Andrew Kurka competes in the Alpine Skiing Men's Downhill, Sitting during day one of the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on March 10, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea.

While there are many skills required to be a successful alpine skier, the sport itself is all about speed. The winners are determined by who can make it down a hill faster than anyone else without missing a gate. Agility, balance and strength are all needed to avoid missing gates, but it all comes down to speed.

Para alpine’s first courses were developed in 1948, as injured ex-service members returned from World War II looking to continue downhill skiing. Two alpine events, slalom and giant slalom, were featured at the inaugural Paralympic Winter Games held in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, in 1976. Three more events (downhill, super-G and alpine combined) were added over the years, and those will be the five events featured at the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing. Each of those events is separated into three categories: visually impaired, standing and sitting. This allows each athlete to fairly compete based on their functional ability. 

While Austria leads the all-time medal count with 269, Team USA has won the most golds — 91 to Austria’s 90. Four years ago in PyeongChang, Slovakia and France each claimed 11 alpine medals, but Slovakia came away with the most golds with six. The U.S. won six medals in PyeongChang, with Andrew Kurka taking home the lone gold medal in the men’s downhill sitting competition.

All the alpine events for the 2022 Games will be held at the National Alpine Ski Centre in the Yanqing District, about 45 miles northwest of Beijing. The compound was built specifically for the Olympic and Paralympic Games and has been lauded as “one of the best racing mountains in the world” by Swiss course designer and 1972 Olympic gold medalist Bernhard Russi.

Updated on February 13, 2022. For more information, contact the sport press officer here.

The leadup to these Paralympic Winter Games is unlike any other in history. The World Para Snow Sports Championships were held between Jan. 12-23 in Lillehammer, Norway. The championships were originally scheduled to take place in February 2021 but got postponed due to the pandemic. This gives skiers the opportunity to compete at two major championship competitions less than two months apart, with the Paralympics beginning March 4 in Beijing.

The timing of Lillehammer 2021 (still officially being referred to by its planned starting date) was not the only historic aspect of the competition. This also marked the first time that the Para alpine skiing, Para Nordic skiing (including biathlon and cross-country) and Para snowboarding world championships were held in the same city, at the same time. The three Para world championships are traditionally all held in the same year, but at different times and in four different venues. Organizers expected 852 athletes to compete at Lillehammer 2021, with 350 Para alpine athletes racing in 36 medal events.

Of the nine athletes that make up the 2021-22 U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing National Team, seven of them have competed in the Paralympics. This includes seven-time medalist Laurie Stephens and two-time medalist Andrew Kurka.
Jasmin Bambur (Granby, Colorado): Born in Serbia, Bambur came to the U.S. when he was 12. He competed in the 2010 Vancouver Games for Serbia, making him the first winter Paralympian in country’s history. He gained U.S. citizenship later in 2010 and has been competing with Team USA since 2012. Bambur, 42, is a sit skier who is classified LW11 and has competed in the past two Paralympics for the U.S. His best finish in the Games came at Sochi 2014, where he finished seventh in the super-G.

Andrew Kurka (Palmer, Alaska): Kurka, who turned 30 a month before the Games, has already built an impressive resume. The two-time Paralympian was Team USA’s biggest star in alpine skiing in PyeongChang. The LW12 sit skier claimed the country’s lone alpine gold medal when he won the downhill and added a silver medal in the super-G. Kurka dominated the 2017 world championships as well, taking home a gold, silver and two bronze medals. He added two bronzes — one in the giant slalom and one in the downhill — at Lillehammer 2021

Laurie Stephens (Wenham, Massachusetts): Stephens is the most decorated member of the current alpine team. She’s competed in four Paralympics and has taken home at least one medal in all of them, for seven total. Her most successful Games came in at Torino in 2006, where she won gold in the sitting downhill and super-G and took home silver in giant slalom. Stephens competed at her seventh world championships in Lillehammer, where she won a gold (giant slalom) and bronze (slalom) medal to bring her career total to 15 medals.

Thomas Walsh (Vail, Colorado): Walsh made his Paralympic debut in PyeongChang and showed great promise. Competing in the standing races, he finished fifth in slalom — under five seconds behind fellow American Jamie Stanton, who took home the bronze — seventh giant slalom and 13th in super-G. Walsh, who turned 27 in January, followed that up with two bronze medals at the 2019 world championships. The LW4-skier will have a high-profile fan cheering him on this winter in childhood friend Mikaela Shiffrin.
Note: Each day includes all of the classifications in a given race.

March 5 – Men’s and women’s downhill 
March 6 – Men’s and women’s super-G
March 8 – Men’s and women’s alpine combined 
March 10 – Men’s giant slalom 
March 11 – Women’s giant slalom 
March 12 – Men’s slalom 
March 13 – Women’s slalom