Chances are that when you think of skiing, you’re actually thinking of Alpine skiing. It’s basically going downhill, with a little help from your lower body and a lot of help from gravity, on a pair of wooden planks.
At the Winter Olympics, there are four events under the umbrella of downhill skiing. There are four individual events under the umbrella of Alpine skiing—Downhill, Super Giant Slalom (the Super G), Giant Slalom and Slalom. The first two are all about speed, while the latter two events are considered more technical as they require athletes to perform a series of fast turns through narrow gates on their way down the mountain. Though all four might look similar to the casual observer, each event is different, requiring a different skill set from athletes.
Here, let’s focus on two of these events, the Super G and the Giant Slalom.
Like the Slalom, skiers in the the Giant Slalom race down the mountain through a series of narrow gates placed at different points along the ski run. However, these gates are 10 meters further apart than the gates in the Slalom event because it’s a longer course that requires a delicate mix of speed and technical ability to pull off tight turns between the gates. Skiers make two runs for each event, and their times for both are combined.
The Super G, as the Super Giant Slalom is known, is considered a speed event, and each skier makes only one run. The course is longer than the one for the Giant Slalom with a higher vertical drop. Athletes still have to navigate their way through a series of gates on the way downhill—more gates than they do in the Giant Slalom—but the gates are further apart to account for the speed.
The most recognizable name for Team USA is Mikaela Shiffrin. Just 26, she’s third all-time in the medal count among American skiers. She won gold in the Giant Slalom in 2018. She’s the favorite in the women’s Giant Slalom this year too with odds for another gold medal set at +250.
Hailing from Vermont, Ryan Cochran-Siegle is making his second appearance at the Winter Olympics. He won the Super G at the World Cup in 2020, and looks to be rounding into the best form of his career just in time for the 2022 games. He’s got the best odds of any skier among the men for Team USA in the Super G, sitting at +1500 to take home gold in that event.