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Slalom skier Dave Ryding
Kayak slalom on the Isar near Munich
Slalom for two with inline skates
Opposing slalom driving with police motorcycles

In several sports, slalom or gate run is the rapid, repeated sequence of curves that are defined by a series of gates.


The word comes from the Norwegian slalåm . This is a composite term from the terms sla 'small slope or incline' and låm 'tow track', originally 'narrow path', that is originally 'ski track with evenly descended'. The first skiers in Morgedal still had the terms ufsilåm 'steep slope with one obstacle (jump, fence, hard evasive maneuver, gorge, cliff, etc.)' and uvyrdslåm ' path started high up with several such obstacles'. The term slalåm has undergone a number of changes in Norwegian, which led to misunderstandings.

Wilhelm Paulcke heard the word from the Norwegian Aars, who was staying in Freiburg, supposedly meaning "snake swing". So he explains it in the February 25, 1904 review of the new book Ski-Running by D. M. M. Crichton Somerville, W. R. Rickmers, and E. C. Richardson. In the third edition of his book Der Skilauf , published in 1905, he also used slalom as driving in serpentine lines and with neuter gender. In Norwegian (in the West Telemark dialect) the gender is female. With “Lauf” he was soon assigned the male gender in German, and the male and the neuter gender were indicated in dictionaries for 50 years.

As early as 1906, Henry Hoek reported in his book The Ski and His Sports Use of Paulcke's mistake about the "snake bow", which he attributes to the similar sound of slalom and snake . Hoek himself describes it as "uninterrupted descent in difficult, undulating terrain, where turns and arcs are necessary." In 1907, the Norwegian F. Huitfeldt described one in the German edition of his book Das Schilaufen in the chapter "Jumping, hill running and 'slalom'" Telemärkischen hill run as a pure downhill competition in difficult terrain over jump steps that require jumps of up to 16 meters. The description sounds like the uvyrdslåm mentioned above . He also wrote that a slalom on the ordinary race hills can hardly be held because they are too short and homogeneous. He himself only found one suitable job in Seljord . The slalom runs in Central Europe were held in very different forms according to the unclear descriptions. And there was no question of flag gates in Central Europe or Norway.

The first goals were set by Zdarsky in 1905 (see below) and he simply called the competition “racing”. It was not until the Englishman Lunn called the uncovered gate run in Switzerland “slalom” in 1922 and laid down the rules. The folkish Karl Prusik coined the term “Torlauf” in 1934.

Alpine skiing

Slalom poles with a red vertical gate. The drivers must alternately drive through the red and blue gates.
Same situation as above: The outside poles are no longer set up. The drivers must pass between the existing and the "removed" poles. Both bars remain in place for vertical goals.

The slalom is the oldest competition in alpine skiing and at the same time the slowest and most technically demanding. It has very short distances between goals that require quick changes of direction.


A course is set by setting a series of gates. The gates are formed by either two red or two blue poles. The racers must pass between the two poles, with the ski tip and feet correctly passing the gate. The width of the gates must be a minimum of four meters and a maximum of 6 meters. The distance from rotating pole to rotating pole of subsequent gates must not be less than six meters and no more than thirteen meters. The gates are inserted in various combinations to present the racer with a technical challenge. The World Ski Federation FIS has established a detailed set of rules that describe the permitted or prescribed combinations in an official race. As of the 2015/16 season, so-called external goals (also known as “directional goals”) will no longer be used.

Before the race, every racer has the opportunity to visit the course. The best line is discussed with passengers or the trainer . A competition consists of two runs, the running times of which are added.

Height difference and slope

The height difference in slalom races for men in the World Cup , Continental Cups, World Championships and Olympic Games is at least 180 meters and a maximum of 220 meters, for women at least 140 and a maximum of 200 meters. The slope of the slope is usually between 33 and 45%, but it can also be less than 33%. In exceptional cases, the gradient can be up to 52% on very short sections.

