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Downhill Skiing

The downhill is an alpine skiing discipline. The rules for the downhill were originally developed by Sir Arnold Lunn for the 1921 British National Ski Championships.

"Downhill skiing" is also commonly a term synonymous with "alpine skiing" to denote the sport and recreational activity of alpine skiing in general.

More generally, the term may be used in any sport involving the speedy descent of a hillside. Examples include snowboarding, mountain biking, different skateboarding variants, such as and longboarding, freebording and mountain boarding and even municycling.

The "downhill" discipline involves the highest speeds and therefore the greatest risks of all the alpine events. Racers on a typical international-level course will exceed speeds of 130 kilometers per hour (80 mph) and some courses, such as the famous Hahnenkamm course in Kitzb├╝hel, Austria, speeds of up to 150 kilometers per hour (93 mph) in certain sections are expected. Racers must have great strength, stamina, technical expertise and courage if they wish to compete in the downhill.

The course
A typical downhill course begins at or near the top of the mountain on a piste that is closed off to the public and groomed specially for the race. Alternating red and blue gates are spaced great distances apart, but not out of sight from each other. The courses in the world's most famous ski areas are preset and predetermined and do not change much from year to year.

The course is designed to challenge the best skiers in a variety of tasks: skiing at high speeds over ice, through challenging turns, extreme steeps and on the flats. A good course will have all these elements in it, as well as some jumps intended to complicate matters and thrill both the racer and the onlooking crowds.

Equipment
Equipment for the downhill is a little bit different from lower speed alpine events. Skis are 30% longer than those used in the slalom, to provide added stability at high speed. Ski poles are bent so as to curve around the body as the racer stays in his "tuck position." Helmets are mandatory for head protection. Like in other alpine disciplines, downhill racers wear skin-tight suits to minimize aerodynamic drag.

In an attempt to increase safety, the 2003-2004 season saw the FIS increased the minimum turning radius for downhill skis to 45 m (from 40 m), and impose minimum ski lengths for the first time; 215 cm for men, 210 cm for women.

Risks
Safety netting and other forms of padding are placed in worrisome areas where race officials anticipate crashes. Despite these safety precautions, the ski racing community is well aware of the inherent risks in downhill skiing, for it is tragic, but not unheard of, for racers to suffer serious injury or death while practicing or competing. Despite the risks, both racers and eager spectators enjoy the thrills and challenges of the event, and from a racer's point of view, nothing matches the satisfaction and excitement of skiing a particularly challenging course well.


Source: Wikipedia


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