How fast are Olympic downhill skiers? Hint: really freaking fast

There’s little in this world more humbling than watching the Olympics, scrutinizing the performances of God-like athletes while attempting to scoop the right amount of dip onto a potato chip without it collapsing into pieces.

Sometimes we can convince ourselves that what we’re seeing on-screen can’t be *that* hard. But the following is about to serve as a biting return to reality, at least for downhill skiing. If you’ve ever wondered just how fast the world’s best downhill skiers are, the answer is: crazy fast.

Alpine skiing is an umbrella term that includes downhill, GS (giant slalom), super-G, slalom, alpine-combined and slalom-combined, but downhill is far and away the fastest of the events. The gates are spaced far apart and there are fewer turns, allowing skiers to pick up momentum.

According to CBS, Olympic downhill competitors usually ski more than 80 miles per hour (anywhere from two to four times faster than recreational skiers). That said, the speeds are variable: the New York Times reported that approximate top speeds for Olympic skiers is 90 mph, and former Olympian David Currier told NPR in 2006 that top speeds cleared 93 miles per hour when he raced, and haven’t changed much since.

"The rush of skiing 80-plus miles per hour down a mountain just never gets old," Lindsey Vonn told Shape in January. "You have no one telling you what to do or giving you a score. It's just you and the mountain and the fastest skier wins. That has kept me going all these years."

The next time downhill ski-racing is on TV (expect to see races airing this weekend), we’ll have a little extra appreciation for the skill and unbridled fearlessness of the world’s top skiers.

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