The sport is divided between speed and technical disciplines. Five women's gold medals are awarded for downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom and the super-combined event.
The downhill, on Feb. 12, is the blue riband event of the women's programme. Skiers have one run, starting at intervals after a draw based on rankings, timed to 1/100th of a second.
Super-G is a speed discipline that mixes elements of downhill and giant slalom in a single run. As in downhill, skiers use poles curved to fit around the body to reduce drag.
The slalom and giant slalom are technical and each race has two legs with different layouts, with the winner being the skier having the best total time. In giant, the piste is longer with fewer gates. The first leg starting order is determined by a draw and the top 30 are reversed after the first leg.
The super-combined event combines speed and technique, with a shorter downhill and one leg slalom held on the same day.
Women's Alpine skiing entered the Olympics in 1936 with the inclusion of combined events in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. German skiers won gold and silver and had dinner with Adolf Hitler afterwards.
Individual downhill and slalom races were added for St Moritz in 1948. The giant slalom followed in Oslo in 1952, replacing the combined, and the Super-G was introduced in Calgary in 1988 along with the return of the combined event.
Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and France are geographical Alpine powers but skiers from the United States, Canada, Liechtenstein, Sweden and Croatia have also won gold.
Croatia's Janica Kostelic is the only woman to win four Olympic golds in Alpine skiing. She won three in 2002 when she also took a silver to become the first to win four medals in a single Olympics. She won gold and silver in 2006.
The Rosa Khutor resort, once a remote and sleepy mountain village in the Krasnaya Polyana district about 70km from central Sochi, will host all the Alpine events.
The slopes were developed by Switzerland's Bernhard Russi, the 1972 Olympic men's downhill champion who has designed Olympic pistes since 1988 and is a technical adviser to the International Ski Federation.
The resort held a women's World Cup downhill in February 2012, with Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch winning it. A super-combined was cancelled due to heavy snowfall.
Injury has robbed the Games of reigning Olympic downhill champion Lindsey Vonn of the United States and world champion Marion Rolland of France.
Watch out instead for American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin, the slalom world and World Cup champion, as well as Slovenian Tina Maze - the 2013 overall World Cup champion who has had a quiet season but is hoping to get back to her best.
Double Olympic champion Hoefl-Riesch can also be expected to add to her medal collection.
Julia Mancuso, the 2006 giant slalom champion and 2010 downhill and combined silver medallist from the United States, will be back for more.
- Sports & Recreation
- giant slalom