Start order

In the World Cup, in the second run, in which only the 30 fastest from the first run are allowed, the runners start in the reverse order of the intermediate result, i.e. the fastest runner from the first run starts last in the second run, which increases the tension. However, at the beginning of this regulation, which was introduced gradually from the mid-1980s, the process in the second round with this restriction "to the best 30" was designed in such a way that first the best 15 in overturned order, then the remaining ones in rank 16 to 30 have driven. Of course, this regulation benefited the better placed, while they sometimes have it more difficult when the condition of the runway deteriorates and the starting position is up to 15 numbers worse or the chances of an enormous improvement in rank for players who were classified further down increase. It was left to the incumbent FIS Race Director to choose the variant "30 to 1" or the other; the decisive criteria were an expected deterioration in the slope conditions, which would have been an extraordinary disadvantage for the leaders of the first run. In other competitions outside of the World Cup, especially in competitions at World Championships or the Olympic Games, the “rule of thirties” was not always applied.

Biggest differences

The Swiss Marc Berthod, who won the Adelboden slalom from 27th place on January 7, 2007, holds the record ahead of Benjamin Raich (Austria; on January 7, 1999 in Schladming, who was 23rd after the first run) ). In third place is the Swede Ingemar Stenmark (down from rank 22 on December 17, 1974 in Madonna di Campiglio), but at that time other criteria applied to the course of the second round, which those with the version “first from 15 to 1 and then from 16 up ”. The Swede Mattias Hargin improved by 27 places, albeit from 30th place to 3, on January 6, 2011 in Zagreb. This is followed by Steve Missillier (France), who came from 25th to 3rd in Val-d'Isère on December 12th, 2010 , and Sebastien Amiez (France) who improved from 22nd to 2nd on November 28th, 1998 in Aspen.

Slalom technique

Tilting pole technology at Anja Pärson

Until 1980 the slalom poles were rigid and inflexible, in the early years they were wooden poles. The racers were forced to make larger turns to avoid collisions with the bars. Tilting poles are used today that bend down when touched. This enables racers to ride in a direct fall line . They almost always hit the poles with their ski poles or shins so that they don't have to leave the ideal line . The runners wear special protective equipment, consisting of shin guards, hand guards, helmets and face protection. By switching to the tilting pole technique, the sport of slalom has changed fundamentally. The introduction of the carving skis increased the pace again. While the average speed in the 1950s was just under 23 km / h, today's athletes are traveling at 40 km / h.

For the 2003/04 season the FIS increased the minimum length of skis from 155 to 165 cm for men and from 150 to 155 cm for women. This had become necessary because after the gradual adoption of the carving technique by the drivers, there were often uncontrolled falls.

Night slalom and other variants

Such a slalom is driven at night or at dusk, otherwise all of the above rules apply. It is even said that the runners have a better view during these slaloms than during the day. The first night slalom in Austria took place on January 21, 1950 at Semmering . In later years that of Bad Wiessee became very well known. In the World Cup, Madonna di Campiglio was a pioneer, the one in Schladming , which now always takes place on the Tuesday after the Kitzbühel weekend, developed into a "great spectacle" . At the Alpine World Ski Championships there was the first in 1996 in the Spanish Sierra Nevada, this was the men's combination slalom.

A special form of slalom is the parallel slalom (also called city ​​event ) carried out in the knockout system .

For the European Cup final on March 19, 2017 in San Candido, a new formula was used for the women: After a "normal" first run, the top thirty drove a sprint goal run of 27 seconds, followed by the top 15 again this 27-second run. Course. So the winner was only determined after three runs.


The first gate run, organized by Mathias Zdarsky , took place on March 19, 1905 near Lilienfeld am Muckenkogel . However, the course of this race was similar to that of a modern giant slalom . The rules of the slalom were first set in 1922 by Sir Arnold Lunn for the British national championships in Mürren , Switzerland .

The establishment of the Arlberg-Kandahar races with an alpine combination consisting of slalom and downhill from 1928 meant that the International Ski Federation (FIS) included the alpine disciplines in its regulations in addition to Nordic skiing and in 1931 in Mürren under the designation 1. FIS Races held the first Alpine World Championships. Esmé MacKinnon and David Zogg were the first slalom world champions in history. However, the men's slalom was only run in one run (the warm weather did not allow a second run, the piste literally swam away in the February sun), so that no medals were awarded (in the various result tables there is the expression "unofficial" in brackets) and there were or are different opinions as to whether David Zogg actually became world champion.

