Plastics and Olympic Aerial Skiing: Guest Post by Fuzz Feddersen

Fuzz Feddersen

Who Needs Snow? Plastics Help Winter Athletes Practice Year-Round

Winter sports athletes have to train all year to be ready for winter. How do they do this without year-round snow?

Plastics of course!

Throughout the years, skiers have found inventive ways to practice their jumps year-round and have often turned to modern technology for help. Enter plastic-covered jumping hills that provide a realistic surface to help jumpers practice their flips, jumps and alley oops.

How does it work? Nordic jumping practice hills are covered with a foam plastic base and a top layer made of industrial-strength plastic strands (they look like fabric for a hula skirt). The sheets of plastic strands are layered up from the bottom of the hill, similar to roof shingles. They look sort of like Astroturf but mimic the properties of the real stuff—a simple spray of water makes the plastic feel like snow under the skis.
Freestyle aerial practice hills use similar technology, also relying on plastic surfacing to provide a snow-simulating launching surface. Aerial skiers shoot down a wooden ramp covered in Astroturf-like plastic and launch themselves fifty feet into the air. The skiers then land in pools of water with air bubbling up to soften the landings.

This training technology is just one of the ways that plastics help make aerial skiing possible. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do if it weren’t for the incredible advancements in performance and safety technologies that have been developed over the years—many of which rely heavily on plastic.

When you look at pretty much any winter sport—freestyle skiing, snowboarding, ice hockey, even bobsledding and the luge—plastics have played a huge role in aiding those athletes to perform faster and better. And plastics are critical to advances in sports safety. Think about it—helmets, goggles, body armor, protective gloves, knee braces, wrist guards, elbow and shin pads. Just imagine an aerial skier jumping with no helmet or goggles, or an ice hockey team playing without any padding or mouth guards! World class winter sports competitions like the X Games, Skiing World Cup and Olympics simply would not exist in their modern form without the help of plastics.

So whether you’ve been watching winter sports competitions from the warmth of your living room sofa, or if you are testing out your own skills on the slopes this winter, take a moment to think about just how different our favorite winter sports would be if it weren’t for innovations in plastics.