarie Pröll Heini Messner Susan Corrock
1970 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Val Gardena Bernhard Russi Annerösli Zryd Karl Cordin Isabelle Mir Malcolm Milne Annemarie Pröll
1968 Winter Olympic Games * Grenoble Jean-Claude Killy Olga Pall Guy Périllat Isabelle Mir Jean-Daniel Dätwyler Christl Haas
1966 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Portillo Jean-Claude Killy Marielle Goitschel Léo Lacroix Annie Famose Franz Vogler Burgl Färbinger
1964 Winter Olympic Games * Innsbruck Egon Zimmermann Christl Haas Léo Lacroix Edith Zimmermann Wolfgang Bartels Traudl Hecher
1962 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Chamonix Karl Schranz Christl Haas Émile Viollat Pia Riva Egon Zimmermann Barbara Ferries
1960 Winter Olympic Games * Squaw Valley Jean Vuarnet Heidi Biebl Hans Peter Lanig Penny Pitou Guy Périllat Traudl Hecher
1958 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Bad Gastein Toni Sailer Lucile Wheeler Roger Staub Frieda Dänzer Jean Vuarnet Carla Marchelli
1956 Winter Olympic Games * Cortina d'Ampezzo Toni Sailer Madeleine Berthod Raymond Fellay Frieda Dänzer Anderl Molterer Lucile Wheeler

(*) - also served as WCH (GS and Combined were competed as well but did not count four WOG)

See also


  1. 50th International Ski Congress (July 2016), The International Ski Competition Rules (ICR) (PDF), Cancun: Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS), p. 83.
  2. First Tracks!! Online Ski Magazine (October 11, 2011). Canadian Ski Racers Train in Wind Tunnel.
  3. Editors (2017). "Cambridge Dictionary". Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 2017-02-16. skiing down slopes, rather than along level ground
  4. Editors (2017). "Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. Retrieved 2017-02-16. a: the sport of skiing on downhill trails—often used attributively. b: a skiing race against time down a trail
  5. "French skier sets speed record of 100 mph in downhill". USA Today. Associated Press. January 19, 2013. Retrieved January 8, 2018.
  6. "Wengen Downhill World Cup Race - Lauberhorn - SnowKings".
  7. "Downhill - Top ten racers since 1967". Archived from the original on 9 February 2018. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  8. International Ski Federation (FIS). Biography: Annemarie Moser-Pröll. FIS Legends. Retrieved on: 2011-12-27.
  9. International Ski Federation (FIS). Biography: Franz Klammer. FIS Legends. Retrieved on: 2011-12-27.
  10. International Ski Federation (FIS). Biography: Lindsey Vonn. FIS Legends. Retrieved on: 2011-12-27.
  11. The Australian (December 05, 2011). Lindsey Vonn wins 23rd World Cup downhill in Canada. Retrieved on: 2011-12-27.
  12. "French downhill skier David Poisson dies after training crash at Nakiska". 13 November 2017. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  13. International Ski Foundation. "FIS World Cup Trophy" (PDF). International Ski Federation. Retrieved 2018-02-10. The FIS World Cup trophy is a trophy manufactured solely for the International Ski Federation. The trophy, unique in terms of the glass refining techniques used, is exclusively awarded to the FIS World Cup winners of each discipline at the Season Finals.
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