Alpine skiing was Olympic for the first time at the 1936 Olympic Games . Only medals were awarded for the combination of downhill and slalom. So were only in 1948 with Gretchen Fraser or Edy Reinalter the first slalom Olympic champion determined history.

In 1980, at the first World Cup race after the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, the tilt bars were introduced.

Grass ski

The slalom in grass skiing differs from that in alpine skiing mainly in terms of the terrain. The grass ski slope is shorter and flatter. At world championships and world cup races it should have a height difference of 90 to 140 meters for men and 80 to 140 meters for women. In all other FIS competitions, there is a difference in altitude of 80 to 120 meters for the men and of 60 to 120 meters for the women. The slope is between 25 and 40%, it may be lower if necessary, but only higher in short sections. Tilting poles are also used for grass skiing, the number of which depends on the terrain. It should be around a third of the difference in altitude, for example 30 gates at a height difference of 90 meters. The gates should be set in such a way that the runner is able to drive through smoothly, but is technically challenged by different gate combinations and strongly varying curve radii. The exact requirements for course setting are laid down by the FIS in the International Competition Rules.

Slaloms at world championships and world cup races usually consist of two rounds. In the World Cup, only the best 30 men and the best 15 women of the first run are eligible to participate in the second run. The start is in the reverse order of the intermediate classification, so the fastest of the first run starts last. The end result is formed by adding both run times. The intermediate result after the first run will be used to award the FIS points. At world championships, after the best 30 or 15 of the first run, all other runners who completed the first run without errors start in the order of their running time. There is an opportunity to visit the course before the race.

Automobile slalom

Braking into a pylon lane during an automobile slalom.

In automobile slaloms , (not only) street-legal cars drive on specially cordoned-off courses, mostly in industrial areas, on large parking lots, airfields or on traffic training areas. Here, according to the regulations of DMSB and NAVC anyone on payment of an entry fee (eg. B. Club Slalom) participate, only a helmet is mandatory. A necessary driver's license, which is then valid all year round, can usually be purchased on site.

At every event, it is important to master the various tasks as quickly and error-free as possible. There may be individual gates, gate sequences, lanes, a series of individual marking points that have to be crossed alternately (“Swiss Slalom”) and half or full turns. The timing is accurate to 1/100 of a second, overturned pylons are punished with three, missed goals with 15 penalty seconds. So mistakes are to be avoided if you want to be successful. The start takes place standing with the engine running. A special form of slalom is the mountain slalom (analogous to mountain races ), where pylons are set up in addition to the natural course of the mostly curvy road.

Slalom in other sports

Slalom competitions are also held in canoeing , water skiing , windsurfing , snowboarding and skateboarding .

Web links

Wiktionary: Slalom  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Slalom  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual references and references to sources

  1. a b c d Erwin Mehl: When did the word slalom come into German? In: mother tongue. Volume 75, ed. from the Society for German Language, 1965, pp. 345–346.
  2. Deutscher Wintersport, Volume 13, No. 17, February 25, 1904, pp. 208–210.
  3. DM M. Crichton Somerville, W. R. Rickmers, E. C. Richardson: Ski-Running, London 1904 (1905 edition: )
  4. ^ Der Skilauf, 1905, p. 186.
  5. ^ Henry Hoek: The ski and its sporty use, 1906, p. 111 u. 124; from the 2nd edition on: Schi
  6. F. Huitfeldt: Skiing. F. Manning, Berlin 1907, p. 42; Revised German version of the book published in Norwegian in 1896 as a textbook for skiing .
  7. Column 1: «In a few lines», first article . In: Arbeiter-Zeitung . Vienna January 22, 1950, p. 9 ( - the open online archive - digitized).
  8. "Hold fast at the European Cup", Kleine Zeitung Kärnten, from March 20, 2017, p. 36/37.
  9. FAZ February 21, 2014, p. 29: Circus of the weird birds