Traditional competitive skiing comprises four events: (1) downhill, a steep descent in a race against time; (2) slalom, raced on a sharply twisting course marked off by flags; (3) the ski jump, in which contestants leap from specially prepared jump slopes, and are judged on both distance and form; and (4) cross-country, in which skiers race over a long course (ranging from 10 km/6 mi to 50 km/31 mi in the Olympic games) on which the terrain and obstacles test stamina and maneuverability. The first two are known as Alpine events, the latter two as Nordic events.
Alpine competition now also includes the combined, with both downhill and slalom races; the giant slalom and the supergiant slalom, which resemble the slalom but use longer, less twisted courses that permit faster speeds, ski cross or skiercross, in which several skiers race down a specially prepared course; and the freestyle events of moguls (a downhill race in which a score for form for jumps over large bumps, or moguls, is combined with the elapsed time), aerials (acrobatic twists, flips, and the like performed in the air), and ski halfpipe (acrobatic aerial moves performed along a halfpipe course). Women compete in all but the ski jump. An Olympic event known as the Nordic combined comprises cross-country racing and ski jumping, and the biathlon events combine cross-country skiing with rifle shooting.
Snowboarding is a form of skiing that uses a single wide ski, or snowboard, and no poles, and has similarities to surfing and skateboarding. Originating in the 1960s, it grew rapidly in popularity from the late 1980s, and is now done at most ski resorts. Snowboarding became an Olympic sport in 1998; acrobatic competition on a halfpipe course and racing on giant slalom and snowboardcross courses comprise the current events. A splitboard is a snowboard that may be separated lengthwise to form a pair of skis.
Even newer is skiboarding, which originated in the late 1990s and employs shorter and wider skis that are usually used without poles. Skiboarding offers the skier some of the sensations of ice skating or in-line roller skating. It is generally easier to learn than skiing, in part because skiboards are easier to maneuver. In snowkiting a parachutelike airfoil (the "kite") and the wind are used to propel a skier or snowboarder across the snow and through the air.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.