How Does a Race Suit Affect Speed While Downhill Skiing?

How Does a Race Suit Affect Speed While Downhill Skiing?
We've seen skin suits worn by ski racers and maybe we've even worn them ourselves. Besides making us feel either like a super hero or sheepish--as nothing is left to the imagination--what advantage does a skin suit have for ski racers? Here are some surprising results.

Wind Resistance

According to E.C. Frederick, director of the Sports Medicine Council of the U.S. Biathlon Team, skiing at speeds over 30km/hour results in 50 percent loss of kinetic energy to overcome wind resistance. Additionally, wind resistance amounts to almost 80 percent of the restricting forces constraining performance. By wearing a racing suit and assuming the proper tuck, a skier can significantly reduce this energy loss and improve speed and results.

Temperature Regulation

Another important function skin suits have is air permeability. Alpine skiing is done in winter, yet athletes can have issues with overheating. The skin suits allow air to flow through to the racer's skin, cooling them off as they heat up from exertion.

Form-Fitting and Body-Tight

Because skin suits are completely form-fitting, this allows the athletes a full range of motion with nothing impeding body movement. Having full range of motion allows the racers to tuck, twist and turn to get proper response from the skis and equipment.

Crashes and Friction

Due to the high speeds downhill racers achieve, a crash can have dire consequences. And another additional advantage of skin suits is less friction during a crash. The Lycra material allows the crashing racer to slide over the snow versus "bunching up" with bulky clothing. Fewer injuries occur with the slide from the skin suit.

You Look Cool!

And last but not least, a big advantage of racing suits is the "cool" factor. How often do you get to wear a skin-tight Lycra bodysuit and not get laughed out of the room? Put on your skin suit, fly down the slopes, and you look like a super hero!

Article Written By Eric Cedric

A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.

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