Alpine skiing

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Alpine skiing (or downhill skiing) is the sport of sliding down snow-covered hills on skis with fixed-heel bindings. Alpine skiing can be contrasted with nordic skiing – such as cross-country, ski jumping and Telemark – in which skiers use free-heel bindings.

Alpine skiing may take place at a ski resort where mechanical ski lifts have been installed to transport skiers up the mountain and where snow is groomed, avalanches are controlled and trees are cut to create trails. Alternatively, Alpine skiers may pursue the sport in less controlled environments; this practice is variously referred to as ski touring, backcountry skiing or extreme skiing.

The sport is named for the European Alps where it originated in the late 1880s. Today, it is popular wherever the combination of snow, mountain slopes, and a sufficient tourist infrastructure can be built up, including parts of Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand, the South American Andes and East Asia.


Contents

History

Alpine skiing evolved from cross-country skiing when ski lift infrastructure was developed at mountain resorts to tow skiers back to the top of slopes, thus making it possible to repeatedly enjoy skiing down steep, long slopes that would be otherwise tiring to climb. The towing also allowed for development of equipment and technique, as it eliminated the need for cross-country capability, most notably allowing the use of hard boots and fixing the heel down for better ski control. Ski touring is the name for skiing that takes place outside ski resorts, using muscle power for ascents and requiring slightly different equipment.

The main technical challenges faced by skiers are simply how to control the direction and speed of their descent. The downhill skiers gain such control through making alternating left and right turns. Typically, novice skiers use a technique called the "snowplough/snowplow" to maintain comfortable speed and come to a stop by pointing one or both skis inward, but more advanced skiers use more difficult but more elegant and speedier methods. One popular method of turning is called parallel turn; it involves keeping both skis parallel to each other while alternating the weight distribution between them in order to force them to turn in a particular direction. The angle of the ski in relation to the slope (called edge angle) is also important as it determines the resistance (friction) created by the edges of the skis. Modern advanced skiing technique is dominated by "carving". To "carve" at a higher speed, a skier rolls his or her knees from side to side while keeping the upper body and hips facing down the hill and maintaining direction straight downward, so that only the knees and feet are involved into making turns. This technique allows modern "parabolic" skis to turn using the radial properties of the edges of the ski without skidding or slowing down, creating a smooth arc.

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