The air bags are given the go ahead for January World Cup races

FIS have given the go-ahead for World Cup speed skiers to use the Dainese air bag that has been developed over the last four years. With their work in creating similar products on the motorbike racing scene, Dainese have been developing a similar product for the use in Alpine ski racing. …

Marco Pastore spoke with Racer Ready in Groeden / Val Gardena and explained that the unit they have developed has now been given the green light for athletes to use in competition, the next stage is to get the athletes to have the confidence in using the product. The racers will not want to use a product that is going to slow them down but then again you can argue, ‘what price is your health?’

The vest weighs about a kilogram and works in a similar way to the motorbike version in pre-empting when an athlete is about to crash. The air bag inflates and protects the back, the shoulders and the upper body from serious impact. There are plans for the future for a similar product to be developed for the knees.

With Florian Scheiber having suffered a large crash in the Val Gardena downhill, Pastore was keen to explain that this would have been the perfect piece of kit for him. Scheiber suffered concussion as well as facial cuts and bruises to his hips and rib cage. Initial thoughts are that he will be out for two weeks, maybe longer depending on the concussion.

Had Charlie Guest been wearing the product, as yet no girls have tested the product on the world cup, minor bruises could have been the outcome. A Swiss girl not racing on the World Cup is currently developing the product for women’s use.

“It was important to the approval from the FIS,” Pastore explained, “we believe the work will continue through the season and some athletes will test during the training runs and officially we could also use it in the races. The point is now that we have to get the racers confident to use it in the races because they do not want to risk to lose one hundredth. We have to finalise the fit and the comfort and that is the goal.”

Manny Osborne-Paradis and Jan Hudec amongst other Dainese sponsored athletes have been testing the vests recently but the product is not limited to just Dainese supported athletes. With the likes of Bode Miller also using Dainese this season, has he been fitted for one? Pastore explained that he will be in time.

With data collection on going and FIS approval achieved regarding the height allowed for the air bag (4.5cm), does Pastore feel that the race suit designers and makers will be looking to incorporate the air bag in their suits? This is something that all the countries will have to deal with regarding their own clothing deals, Pastore explained.

Pastore explained that “I have read many things about the athletes not wanting the air bag, this is not true,” he added, “the athletes really want something more in terms of safety, of course we need time to adapt the racing suits.”

With the air bag being very individual no price has yet been placed on the units but a ball park figure of around €1,000 has been muted for the air bag. Clearly at this stage it is not in the price range for everyone.

Picture – the Air Bag being displayed at the FIS Alpine Forum in October. Credit Zoom Agence – all rights reserved