This coming December, the world’s top skiers will be able to try out the ‘D-Air,’ a high-tech new product from Italy that inflates around a racer’s neck and chest in the event of a catastrophic high-speed crash.
The FIS (International Ski Federation) has approved the new airbags for use in World Cup racing starting with the Val Gardena downhill and super G races on December 19 and 20. Ski racing officials are striving to improve safety as speeds on the world’s most prestigious downhill courses have risen. In recent years, several athletes have suffered gruesome career-ending injuries after crashing at places like Kitzbuehel, Austria, and Kvitfjell, Norway. Safety netting alone has failed to always protect racers from blunt force trauma associated with crashing at speeds over 80 and even 90 miles per hour (from 120 to 145 km/h).
Dainese, the Italian company manufacturing the airbag systems, is building on technologies developed in motorcycle racing. The company claims the system, which weighs less than two pounds, can absorb 61 percent of the force generated by an impact.