Winter Sports

Winter sports, the most spectacular of which is Alpine skiing, are most popular in Europe, but there is also a big following in the U.S., Canada, Japan and, during the southern winter, in New Zealand, Australia and Argentina. The more minor winter sports such as luge, bobsleigh, ski jumping, freestyle skiing, speed skating and biathlon become high profile during the Winter Olympics, otherwise we do not cover them routinely, filing stories only on merit, for example, serious accidents, drugs or other scandals. We cover Nordic world championships. Ice hockey, outside the north American NHL which Reuters covers separately and in depth, also features on Reuters file at world championship pool A level. We report figure skating, popular with television audiences around the world, at World, European and Four Continents championships. All these sports throw up colourful characters from time to time as well as stories of deadly rivalry, triumph over adversity, injuries and oddballs. Drug scandals have also hit winter sports in recent years, particularly the endurance events such as Nordic skiing. Scoring controversies have dogged figure skating.

Alpine skiing (topics code ALPS) is the most internationally popular of the winter sports and we cover it competitively and in depth. As in tennis, women’s races are given equal importance with men’s. It is the frontline event at the Winter Olympics, stages world championships every two years and holds World Cup races throughout the northern season leading to trophies in each of the disciplines and overall. The World Cup usually starts at the beginning of the northern hemisphere winter, sometimes as early as end October on high glaciers. Occasionally races are run during the southern winter in Argentina and New Zealand but most action takes place in Europe, the U.S. and Canada. The weather plays a key part in Alpine skiing, sometimes frustratingly postponing events for several days and should usually be mentioned in copy as it affects the way competitors perform. Conditions can change during a race. Types of snow – icy, drifting, slush – are also important. In copy include some basic course information, such as name, length, number of gates in slaloms etc.

Alpine skiing comprises four disciplines:

  1. Downhill – Dangerous and glamorous, downhillers seek to find the quickest way down a steep course or piste. Falls can be spectacular and injuries serious. Four competitors have been killed in training or competition in the last 12 years. The discipline is not for the faint-hearted. Competitors are timed from top to bottom. Competitors have two training days before the race, allowing them to become familiar with the slope. The best final training timings determine the first 30 to start the race. Starting early tends to be an advantage as the piste deteriorates with every run. We cover these training runs, giving timings and descriptive.
  2. Slalom – The most technical of the disciplines, combining pinpoint control with balance and speed as skiers negotiate a slope round tightly packed poles, known as gates. If a competitor misses a gate he or she is disqualified. There are two legs, the first involving all competitors, the second only the 30 with the best times from the first leg. There is normally a gap of two to three hours between each leg. The two legs are run over differently marked courses on the same hill and competitors have no practice runs. The top 30 go in reverse order for the second leg and times from the two legs are added together, so the winner is not known until the final skier has descended. Competitors seeking to improve their first-leg times may overcompensate leading to last-minute falls and adding to the excitement. Each season several slalom races are held in the evening, on floodlit pistes.
  3. Grand Slalom – Run as for slalom over two legs but on a longer course with gates further apart so skiers mover faster and turns are less tight.
  4. Super-G – Previously known as super-giant slalom, usually run on a downhill slope or part thereof, with gates far apart for speed with only a touch of technical difficulty. Run over one leg like the downhill and almost as fast. There are no training runs.

Competitors earn World Cup points for placings down to 30, as follows:


Points are added at the end of the season and competitors with the most points in a particular discipline win that cup. At the end of the season there is a final weekend of racing all disciplines and usually the winner is decided then, though some strong competitors may have won enough points to go into the final as champions. The male and female skier with the highest points total over all the disciplines wins the most coveted “overall” trophy – which is actually a crystal globe.

It is rare for skiers to excel in both downhill and slalom as they require different training and technique. Each season points are given for a few combined events where the skiers’ performances in a slalom and downhill are added together. This is often won by a good all-round skier who has failed to make the podium in either discipline.


World Cup events are staffed, winners (and second and third placings if immediately available) filed urgently either from the event or from London desk off television and copy sent quickly. For downhill and super-G file four pars after the winner bulletin, then story updates, factbox on winner (usually from desk) nd any sidebars. Off piste stories about skiers, venues etc are always welcome and previews and aftermath stories regulation.

In slalom and giant slalom, timings and brief descriptive should be filed after the first leg. Do not say someone “won” the first leg but that they were leading. Urgent winner, second and third with four para quick lead and coverage as for downhill after the second leg. Results may at first be provisional but we should not wait for the official timings as these may take more than an hour. Go with early timings and say that they are provisional. They can be updated with official tag later.

Style points

  • Alpine skiing – capital A.
  • super-G – lower case s, capital G.
  • downhill – one word.
  • schuss – fast downhill run/section with no turns. Can be used as verb.
  • whiteout – loss of visibility through falling snow, low cloud, fog etc.
  • to edge – lean on edges of skis for better grip in turns etc.
  • World Cup – capitals.
  • metres – always spell out (never m).
  • km – singular and plural, not spelt out.
  • cancel/postpone – for bad weather etc, most races are postponed NOT cancelled as they will be rearranged on another date/venue. Cancellation means dropped altogether. We can also use “called off”.
  • Winter – don’t use the word unless absolutely unavoidable.


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