The International Ski Federation (FIS) announced Friday that it has postponed the introduction of air bag systems in alpine racing. Skiing’s governing body has been developing the system for four years, but it’s not yet up to equipment code.
“They are not ready to be approved, and they cannot be used in races,” FIS men’s race director Markus Waldner told the Associated Press. “So we continue working on it.”
The FIS has been working with Italian manufacturer Dainese, which makes gear and safety systems for motorcycle racing, winter sports, bicyclists, and equestrians. The ski-racing vest would be worn under the suit and deploy a built-in airbag if the skier loses control and crashes, protecting the neck, shoulders, arms, and backbone. Development strategic manager Vittorio Cafaggi told 3 News NZ in January that the system can deploy in 100 milliseconds and absorbs 61 percent of the impact. Downhill skiers Werner Heel of Italy and Jan Hudec of Canada tested prototypes last season. The FIS had planned to debut the final version at the World Cup in Val Gardena, Italy, on December 19 but ran into some equipment snafus.
According to the AP, the gas generator that inflates the airbag would have given the skier an aerodynamic edge if left in its original position, so the developers built it right into the protector. But the FIS only allows back protectors that are 45 millimeters thick or less, and integrating the generator into the protector exceeded that.
“It’s unfortunate because this is really a big step forward in safety,” Waldner told the AP. “We go on, and I am sure we find a good solution.”