The downhill event is the longest course in which the highest speed in Alpine skiing is reached, sometimes way over 130 km/h. It includes challenging turns, jumps and gliding phases. Each skier makes a single run down a single course and the fastest time determines the winner.
A Downhill course normally begins at or near the top of a mountain. Gates (flags) are farther apart than in other events (e.g. Slalom or Giant Slalom) due to the high-speed that requires more space to overcome the flags. The courses in the world’s most notable ski areas do not change a lot from year to year.
Due to safety reasons (crashes are extremely violent) a helmet is compulsory for downhill and some skiers choose to attach a chin guard. The poles used by skiers are curved to fit around the body to reduce air resistance.
Unlike Slalom and Giant Slalom, where skiers final classification is computed by two combined times over two runs, in the Downhill, the race is a single run. The time course is normally between 1.5 and 2.5 minutes for World Cup races and must be over 1 minute to meet international minimum standards. Tenths and hundredths and, occasionally, thousandths of seconds count: World Cup races and Olympic medals have sometimes been decided by as little as one or two hundredths of a second, and ties are not unheard of.
The best ‘downhillers’ ever in Word Cup events are both Austria’s Franz Klammer in men (25 race wins and 5 world titles) and Annemarie Moser-Proll in women (36 wins, 7 world titles).