Introduction: Giant slalom is the core discipline of alpine skiing, and each race has its own specific course and terrain characteristics. These variations may explain differences in the speed and time per turn profiles, which are essential for performance development and injury prevention. This study aims to address the differences in course setting and steepness of the different course sections (flat—medium—steep) and compare them to the performance parameters among young (U12, U14, U16) and older (U18, U21, elite) male athletes.
Methods: The study examined a total sample size of 57 male athletes; 7 from elite level, 11 from U21, 13 from U18, 6 from U16, 13 from U14, and 7 from U12. The athletes wore a portable global navigation satellite system (GNSS) sensor to extract performance parameters. The course profiles and gate positions of nine runs were measured with differential GNSS. The runs were divided into flat, medium and steep sections. From the performance parameters (speed, time per turn, etc.) and the course setting variables, the mean value per section was calculated and used for the further analysis.
Results: In total, 192 run sections from 88 runs were recorded and analyzed. Comparisons between course settings in young and older classes showed no significant differences. However, the turning angles and horizontal gate distances were smaller in flat sections. Average speed (49.77 vs. 65.33 km/h) and time per turn (1.74 vs. 1.41 s) differed significantly between young and U21/elite categories. In medium terrain sections U21 and elite athletes spent more time in the gliding phase compared to all other athletes.
Discussion: It seems to be a reasonable that, given similar course setting and steepness, speed increases concurrently with the technical and tactical skills of the athlete. Moreover, the finding that the elite athletes spent more time in the gliding phase could be crucial for understanding technique and performance development in young athletes.