WHAT IS SPEED SKIING?
Speed Skiing is a FIS ski event in which ski racers with extremely long skis, tight speed suits, fairings, and aerodynamic helmets try to ski the fastest possible on often extremely steep and bumpy tracks at high altitudes. It is often called the “fastest non-motorized sport on the planet.”
Speed skiing began in the 1930s but was not originally introduced to the skiing community as a competitive sport but rather as a marketing stunt for St. Moritz. During this stunt, skiers tried to ski as fast as possible down the hill. Following the marketing stunt in St. Moritz, ski racers began experimenting with ways to increase skiing speed and acceleration. Some of these methods included creating cones to cover their head from the ski helmet to reduce wind resistance, ski tuck positions, and adding weight onto the front of their skis to increase acceleration. By 1933 speeds of 85 miles (136 km) per hour were being achieved by these design and technique modifications.
The rapid improvements in skiing speed and equipment began to gain the attention of the international ski community and ski manufacturers. Ski manufacturers realized the potential benefits of having their products represented by the fasted skiers in the world and ski manufacturers decided to begin wind-tunnel testing in search of better equipment designs to have their product be the fastest in the world. The involvement of the international ski community and manufacturers continued when American skiers in South America began skiing at speeds of 108 miles (174 km) per hour. This prompted other countries and skiers to try to beat each other’s speeds. The Italians beat the record achieved by the Americans in South America on the track Cervinia, Italy by achieving a speed of 109 miles (175 km) per hour in 1964. By the 1970s and early 80s speeds were getting fast with top speeds being recorded at 125 miles (200 km) per hour.
Since the 1960s speed skiing has included both amateur and professional circuits for men and women. However, speed skiing in the early 60s was primarily a male sport. The women’s record at just over 89 miles (143 km) per hour which was 19 miles per hour slower than the current men’s record. In the ’70s women’s interest in the sport dramatically increased due to societal changes and an increased interest in extreme sports. By the 1980s women’s speeds reached 125 miles per hour.
The increased attention of speed skiing in the late ’80s and ’90s saw speeds increase even faster to 150 miles (240 km) per hour. In the 1992 Winter Games, Speed Skiing was included. In addition, during this time and the early 2000s fragmented national ski associations began to come together and merge to a uniform worldwide circuit to compete on. By the early 2000s Speed Skiing was included in the FIS World Cup and governed by the International Ski Federation FIS. Since the 92 Olympics and the inclusion by FIS in the early 2000s FIS has lobbied for Speed Skiing’s inclusion in the Olympics. However, speed skiing has remained out of the Olympics since 92. The fastest speed reached by skiers today is over 158 miles per hour (254.36 km).
Speed skiing equipment consists of extremely long and narrow skis which are often 2.4 meters long and weigh up to 33 pounds (15kg). The weight, length, and is extremely narrow make Speed skis extremely difficult to maneuver and handle. In addition to special skis, the boots used in speed skiing are typically extremely narrow alpine racing boots with lots of forwarding lean to allow racers at high speeds and under extreme G forces to get into an extremely low aerodynamic tuck. The suits Speed skiers wear are also unique is very tight fitting to cut down on air resistance and commonly made out of polyurethane material. However, they are different from downhill suits because they lack permeability. Similarly, to the suit, the helmet in Speed skiing also differs from downhill skiing and other ski disciplines with a conical shape and built-in face mask. In addition, fairings are incorporated into the design which is attached to the skier’s calves to cut down on wind resistance. In addition, fire-resistant under suits are used to cut down on friction burns and specially designed gloves and curved ski poles at least 1m lone are used to eliminate wind resistance.
MODERN SPEED SKIING
Since the 1960s speed skiing has become a mix of amateur and professional sports in which men and women compete on a circuit of tracks around the world. Currently, speed skiing events are hosted or have been hosted on the FIS world cup in several different countries around the world, and world championship events are hosted each year in different locations. In addition, several national-level events and FIS events are hosted as well.
Events are hosted at high altitudes and often steep slopes with terrain that are usually at least 1km long. At present, there are around 30 tracks around the world that currently or have hosted speed skiing events. The typical layout of the track has 300-400m as the launching with the next 100m as the timing zone and the last 500 meters is the run-out zone for slowing down.