VIENNA, 10 December 2018 – There was a time when skiing accessories protected people from the cold and the sun. The trend towards freeriding and snowparks also brought ski accessories that protected against crashes. Part 3 of our series on striking technological innovations in skiing.
At low outdoor temperatures, it is the extremities that begin to freeze first: Hands and feet. The body consumes energy to keep the temperature constant and this reduces performance. Heatable ski accessories are obvious and especially beneficial during rest periods on the chairlift.
Heating system for ski gloves
The Austrian glove manufacturer Zanier has developed a heating system for gloves that warms for up to ten hours. The function is based on textile heating elements and control electronics. The lightweight lithium ion battery is hardly noticeably integrated into the glove’s waistband. It is operated by means of a switch directly on the battery. The selected heating level is indicated by a small lamp in the form of a flame that glows yellow, orange or red through the perforated upper material.
Heating several ski accessories with one battery
With heatable clothing such as socks, the battery is difficult to access due to the layers of clothing. For this reason, the Austrian manufacturer Lenz Products has developed a heating system that can be controlled via app and smartphone. The app enables activation, stepless temperature regulation and reading of the charge level. The lithium battery can be connected to several garments: Socks, gloves, vest and back bandage. Socks use toe cap technology, which encloses the entire toe area. The battery is fixed under the sock waistband with three snap fasteners and can be removed before washing.
Reconstruction of real fall scenarios
The trend towards freeriding and snowparks has stimulated the development of protectors. The focus is on the ski helmet, which offers comprehensive protection against collision. A number of manufacturers have integrated the MIPS brain protection system from the Swedish company of the same name. The startup started research and development work in 1996 and cooperates with the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. The theoretical basis is neuroscience and the reconstruction of realistic fall scenarios.
In standard helmet tests, the helmet is dropped vertically onto a flat surface. In fact, the head crashes into the ground at an angle. This creates a rotational movement that can lead to brain strain.
The ski helmet that absorbs and deflects impacts
MIPS technology reduces this rotational movement by absorbing and redirecting rotational energies and forces transmitted to the head and brain. This reaction is made possible by the implementation of a low-friction layer inside the helmet. In the event of an oblique impact, this layer reduces rotation and allows the helmet to slide relative to the head.
The new MIPS-E system was launched in 2018 and is a fabric-based low-friction layer positioned between the comfort padding of the helmet and the energy-absorbing lining. The layer consists of two layers of fabric, the low-friction inner sides which lie on top of each other, thus enabling a local relative movement of ten to fifteen millimetres. Johan Thiel, CEO of MIPS, predicts great future potential for the solution due to its excellent sliding properties.
The Norwegian company Sweet Protection is one of the manufacturers that uses MIPS. In order to further reduce the rotational movement, a helmet design with a low volume and a smooth surface was constructed. The Switcher model presented in 2018 received good reviews, as it also features an innovative ventilation system. Twenty ventilation openings integrated into the helmet can be operated and fine-tuned with just one rotary knob.
Shock absorption and climate system for ski helmet
The Quantum model from US manufacturer Smith Optics combines the effect of MIPS with exclusive Koroyd technology. The functional element is a flat formation that is positioned inside the shell and consists of thousands of thermally welded co-polymer cylinders. Each section of this formation is precisely specified in hardness, size and thickness to ensure maximum impact strength. In the event of an impact, the surface is compressed and converted in a controlled manner, reducing kinetic energy.
In addition, the open cell construction of the surface promotes air circulation. The hollow cylinders are joined together to allow cool air to enter from the outside and hot air to exit from the inside at the same time.
The integrated BOA 360 system ensures a good fit and allows the fit to be adjusted.
The comfortable back protector
Back protectors are often uncomfortable to wear and prevent perspiration from escaping. The Swedish manufacturer POC has solved the problem with Visco Elastic Polymer Dough (VPD), a foam in hexagon structure. The special structure allows shock absorption with upright freedom of movement and air circulation.
The shock absorption is based on two characteristics:
– Gentle adaptation to the physiognomy of the user;
– Change from soft to hard during impact;
In addition, a woven outer fabric made of a monofilament yarn and a kevlar-reinforced barrier along the spine prevent puncture.
While other protectors absorb only one impact well, the absorption capacity of VPD remains constant even with multiple impacts. This is important. Studies have shown that the energy potential of the impact increases with each impact.
The protector vests are available in different protection levels – with the ventilation factor increasing as the protection level decreases. The highest level (VPD 2.0) corresponds to the European EN 1621-1 or -2 standard.
Ski goggles for spectacle wearers
Last but not least, it is important to protect your eyes from the sun and swirling snow crystals. In the past it was difficult for spectacle wearers to find suitable glasses. French manufacturer Cébé developed EXO OTG, an amazingly functional model. To prevent a bad fit and unpleasant pressure points, the frame was designed with a narrower nose bridge and lateral recesses for the temples. A convex lens gives the ski goggles depth and the optical goggles underneath sufficient space. A magnetic lens has also made it easier to attach the glasses: the frame can be attached independently of the lens and allows the optical glasses to be placed easily. Only then is the magnetic lens placed on the frame.
The intelligent ski goggles were launched by Recon Instruments in 2013, but have since disappeared from the market.