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Numerous sports attract competitors who find speed addictive. From a 100m sprint through to NASCAR – the competitive human spirit always pushes the boundaries.
Recreational downhill skiers usually average a speed somewhere between 20-40 mph, dependent on the steepness of the run and snow conditions of course. Competitive downhill skiers are considerably faster, and the record still holds for Frenchman, Johan Clarey, in Wengen, Switzerland at 100.6 mph in 2013. The fastest speed skiers are in another league again. Ivan Origone, from Italy, broke the world record for the fastest speed ever on skis 158.4mph on March 26th, 2016.
|Skier Type||KPH Speed||MPH Speed|
|Average Recreational Skier||32-64||20-40|
|Fastest downhill skier||162||100.6|
|Fastest Ever Skier||255||158.4|
The Need For Speed!
Skiers who want to ski fast often discover this early on in their skiing career. The attraction for them is often similar. Some people enjoy the knife-edge conditions both physically and mentally. The knowledge that you are skiing in control but at any second the situation may change due to human error or unforeseen circumstances leading to a possibly damaging fall. Others are drawn to the idea of flying through the air or that you’re doing something illegal, all have an addictive pull to certain skiers.
The downhill skiing events of the Winter Olympic Games are some of the most popular spectator attractions. The phenomenal skill, speed, and danger make an intoxicating spectacle. The level of performance these skiers attain usually means falls are a given.
During the World Cup in Wengen in Switzerland in 2013, Johan Clarey of France broke the world downhill speed record at 100.6mph. This was the fastest speed recorded in the 46-year-history of competition on the Hanneggschuss straight, on the Lauberhorn run. However, as a reminder of the knife-edge lifestyle of downhill skiers, Clarey fell badly a few weeks after his record leaving him unable to ski for the rest of the season.
Speed Skiers Can Be Faster Than An F1
On March 26th, 2016, Ivan Origone, from Italy, pushed off from a near-vertical slope in Vars ski resort close to the Italian border. Within seconds he shattered the world record for speed skiers with a speed of 158.4mph. An F1 car can reach 125 mph in just 5.5 seconds and Origone went faster. It was calculated his acceleration was approaching a body of free falling.
His statement after breaking the record demonstrated his desire to win the title: ‘It’s the first time I’ve gone that fast. I was so keen to do what I’ve done.’ Origone told Diario AS after his mind-blowing feat. Origone was wearing purpose-built clothing and equipment. His ski suit was cut to its exact proportions to eliminate wrinkles and the surface of the fabric had a high shine to minimize wind resistance. His helmet, poles, and calves were all sculpted into a sweptback shape to reduce wind resistance once again.
What Can Downhill Skiers Do To Go Faster?
1. The Tuck
Squatting down on your haunches reduces the body’s surface area considerably. So, ensuring you have an effective tuck position makes a very big difference to wind resistance, and consequently speed. The only limiting factor to just how much you can squat down is how far you can spread your skis apart, so you can squat down between your knees.
2. Mentally Concentrating On One Body Part
Experts in fast downhill skiing focus their minds on relevant parts of the body depending on the part of the run they are skiing. They can tense or loosen muscles or simply change the angle of an arm or leg to achieve the most efficient line. At such speed, you have to think well in advance of your next maneuver.
3. Elbows In
Arms and elbows are naturally awkward shapes when it comes to wind resistance. So, they need to be tucked in out of the way as much as possible.
4. Fitting Race Suit
When cars are prepared for the race circuit the bodywork design is a crucial part of how the whole car slips through the air. In the same way, the skiing suit acts the same. Huge advances in fabric technology make the surface of the fabric smoother and at the same time elastic so it will hug the skier’s body. Even a small wrinkle in a sleeve may create enough wind resistance to take off 100th of a second.
5. Hand Over Control To Your Skis
Downhill experts also talk about ‘letting the skis run. This can be compared to riding a horse and giving it free reign to run as it wants. The advantage of this is that the skier will tend to ‘give in’ creating a flatter ski, which is faster than skiing on edges.
6. Eliminating Doubt
Skiing on a downhill race run usually takes about two minutes. For skiers, there can be hours before the run and after when little is happening. It’s easy for a small doubt to form in the mind over the tiniest problem and unless it is addressed and eliminated it’s unlikely you will perform at your highest ability.