20+ Differences Between Super G And Downhill (Explained)

Alpine skiing is a well-known sport in the Winter Olympics which mainly involves skiing down the snow-covered mountains in the fastest time possible.

It can be classified into six categories, of which two events – the Super G and the Downhill focus on the speed more than the technique. 

Both of these events do look similar, but they are not. Despite being the only two speed-based events, the difference is somewhat noticeable on many grounds.

differences between super g and downhill

Comparison between Super G Skiing and Downhill Skiing

ParametersSuper G SkiingDownhill Skiing
First IntroducedSuper G was introduced in 1982.Downhill was introduced in 1921.
Straight AreasThere are no or very few straight areas in super G.The straight areas are more in downhill than the super G.
Vertical DropIn super G, the drop is between 350 m(1,150 ft.) to 650 m(2,130 ft.)for men and 350 m(1,150 ft.) to 600 m(1,970 ft.) for women. In downhill, it is between 450 m(1,480 ft.) to 1100 meters(3,610 ft.) for men and 450 m(1,480 ft.) to 800 m(2,620 ft.) for women.
The incline of the Starting PointThe starting incline is lower than the incline in downhill.For downhill, the starting point is at a steeper incline.
Trial RunsNo prior trial runs can be done in super G event.Skiers perform practice runs multiple times in prior for downhill.
Number of AttemptsOnly one run is allowed per participant.Depending on the course, downhill events can be one run or two runs per participant.
EquipmentSuper G skiers wear shorter skis with sturdier ski poles.Downhill skiers wear longer skis with flexible and even bent ski poles.
Minimum Number of GatesMinimum 30 to 35 gates are placed for a super G race for women and men respectively.There is no minimum number of gates to place in downhill events.
Width of GatesOpen gates in super G are 6 m(20 ft.) to 8 m(26 ft.) wide. Vertical gates can be between 8 m(26 ft.) to 12 m(39 ft.) wide.All the gates in downhill skiing are open gates which are 8 meters(26 feet) wide.
Average SpeedRacers can gain a speed of 130 kmph(81 mph).Downhill racers reach speeds as high as 153 kilometers per hour(95 miles per hour).
Contact with the PolesSkiers can make contact with poles to take turns or remove obstacles in a super G race.Touching the gates is avoided by the skier to not lose any of the speed gained.

The Major Differences Between Super G Skiing and Downhill Skiing

What is Super G Skiing?

Super G skiing refers to the term ‘Super Giant Slalom.’ The course for Super G is longer than the regular slalom event and the giant slalom event but shorter than downhill. This event is unique in itself as it also focuses less on the technique as compared to the other slalom events.

The skiers have to pass through ‘gates’- defined by poles and banners in a zigzag fashion. They only make one attempt to reach the goal as fast as possible.

What is Downhill Skiing?

Downhill skiing was originally introduced as a winter sport in 1921, making it the oldest of all forms of alpine skiing. The course is designed in such a way that the skiers have to rush down the course and reach the goal in the fastest time.

The gates are placed on defining the route of the course, and most of the course is a straight path so as to help skiers gain more speed. The length of the course is also the longest compared to other alpine skiing disciplines.

all about super g and downhill

Contrast Between Super G Skiing and Downhill Skiing


  • Super G Skiing- Super G was introduced in 1982, making it about 40 years old.
  • Downhill Skiing- Downhill was introduced in 1921, making it more than a hundred years old.

Course Design

  • Super G Skiing- Super G, being a longer slalom event, continues to focus on players passing through the gates by taking turns. The straight areas are less or none at all.
  • Downhill Skiing- Downhill skiing does not focus on the players taking turns at every gate, but they still need to pass them as they define the route. There are more straight areas so that skiers do not lose velocity for taking turns often.

