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The departure ( synonym : the downhill race) is a discipline of Alpine skiing . It is considered the supreme discipline and is the longest and (after the slalom ) the second oldest alpine ski competition. The rules were first established in 1921 by Sir Arnold Lunn for the British national championships.

Because of the high speed, the descent is considered the riskiest of all disciplines. In World Cup races , downhill skiers reach speeds of more than 130 km / h. At the Hahnenkamm race in Kitzbühel , 150 km / h can be reached in some cases, at the Lauberhorn race in Wengen up to 160 km / h. Downhill skiers must have great strength, endurance, excellent skiing technique and a lot of courage in order to be able to keep up with the world's best.


The Pista Stelvio in Bormio is one of the most difficult runs in the World Cup

A typical downhill run leads over a specially prepared slope that is closed off before the race and is then not accessible to ordinary skiers. The route is marked with monochrome goals, the width of the goals must be at least eight meters. There are no alternating colors (red and blue, e.g. in the giant slalom ) on the descent. In the meantime, it has become common practice to mark the boundaries of the route by coloring the snow.

The most famous racetracks are fixed and change little over the years. In addition to the Streif in Kitzbühel and the Lauberhorn descent in Wengen, the Oreiller-Killy slope in Val-d'Isère , the Saslong in Val Gardena and the Garmisch Kandahar descent are the classic slopes in the World Cup.

The race tracks are designed in such a way that the racers are challenged in different areas. You drive at high speed over often icy areas, through technically demanding curves, over extremely steep sections and also over flat sections where you have to slide as well as possible. Long jumps add to the difficulty. Downhill runs for the Olympic Winter Games and FIS competitions must be specially checked, whereby, in addition to the technical data, attention is also paid to the fact that these slopes are not only selective, but also technically particularly demanding and media-friendly. According to the FIS regulations, a descent should make demands on technique, courage, speed, risk and physical condition. The route must be able to be traveled at different speeds from start to finish.

The difference in altitude in downhill races for men in the World Cup, in the Continental Cups, at World Championships and at the Olympic Games is at least 800 meters and at most 1,100 meters, for women at least 500 and at most 800 meters.

The Lauberhorn run in Wengen has been the longest men's World Cup race track since it was founded in 1967 (track length 4,480 m, start at 2,315 m, finish at 1,287 m, height difference 1,028 m, running time approx. 2:30), the longest World Cup race track for women The Spielmoos run in Schwarzenberg was used for a long time (route length 3,063 m, start at 1,460 m, finish at 760 m, difference in altitude 700 m, route record 2: 08.71), until in 2007 it left the Di Prampero slope in Tarvisio ( Italy ) with a length of 3,920 m Difference in altitude 950 m).


FIS seal on a downhill suit
ÖSV downhill suit

The equipment in downhill skiing differs from that in the other disciplines. The skis are 30 percent longer than in slalom in order to offer the racers the greatest possible stability at high speed. The bars of the goals are flexible so that they offer as little resistance as possible when touched. The racers wear skin-tight ski suits to the air resistance to a minimum. The material must have a certain, precisely defined air permeability.

In races organized by the International Ski Federation (FIS) , only suits that have been checked by the FIS and provided with a seal on the left leg may be worn. Ski helmet and back protection are mandatory. The minimum radius for downhill skiing in the World and European Cup is 50 meters, the minimum length 218 cm for men and 210 cm for women. Furthermore, the ski must be no more than 95 mm wide at the tip and no more than 65 mm wide at the narrowest point. Until the 2011/12 World Cup season, the minimum radius was 45 meters, the minimum length 215 cm for men and 210 cm for women and the waist width at least 67 mm; a shovel width was not required.


Typical downhill squat, here Andrej Šporn

At all stages of the race, from local youth races to world cup races, racers are given the opportunity to take a close look at the racetrack. They discuss this with their coaches and teammates and then carry out several training runs in order to determine the best aerodynamic position and the fastest possible line.

In the current races (probably also in the "lower class" area) a training run on the full route is mandatory. This was only introduced at the FIS Congress in Stockholm in June 1959 and was first used before the Lauberhorn descent in 1960. But there was still a lot of criticism. One suggestion was that this training, known at the time as “trial downhill races”, should be carried out over three hours or it was found that many drivers would stop on the way and ride without a helmet and start number or that the referees themselves had been checked should. This has improved a lot over time, there are many permitted training sessions, they have also been referred to as “non-stop training”, and there is still a time-limited training drive without which the actual descent cannot take place.

In contrast to slalom and giant slalom, where the racers compete in two runs, there is only one run in the downhill run. The victory time in the World Cup is usually around two minutes. The times achieved have improved a lot. The times achieved at the beginning of the World Cup (1967) were z. B. at the Lauberhorn race over 3 minutes, currently it is only 2 minutes and 25 seconds.

