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Giant slalom (GS) is an alpine skiing and Alpine snowboarding discipline. It involves skiing between sets of poles (gates) spaced at a greater distance to each other than in slalom but less than in super G.
Giant slalom and slalom make up the technical events in alpine ski racing. This category separates them from the speed events of super G and downhill. The technical events are normally composed of two runs, held on different courses on the same ski run.
The vertical drop for a GS course must be 250–450 metres (820–1476 ft) for men, 250–400 m (820–1312 ft) for women. The number of gates in this event is 56–70 for men and 46–58 for women. The number of direction changes in a GS course equals 11–15% of the vertical drop of the course in metres, 13–15% for children. As an example, on a 300 m (984 ft) vertical course, there would be between 33 and 45 direction changes for an adult race.
Although not the fastest event in skiing, on average a well trained racer may hit speeds of 50+ mph. Faster events such as Super G, can reach speeds 80+ mph, and slower events such as slalom averaging out at 25- mph.
Giant slalom skis are shorter than super G and downhill skis, and longer than slalom skis.
In an attempt to increase safety for the 2003–04 season, the FIS increased the minimum sidecut radius for giant slalom skis to 21 m (69 ft) and for the first time imposed minimum ski lengths for GS: 185 cm (72.8 in.) for men and 180 cm (70.9 in.) for women. A maximum stand height (the distance from the snow to the sole of the boot) of 55 mm (2.165 in.) was also established for all disciplines.
In May 2006, the FIS announced further changes to the rules governing equipment. Beginning with the 2007–08 season, the minimum radius for GS skis was increased to 27 m for men and 23 m for women. Additionally, the minimum ski width at the waist was increased from 60 to 65 mm, and the maximum stand height for all disciplines was reduced to 50 mm. The best skiiers tended to use a bigger sidecut radius, like Ted Ligety 29m and Lindsey Vonn 27m.
For the 2012-13 season the FIS increased the sidecut raidius to 35m and the minimal length to 195 cm. Many athletes critizised this decision. Often David Dodge was cited. Dodge argues that FIS used studies which do not copmrise a scientific proof. He states that it is well known that if one tips the ski 7° more the 35m ski will have the same turning radius as the 28m ski. He states as well that knee injuries are decreasing since the 1990s, when carving skies started to be used.
The giant slalom was first run in the world championships in 1950 in Aspen, Colorado, and debuted at the Winter Olympics in 1952 in Oslo, Norway. The GS has been run in every world championships and Olympics since.
Upon its introduction, giant slalom briefly displaced the combined event at the world championships, until it returned in 1954 in Åre, Sweden. The combined did not return as an Olympic event until 1988 at Nakiska, the alpine skiing venue west of Calgary, Alberta.