What Is the Average Speed of a Downhill Skier?

Downhill skier

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The average downhill speed of skiers varies by type. The skiing speeds of professional athletes can reach upwards of 150 mph, but most recreational skiers travel at speeds between 10 and 20 mph.

Downhill racers clock out at 40–60 mph and Olympians tend to ski between 75 and 95 mph, depending on the conditions, their equipment, and their body composition. And the sport of speed skiing has recorded a record of more than 158 mph. These skiers—the fastest on Earth— point their skis straight downhill (no turning) on some of the world's steepest slopes.

There are a number of ways to clock the speeds of these downhill skiers, whether it be a speedometer from the sidelines or one of any number of smartphone skiing apps that track speed, miles traveled, and vertical feet.

Speed and Cross-Country Skiers' Downhill Speeds

Speed skiers, who dress in aerodynamic apparel and ski straight down the mountain without turning, can travel over 150 mph. In 2016, Simone Origone of Italy broke his own speed record, setting a new mark of 158.424 mph in Vars, France. At the same event, Valentina Greggio, also of Italy, set the women's mark of 153.53 mph.

There really isn't such a thing as a casual speed skier, though, as this type of skiing requires a level of professional athleticism and control to avoid serious injury. Still, speed skiers are those with the least wind resistance and best control of their skis, and when in competition, the competitor to make it down the hill the fastest wins, which is not the case for a different form of competitive skiing: cross-country.

In cross-country skiing, professional racers average 15 mph for continuous distances up to 35 miles long; most top ski racers hit about 20–25 mph on the flat and 35–40 mph on the downhills, while recreational cross-country skiers tend to clock out at around 7–10 mph.

How to Increase Speed in Downhill Skiing

In general, the straighter the skis are and tighter the tuck is, the faster a skier will travel downhill, but oftentimes dodging obstacles like trees or jumping over small slopes will slow the athlete's movement significantly. The important part to remember when trying to increase speed on a downhill run is to first develop enough core strength to control the skis at high speeds. 

Skiers attempting faster speeds should always wear the proper safety gear because increased speed leads to an increased likelihood of serious injury, and although the idea of speeding down a mountainside may seem appealing to amateur skiers, they should first develop the proper skiing techniques to avoid crashing and getting hurt.

Additionally, skiers should avoid attempting fast speeds in bad lighting, like near sunset when the sun is glaringly reflective on the mountain because you won't be as likely to see small snow-covered obstacles in your path. Unpredictable snow conditions or crowded runs are also not good for attempting these fast speeds.

And, of course, recreational skiers should obey the rules of the ski area, which may limit how fast you are allowed to go for your own safety and that of the other skiers.