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Para-alpine skiing 101

Slalom and giant slalom were the only two alpine events at the first Paralympic Winter Games, held in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, in 1976. Today, athletes with a physical disability compete in all five alpine events: downhill, super combined, super-G, slalom and giant slalom, and use some of the same venues as the women's World Cup circuit.

Para-alpine skiing has three main classification categories: visually impaired, standing and sitting. Male and female athletes with a physical disability such as a spinal-cord injury, cerebral palsy, amputation and visual impairment compete within these categories.

* Para-alpine skiing is governed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) through the International Paralympic Alpine Skiing Committee (IPCAS). The rules of the International Ski Federation (FIS) are used alongside IPC rules and regulations for all para-alpine events.

Categories:

Visually impaired

B1 - Totally blind (no sight)
B2 - Partially sighted (visual acuity of 20/60 - limited sight)
B3 - Partially sighted (visual acuity above 20/60 to 6/60 - more sight than B2)

In all visually impaired classes, a guide is mandatory; the competitor and the guide are a team. Blind skiers are directed down the course by guides skiing in front using only voice signals or radio communication.

No physical contact between the guide and competitor is allowed during the race. The distance between guide and athlete in technical events (slalom and giant slalom) must not exceed two direction changes, and in speed events (downhill and super-G) must not exceed one direction change.

In partially sighted classes (B2 and B3), the guide must ski in front of the athlete. For totally blind classes (B1), the guide can ski either in front of or behind the athlete.

All competitors in the completely blind class (B1) must wear approved blacked-out goggles during the competition.

Standing

LW1 - double above-knee amputees, or impairments that cause similar loss of limbs

LW2 – single above or below knee amputation, or impairments that cause a similar loss of limb

LW3 - double below-knee amputees, or impairments that cause a similar loss of limbs

LW4 - single below knee amputation, or impairments that cause a similar loss of limb

LW5/7 – double above or below elbow amputation, or impairments that cause a similar loss of limb

LW6/8 - double above or below elbow amputation, or impairments that cause a similar loss of limb

LW9 – equivalent activity limitation of amputation in both upper and lower limbs

Athletes in certain classifications (example, single-leg amputees who ski without a prosthesis and sit-ski users) use special poles called outriggers. Outriggers have short ski blades on the end and help the skier with balance.

A complete listing of the classifications and other information can be found at: http://www.paralympic.org/alpine-skiing/rules-and-regulations/classification

Sitting

LW10 - mono skiers (high degree of paraplegia, no muscles in lower body)
LW11 - mono skiers (lower degree of paraplegia, with muscles in lower body)
LW12 - mono skiers (lower degree of paraplegia, lower incomplete paralysis)

Some athletes with a physical disability compete from a sitting position using a sit-ski, also called a mono-ski. As the name suggests, mono-skis have a specially fitted chair over a single ski. The chair includes seat belts and other strapping, as well as a suspension device to minimize wear and tear on the skier's body.

Disciplines:

Downhill: Skiers are timed as they race down a long, steep course that may include turns and jumps. They must pass through a few gates that are used as checkpoints. The penalty for missing a gate is disqualification. Each athlete is allowed only one run down the course. The athlete’s time determines the order of finish.

Super-G: Super giant slalom (or super-G) combines the speed of downhill with the turns of giant slalom. Like downhill, it is considered a speed event where racers take one run down the course. The athlete’s time determines the order of finish.

Slalom: Slalom is a technical event. The course is shorter than other alpine skiing events and has a high number of gates (55-75 gates on a men's course and 40-60 on a women's course). The penalty for missing a gate is disqualification. Each athlete completes two runs on the same day on different courses. Times from the two courses are added to determine the order of finish.

Giant slalom: The giant slalom is also a technical event. In comparison to the slalom, the course is longer, there are fewer turns and the turns are wider and smoother. The number of gates is determined by the vertical drop and the penalty for missing a gate is disqualification. Each athlete completes two runs on the same day on different courses. Times from the two courses are added to determine order of finish.

Super combined: The super combined event is a combination of one run of a speed event and one run of slalom.  Athletes' combined times determine the order of finish.