Speed skiing is the sport of skiing downhill in a straight line as quickly as possible. It is one of the fastest non-motorized sports on land. The current world record for skiing is 251.4 km/h (156 mph), held by Simone Origone. Speed skiers regularly exceed 200 km/h (125 mph), which is even faster than the terminal velocity of a free-falling skydiver in the belly-to-earth position (about 190 km/h; 120 mph). Speed skiers wear dense foam fairings on their lower legs and aerodynamic helmets to increase streamlining. Their ski suits are made from air-tight latex or have a polyurethane coating to reduce wind resistance, with only a mandatory back protector to give some protection in the case of a crash.
The special skis used must be 2.4 metres (94.5 inches) long and maximum 10 cm wide with a maximum weight of 15 kg for the pair. Ski boots are attached to the skis by bindings. The ski poles are bent to shape around the body, and must be a minimum of 1 meter long.
Speed skiing is practised on steep, specially designed courses one kilometre long. There are approximately thirty of these courses worldwide, many of them at high altitudes to minimize air resistance. The first 300 or 400 metres of the course (the launching area) is used to gain speed, the top speed is measured in the next 100 meters (the timing zone) and the last 500 metres (the run-out area) is used for slowing down and coming to a stop. The start point in FIS races is chosen so that, in theory, skiers should not exceed 200 km/h, hence competition is aimed at winning a particular event, not breaking world speed records. At Pro races, there is no maximum speed and the speed attained is determined by conditions and safety.
Official world records
The following are the records under the F.S.V. (France Ski de Vitesse) rules. As of April 29, 2005, there were 328 speed skiers who had skied faster than 200 km/h.