Men and Women both compete in:
The Downhill skiing event is one of the highlights of the Winter Games. The Downhill course is the longest and the fastest, featuring rapid drops in altitude that will challenge the racers as they maneuver through the course. There are three different "Slalom" races of varying length which do not feature the speed of downhill runs but require precise turning to maneuver through the gates. The Slalom is the shortest course and requires the sharpest turns while the Giant Slalom and Super-G (or Super Giant Slalom) are closer to the length and speed of downhill while still requiring the precise turns of the Slalom. In Downhill and Super-G, competitors only get one run through the course and the fastest time takes home gold. In Slalom and Giant Slalom two different courses are devised for skiers to navigate and the times are added together. The "Combined" event features one run through a downhill course and one run through a slalom course with the two times added together. This year, 77 different nations are scheduled to have athletes participate in ski events with the US and Austria fielding the most with 20.
Austria has been traditionally dominant in Alpine Skiing, and has almost twice as many medals all-time (105) as the next closest nation (Switzerland, 56). Austrian skiers have earned at least one medal in every Olympics since 1948 while the Swiss have medalled at least once since 1968. The United States won the most skiing medals in Vancouver in 2010, taking home 8 of 29.
The biggest news from the US ski team has come from the women's side where Lindsay Vonn will not be competing because of a knee injury. America's best hope on the women's side is Julia Mancuso who took Silver in Downhill and Combined in Vancouver. On the men's side, Bode Miller and Ted Ligety have won the last two Golds in Combined with Miller having 5 medals to his name. This will be Bode's fifth Olympics and he is as close as it comes to a household name in American skiing.
Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal currently leads the World Cup standings with Austrian Marcel Hirsher and Frechman Alexis Pinturault in the mix. The American ski program has drastically improved over the last 20 years, so you have to like Miller, Ligety and Mancuso's chances to bring home medals.