Also known as "Ski Racing.'' Five races for men. Five races for women. Some long and fast (downhill and super-G), some shorter and more technical (slalom and giant slalom). Once the Games begin, it's all skiing, all the time. The men's downhill pushes off on the morning after the Opening Ceremony and the men's slalom goes on the afternoon, one day before the flame is extinguished.
Mountains. Snow. Speed. Nothing says winter sports like a helmeted racer tearing down the side of a mountain, craggy peaks in the distance, cowbells clanging at the bottom. Of all the Winter Olympics sports, Alpine ski racing is the Winter Olympic-est. Ski racing in Vancouver will actually take place at the Whistler Blackcomb Resort, 70 miles (about two hours by car) north of the city, in one of the most spectacular Alpine settings in the world.
And there's this: For some reason, snowboarding has taken on the role as the Winter Olympics' edgy sport, while Alpine racing is regarded as the senior tour. Think again. Men's Alpine downhillers reach top speeds of more than 90 miles per hour while wearing nothing but a speed suit, helmet and flak jacket. They are balanced on 7-foot-long planks with razor-sharp edges for turning on a surface that's not really snow at all, but rather a form of pond ice created by injecting water in to the hillside.
Greatest moments in Olympic history?
The Games are Vonn's stage, even more so with the disclosure of her injury. She has owned the 2010 World Cup season in downhill (four victories) and super-G (two wins), while raising her career total to 29 victories, second only to Miller's 32. She won the '09 world titles in both downhill and super-G. Vonn is telegenic, earnest and immensely talented, precisely the type of athlete who wins Olympic gold medals and lands on Wheaties boxes. She is to these Games what
The weather often stinks in Whistler. Whistler is beautiful, but the base altitude is only 2,140 feet, making it one of the lowest major ski resorts in the world. That, combined with Whistler's proximity to the Pacific Ocean, leaves it susceptible to sketchy weather conditions, including rain, fog and epic snowstorms. Most ski-racing insiders will be surprised if the Alpine race schedule comes off without any postponements, and with the predictions of rain, fog and snow through the first weekend of the Games, some disruption in the schedule seems almost certain.
Men's downhill: Feb. 13