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Skiing is unquestionably one of the most exciting sports in the world for both skiers and spectators alike. It is the ultimate adrenaline rush.
Over history, skiing has evolved and developed into the exhilarating sport that it is today.
The most popular and highly pursued form of skiing is that of the alpine slides. This includes the Super Giant Slalom or Super-G as it’s also called, known to be the ultimate way of ever enjoying skiing that involves incredibly fast slides.
So what exactly is it? Let’s find out!
What is Super-G?
Taken to be the ultimate “speed event” along with the highly popular form of faster downhill, Super-G is a category within the alpine skiing discipline. Similar to downhill, the Super-G course consists of widely set apart gates that the racers must slide through.
The course is set in a way that makes it necessary for the skiers to take more turns than they would on a downhill course. However, the speed for both is still pretty much higher than the traditional giant slalom.
Each racer gets only a single run to clock in their best time. Super-G courses in the Olympics are usually laid out on the same slopes as that of the downhill. The only difference is the distinctively lower starting point than the conventional downhill.
How was it invented?
Sondre Norheim, the Norwegian skiing legend, first started the unique and fearless style of “skis with curved slides.” These included the familiar bindings with stiff heel bands that were carved out of willow and the popular “slalom turn style.”
The Super-G was included in the World Cup Series as recently as 1982, and in 1988, it was officially recognized as an Olympic sport. Whereas the discipline of Downhill skiing dates back to the 1920s.
Super-g and Downhill skiing
Before we go into more detail about the differences between Super-G and Downhill skiing, we’ll explain a little of what the ski disciplines are.
There are five major disciplines of skiing:
- Giant Slalom,
- Super-G and
- “a combined race which has a downhill race and two slalom runs.”
So what exactly is Downhill form of skiing?
The Downhill discipline compared to the Super-G is a very “straight-forward” race-event that is focused entirely on speed. The course that’s laid for Downhill skiing begins at the mountaintop and goes right down at the very bottom of the slope where it terminates.
Now, the course is full of gates that are constructed for the game. Racers have to go through these tackling speed bumps that include sudden turns, dips and flats and smaller jumps.
Skiers wear low-profile skis with rounded tips, they have a comparatively “shorter side-cut radius” and are longer than those worn for the Super-G. The ski-poles are a lot more flexible and easily bent, allowing the skiers to swerve or zigzag around the curves.
How does Super-G differ from Downhill?
Super-G skiing consists of both elements of the Giant Slalom and Downhill disciplines. The Super-G course though is significantly shorter with gates through which the skiers must swerve.
It concentrates more on the techniques of turning with skiers in a lower tucked position. The minimum point in the turning radius was increased to 45 m for the 2013/14 season.
The ski poles used in Super-G are straight and stronger, using tougher materials like metal and hardwood so that the racer can knock obstacles right out of their way. Ski lengths have been reduced to:
- Men – 205cm and
- Women – 200cm.
Athletes are usually required to wear the pads on the shins, knees, and arms.
The difference between Super-G and Downhill skiing
Track-visibility and inspection
One of the most obvious points of difference between the two disciplines of skiing is the length of the track. Super-G tracks are shorter than Downhill. Plus the race-courses and the tracks can be inspected in advance allowing for practice and strategies to be planned.
With Super-G, the tracks can only be inspected on the day of the race making it exceedingly difficult for the racers to develop a strategy for overcoming the hurdles etc.
The lap-time for both Downhill and Super-G also differs significantly. In downhill, racers have the benefit of running the same course twice and therefore can improve their overall lap-time.
But in Super-G, athletes don’t get the same benefits, they are allowed only one run through the entire course. That one run needs to be their best. This pressure increases the level of difficulty making it a demanding and challenging sport.
The starting points in Downhill races are usually set at an elevated angle (higher up) to increase speed rate. The Super-G, on the other hand, has its starting positions set at a lower slope due to the position of the gates that act as hurdles and obstacles.
There are also unseen speed bumps which reveal themselves as you start the run. This mainly emphasizes on the timing and technique developed to overcome these hurdles.
The race-lengths for the descents in Downhill races usually span over a range of approximately:
- Men – 800m – 1100m.
- Women – 500m – 800m.
Super-G competitions have a slope with a vertical drop measuring between:
- Men – 500m – 600m.
- Women – 400m – 600m.
The number of gates through which a skier must maneuver is:
- Men – 35.
- Women – 30.
With run speeds hitting around 80mph, running the Super-G is comparatively, one of the more dangerous skiing disciplines.
Although safety nets and appropriate paddings are a mandatory measure for riskier spots on the mountain-slopes, the techniques itself requires a high level of practice, knowledge, and skills to develop.
However, this is also precisely what makes this an incredibly popular sport that attracts numerous enthusiasts from all over the world annually and especially during the Olympic games. If you ever get the opportunity to watch this exhilarating sport, it is definitely worth it.