Atle Skaardal has said allowing women to race with men is a "difficult challenge" ©Getty Images

A senior Alpine skiing official has said that finding a way to allow women to race against men is a "very difficult challenge".

Atle Skaardal, the International Ski Federation's (FIS) chief race director for women's Alpine events, made the comments in an interview on the governing body's website.

American Olympic downhill champion Lindsey Vonn is the most high profile women's skier to have called for the chance to compete against male counterparts.

However, Skaardal has admitted that he struggles to see how it would work.

"It will be a very difficult challenge to find a reasonable way of doing this," said the Norwegian, a double world champion in Super-G.

"Because one point that everyone is underestimating, is that we need to have equal rights for everyone.

"So if the ladies are allowed to race with the men, then also the men need to be authorised to ski with the ladies. 

"And I'm not sure this is a direction we want to go. 

"I see it as a very difficult topic. 

"But we have talked about it and I'm confident that everyone will think this through during the summer and then we'll see if the US Ski Association brings a concrete proposal of how this is supposed to be done to fit into the rules."

Lindsey Vonn has called for the chance to race male skiers ©Getty Images
Lindsey Vonn has called for the chance to race male skiers ©Getty Images

The topic could now be discussed again at the FIS Autumn meetings in Swiss city Zurich between October 3 and 7.

Vonn, a double world champion who won Olympic downhill gold and Super-G bronze at Vancouver 2010, is one of the most recognisable athletes in women's winter sport.

The four-time overall FIS World Cup champion saw a request to compete in the men's downhill event in Lake Louise, Canada, rejected in 2012 by the governing body.

The organisation ruled then that "one gender is not entitled to participate in races of the other".

Vonn's 77 World Cup wins is the most by any female skier.

In January, the 32-year-old told the Denver Post: "I know I'm not going to win, but I would like to at least have the opportunity to try.

"I think I've won enough World Cup races. 

"I should have enough respect within the industry to be able to have that opportunity."