If visibility and weather conditions are poor in the upper part of the route, the racing jury sometimes decides to carry out a so-called sprint descent in the lower part of the route, which is held in two runs. The difference in height must be at least 450 meters. Such a sprint descent was first held in 1990 in Kitzbühel, where it was even on the program from 1997 to 1999 in addition to the Hahnenkamm descent.

Since the introduction of the World Cup, the starting order has changed several times. At the beginning there were starting groups (group 1 from 1 to 15, group 2 from 16 to 30, group 3 from 31 to 45 etc.), with the numbers being drawn in each group (the same applied to slalom and giant slalom). A special feature was a regulation for fresh snow races in which so-called “star drivers” started in advance. These were recruited from the last starting groups, i.e. numbers around 60 and higher. Nowhere was it specified in which row the individual starting groups had to be lowered. This measure had the advantage that the established runners found a faster slope. The term "asterisk" refers to the fact that the runners concerned were marked with an asterisk in the ranking.

From the 1993/94 season there was an innovation (also in the Super-G ): the first 15 of the World Cup starting list could determine the starting number for the race themselves. The first runner was the first to choose the start number. [There was also a change in the slalom and RTL: there were only the first eight].

The next innovation came on May 31, 2002, when the FIS Congress in Portorož determined the “non-stop” (the result of the last training), starting from the 2003/04 season, with the best being thirtieth ( in the Super-G, however, the current No. 1 started as thirtieth).

However, this solution was not entirely optimal either, because the slope conditions quite often deteriorated so much that the best runners were rather disadvantaged. Bode Miller knew how to help himself in this regard by deliberately delaying his start in the decisive training run as part of the World Championships in Bormio 2005, receiving a cheap start number and winning. However, someone could have exaggerated, which would only have started after the first 30. On May 26th, 2006 the FIS board ended the "competition brakes" which had become more and more fashionable, from now on - as in the Super-G - the start numbers were valid due to the reversed World Cup start list. The main reason for the regulation was certainly the moment of tension (especially for TV broadcasts). Once again, however, the argument that those who started later had disadvantages and were practically "punished" for their top position could not be denied. From 2008/09 there was a modified mode with 3 groups, which was valid until the 2015/2016 season: the top 7 of the world rankings with numbers from 16 to 22, the next best seven from 9 to 15; the rest is divided from 1 to 8 and 23 to 30 (a draw determines the order in which these groups are divided).

At the FIS Congress in Cancun in June 2016, a new start mode was decided that will apply from the 2016/2017 winter season: The current ten best in the world rankings can choose an odd start number between 1 and 19. Athletes in positions 11 to 20 in the world rankings will then be drawn for the even start numbers between 2 and 20. Finally, the starting positions 21 to 30 will be drawn from among the athletes positioned on ranks 21 to 30 in the world rankings. This start mode also applies to the Super-G.


The risk of injury in downhill skiing is the highest of all alpine disciplines. Safety nets, padding and special fall zones are set up along the entire route so that injuries are as low as possible in the event of a fall. In contrast to the pioneering days, when the routes were only secured with bales of straw, fatal falls are extremely rare today. Sometimes the racing drivers suffer serious injuries (especially in the knee and back area ) despite all safety efforts , which result in a break of several months or the end of their sports career.

History shows that there were even plans to no longer organize downhill races for women because they were not up to the demands of modern routes - as early as 1953. It was said that only giant slaloms (in addition to slaloms) should be held. The pioneer of this idea was the Norwegian Association, which had also spoken out against ski flying. However, such an idea (with a giant slalom instead of a downhill run) had already been ventilated in 1951, which an FIS conference in Zurich (April 24-27) had to discuss.

Web links

Wiktionary: Departure  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Speed ​​record: 161.9 km / h in the descent (January 21, 2013) (driven by Frenchman Johan Clarey)
  2. Lauberhorn run
  5. FIS specification competition equipment 2012/13 ( Memento from October 4th, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 738 kB)
  6. FIS specification for competition equipment 2011/12 ( Memento from September 4, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 822 kB)
  7. ^ "From Lauberhorn to Hahnenkamm" with subtitles: "Trial downhill races are criticized" and "Alpine referees should also be checked"; “Sport Zürich”, No. 5 from January 13, 1960, pages 1 and 2.
  8. "Decisions of FIS Council in Cancun (MEX)" (PDF; 135 kB) ( Memento of the original from January 21, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  9. TW Flørenes, T Bere, L Nordsletten, S Heir, R Bahr: Injuries among male and female World Cup alpine skiers , Br J Sports Med 2009; 43: 973-978 doi : 10.1136 / bjsm.2009.068759 .
  10. Genealogie {Dead Link | url = | date = 2018-08 | archivebot = 2018-08-21 21:05:53 InternetArchiveBot}} (link not available)
  11. "No more downhill races for women?" In: Arbeiter-Zeitung . Vienna January 29, 1953, p. 8 ( - the open online archive - digitized).
  12. Column 3, below: "No more downhill skiing for women?" In: Arbeiter-Zeitung . Vienna March 16, 1951, p. 8 ( - the open online archive - digitized).