The average skiing speed of recreational skiers is 10-20 mph (16-32 km/h). Skilled amateur skiers can get up to 20-40 mph while Olympic downhill racers reach 90-95 mph regularly. Italian speed skier Ivan Origone set a world speed skiing record of 158.4 mph in 2016.
So as you can see, skiing speeds vary tremendously depending on your skill level, the slope you are skiing, and the conditions.
So let’s break this down a little further…
Skiing speeds for recreational downhill skiing
Speeds for recreational skiers are difficult to pinpoint because they vary so widely. Some skiers like to carve their way casually down a mountain and others (like me when I was 17) fly straight down the hill to see how fast they can go.
So instead, let’s talk about the maximum speeds that recreational skiers can safely get to.
Most sources online will tell you that the average recreational skier skis at about 10-20 mph (16-32 km/h) and that seems about right if you look at the average skier on an average intermediate slope.
What is expert skiing speed?
There are going to be a lot of skilled recreational skiers out there hitting speeds between 25-40 mph.
These are usually more skilled recreational skiers that are comfortable on just about any slope including black diamonds and double diamonds.
Even these advanced skiers need the right conditions. A long smooth straight slope with a steeper grade means more speed. Good skiers take into consideration the terrain as well. You won’t see them flying down the slope at top speed if there are icy patches, rocks, moguls, or even just inconsistent conditions of any kind.
So if you think you have the skills, look for these “racing” conditions and give it a try, but always stay in control.
Downhill Racing Speed
Downhill racing speed also varies greatly, but the general consensus is that Olympic-level downhill skiers will reach top speeds around 85-95 mph fairly regularly.
Downhill racers that aren’t at the same level as Olympic skiers are usually in the 50-70 mph range depending on the conditions.
Top speeds for downhill racers are always increasing with the development of new technology, like faster skis.
Of course, these numbers are far from consistent throughout a race. For most of a race, even the fastest downhill racers in the world are not reaching top speed.
Downhill racing isn’t a straight shot down the mountain. They have to navigate turns through gates as well as flatter sections of the hill. Both of these are going to slow skiers down. But there is typically at least one section of the course where they hit top speeds in that 85-95 mph range.
Unlike downhill racers, speeds skiers aren’t trying to navigate a course. They look for the steepest, straightest, and smoothest slope they can find to max out their speed.
The current speed skiing world record holder is Italian Ivan Origone who set a world record of 158.424 mph (254.958 km/h) in 2016. But not far behind him is the women’s world record holder, Valentina Greggio (also from Italy), with a top speed of 153.530 mph (247.083 km/h).
Looking back on past speed skiers will give you a good idea of how much technology has advanced speed in skiing. This article from 1979 talks about speed skier Steve McKinney who had the previous record of 124 mph (200.2 km/h).
That’s a difference of 34 mph and it’s largely due to improvements in ski technology.
What factors impact skier speed?
Slope conditions, weather, equipment, and the skier’s skill will all affect skiing speed.
This may seem obvious but the steeper the slope is, the faster you will be able to ski down it. But slope conditions aren’t just about steepness.
Snow conditions play a large role in how fast you’ll be able to ski and, more importantly, how fast you SHOULD ski.
Fresh snow and powder conditions are going to slow you down. Your skis will sink into the show a little bit and this will cause more friction and decrease speed. Hard-packed snow, on the other hand, will allow you to ski much faster.
Packed snow also gives you more control at high speeds because your edges can easily get traction for turns. Downhill skiers prefer these conditions because they are safer and more consistent.
Be on the lookout for trails that are inconsistent and have some hard-packed snow with patches of softer snow or ice. You can ski through these areas when you’re under control, but at high speeds, they can be quite dangerous.
Weather can have a major impact on ski speed.
First off, if the conditions affect visibility at all, that is not the time to go for your top speed.
Snowy conditions can affect visibility but also be aware of the time of day. Late in the day as the sun sets, your depth perception will be affected by the low sun. That makes it harder to see obstacles in your way (like rocks or icy patches) and also affects your ability to judge changes in slope grade.
Be aware of these changes and adjust your speed accordingly.
In general, longer skis will allow you to ski faster. Check out my breakdown of how long skis and short skis differ for a little more detail on why long skis allow for more speed and give you more control at higher speeds.
Having new skis or even just taking care of your old skis by keeping them waxed and tuned properly will give you more speed and control on the slopes.
It should go without saying that in order to ski fast safely, you need to be able to control yourself at higher speeds. Anyone can point their skis straight down a steep hill and go fast, but if you can’t control it, that might be your last run ever.
Before you go trying to break speed records, spend the time learning how to use your edges and control your skis. Then gradually increase your speed by making smaller turns as you navigate down the mountain.
Don’t try to make big leaps in slope skill level. Get very comfortable on green slopes before moving to blue intermediates and so on.
How to increase beginner skiing speed?
To increase your speed, simply point your skis straight down the hill and go. But if you’re a beginner, it is far more important that you learn to reduce your speed and stay under control.
The same skills that allow you to turn and control your speed will let you go faster when (and if) you reach the skill level where you can compete in downhill races.
How to control your speed while skiing?
You control your skiing speed by turning. Gravity will keep you going down the hill and the more you turn perpendicular to the slope the slower you’ll go.
If you want to learn more then check out this article on how to turn while skiing.
How to monitor your skiing speed?
Ski Tracks is one of the original tracking apps, and features all the requisite functions, including the number of runs, speed, distance, vertical feet, and total time on the slopes.
Using an app like this is a great way to see monitor your skiing, see how fast you were going, and also track your improvement over time.