Vertical Drop:

  • Super G Skiing- In super G, the vertical drop is between 350 meters(1,150 feet) to 650 meters(2,130 feet) for men. For women, the vertical drop is between 350 meters(1,150 feet) to 600 meters(1,970 feet).
  • Downhill Skiing- In downhill, the vertical drop of the course is longer, i.e. between 450 meters(1,480 feet) to 1100 meters(3,610 feet) for men and 450 meters(1,480 feet) to 800 meters(2,620 feet) for women.
course design of super g and downhill

The Starting Position

  • Super G Skiing- For super G, the skiers start from a less inclined or flatter slope so as to gain speed at a lower rate and allow them to take turns through the gates.
  • Downhill Skiing- The starting position for downhill skiing is a lot steeper. This helps the skier gain speed quicker since the focus is not on taking turns unless the course has them.

Practice Runs

  • Super G Skiing- The skiers do not get to practice on the course in Super G at all. Even on race day, they can survey it for a limited time. The skiers then have to strategize how they will clear the course by self-analysis and discussion with their respective coaches.
  • Downhill Skiing- Here, the skiers get to practice the course multiple times before the race day, allowing them a better picture of how they will be performing.

Number of Runs:

  • Super G Skiing- The skiers only get one run to complete the course in the fastest time.
  • Downhill Skiing- Downhill skiing also allows only a single run to complete the course in the shortest time. However, it can be two runs as well, sometimes.

Width of the Gates:

  • Super G Skiing- The open gates in super G are 6 meters(20 feet) to 8 meters(26 feet). In the case of vertical gates, the width can be between 8 meters(26 feet) to 12 meters(39 feet).
  • Downhill Skiing- All the gates in downhill skiing are open gates with a width of 8 meters(26 feet).

Minimum Number of Gates:

  • Super G Skiing- The minimum number of gates in super G is 30 for women and 35 for men.
  • Downhill Skiing- There is no minimum number in particular as the gates define the route, and the number will depend on the length and terrain of the course.

Contact with the poles:

  • Super G Skiing- The skiers can make contact with the poles or use their ski poles to block. The purpose is to pass all the gates.
  • Downhill Skiing- The skiers have to avoid the poles here because any contact will make them lose their speed which is what downhill is primarily about.
purpose of gates in super g and downhill

Average Speed

  • Super G Skiing- Although, like slalom and giant slalom, taking turns does not allow the skiers to catch speed as much as downhill; they have reached a speed of 130 kilometers per hour(81 miles per hour).
  • Downhill Skiing- Fewer turns in downhill skiing allow the skiers to reach speeds as high as 153 kilometers per hour(95 miles per hour).

Equipment Used

  • Super G Skiing- For Super G, the skis have to be a minimum of 205 centimeters(80.7 inches) for men and 200 centimeters(78.7 inches) for women. The ski poles are less flexible and sturdier.
  • Downhill Skiing- The minimum length of the skis is 218 centimeters(86 inches) for men and 210 centimeters(83 inches) for women. The longer length is to keep the skier stable as he gains speed. The ski poles are more flexible and even bent to help the skiers cross the course.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. Which form of skiing is the most popular?

There are many kinds of skiing events, like alpine skiing, cross-country, freestyle, and speed skating. Overall, downhill skiing is the most popular of all styles.

Q2. How is Super G different from giant slalom and regular slalom?

Firstly, the length of the Super G course is the longest of all three slalom courses. Secondly, the distance between the gates is more than that in giant slalom. Lastly, the super G is more speed-centric, while the other two are technical.

Q3. Who is the best super G racer?

Hermann Maier from Austria has won 24 times in super G World Cup races. From Women, Lindsey Vonn from the US has won 28 times in super G World Cup races.

Q4. Who among men and women are the best downhill racers?

Franz Klammer from Austria has won 25 times in downhill World Cup races. From Women, Annemarie Moser-Proll from Austria has won 36 times in downhill World Cup races. Lindsey Vonn has broken this record from the US with 37 victories.

Q5. Is downhill skiing the most played snow sport?

Considering all the snow sports and all age groups, downhill skiing accounts for three-fourths of all the participants, making it the most popular snow sport of all.

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