Focus on Technology
2:00 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Protecting skiers from serious injury

The manufacturer of an airbag for skiers is putting the final touches on the product that continues to be tested in high-speed downhill events. Dainese, an Italian company that also makes airbags for motorcycle racers, had hoped to have the D-Air® SKI ready for the Sochi Olympics.

Olympic skiers Werner Heel, Jan Hudec and Manuel Osborne Paradis have been using the ski vest in training. It is designed to open in 100 milliseconds from the start of an accident and will protect the chest, shoulders, collar bones and cervical vertebrae. World Cup racers already wear back protectors.

Three years ago Dainese and the International Ski Federation signed an agreement to partner in the development of the D-Air SKI. One of the challenges is to "teach" the airbag when it needs to open.  Data from 238 descents and 700 minutes of other testing information was used to develop an algorithm. The device now knows when the skier is jumping and doesn't interpret the landing as an accident.

About half a dozen skiers will wear the air bags in downhill training sessions this year.

It's unclear how much the D-Air SKI will cost when it is on the market. Dainese Strategic Development Manager Vittorio Cafaggi told WVXU it will be similar to the one for motorcyclists which costs the equivalent of 1,000 euros.