What is Alpine Skiing?

Mary McMahon

Alpine skiing is a winter sport which involves skiing down snow-covered hills and mountains. The sport has been around since the mid-1800s, although it greatly increased in popularity when ski lifts to carry skiers to the top of mountains were developed. Today, most regions of the world with mountains and snow offer alpine skiing in the winter to those who are interested, along with cross country skiing and other winter sports. Alpine skiing is also an event in the Winter Olympics; skiers may compete in a number of events within this discipline.

Alpine skiing requires special boots that fasten onto the skis via bindings.
Alpine skiing requires special boots that fasten onto the skis via bindings.

Skiing itself is an ancient method for getting around and enjoying winter weather. Archaeological evidence suggests that people started strapping flat blades to their feet thousands of years ago to help them slide across the snow, rather than slogging through it. Cross country skiing, which involves traveling over relatively flat terrain, is a very old winter sport, especially in Northern Europe. In fact, many Northern European militaries used to require skiing as part of their training.

Alpine skiing requires some training.
Alpine skiing requires some training.

In the mid-1800s, Norwegians first started skiing downhill in large numbers. Alpine skiing requires the athlete to control the speed and direction of his or her descent, successfully navigating around hazards and arriving safely at the bottom. With the assistance of a ski lift, it is possible to repeat a course multiple times in the course of a day of alpine skiing without having to hike to the top of the trail. This winter sport does require some training and skill; novice skiers usually take a few hours of class before plunging into the sport on their own, ensuring that they understand the basic principles.

A typical alpine skiing facility will offer courses at varying degrees of difficulty. Novice skiers can follow relatively simple ski runs while they become accustomed to the sport, while more talented skiers can explore more challenging trails which require sharp turns and serious focus and concentration. Some skiers compete on slaloms, sharply turning courses with obstacles where the goal is to get to the bottom first. Slalom events are common during the Winter Olympics.

If you are interested in learning alpine skiing, seek out a ski facility which offers basic training, along with beginning trails. You may want to go with a group, as it can be more fun, and look into equipment rentals at the site so that you can decide whether or not you like the sport before you invest in supplies and materials. Make sure to ask the ski instructor about any concerns you have before you start, as all instructors want their students to be confident and safe on the trails. Work at your own pace, and while you are encouraged to push yourself to improve, don't step outside your comfort levels, as alpine skiing can be dangerous.

Alpine skiing involves skiing down mountains and hills.
Alpine skiing involves skiing down mountains and hills.

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Discussion Comments


Having been the victim of a late-in-the-season puddle..alpine skiing can HURT! But that didn't stop me, it is very fun! The first couple of times down the bunny slope is scary but it doesn't take long before it turns into fun, just keep an eye out for melting spots..you come to a dead stop, or at least your skies do!

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