Of all the events at the Winter Olympics, few define the Games the way alpine skiing does. Athletes barrel down the mountain, weaving through gates finishing their runs in dramatic fashion with a wave of snow flying.
There are actually five individual events within alpine skiing: slalom, giant slalom, super giant slalom (Super G), downhill and the alpine combined. The first Olympic skiing event, added to the games in 1936, the alpine combined is one of the most exciting to watch, combining breathtaking speeds and technical mastery of the slopes.
As you might have guessed from the name, the alpine combined is a mix of two different events. For the event, skiers make one downhill run and one slalom run. Their times for both are aggregated, and the athlete with the best aggregated time wins. (It used to be calculated with an elaborate point system, which made following along as a spectator difficult, to say the least.)
The downhill run is all about speed. A skier zips down the longest course among all the alpine events, staying in bounds and navigating a few turns. The downhill also has the steepest drop of any alpine event, and it’s not unusual for athletes to top 90 miles per hour on their way down the mountain.
The slalom is a technical event. Skiers weave their way through a series of gates spaced close enough to require precise turns as they move down the course. They can’t miss a gate on their way down either, or they’ll be disqualified.
Team USA happens to include one of the best alpine skiers in the business, Mikaela Shiffrin. She took home gold in the combined at the world championships last year, and she was a silver medalist in the event at the 2018 Winter Olympics.