SOELDEN, Austria – Dozens of World Cup athletes and coaches turned up to voice their opinions Friday during the FIS Forum Alpinum discussing the new regulations for ski radiuses, set to take effect next season (2012-2013).
The International Ski Federation organized an open discussion session specifically targeted at the World Cup athletes with the aim of presenting and clarifying information on the research and data behind the decision to change the specifications for downhill, super-G and giant slalom skis.
With the goal of enhancing safety and preventing injury, FIS officials and the Ski Racing Suppliers Association partnered with the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center (OSTRC) and University of Salzburg for a six-year study, collecting data and conducting extensive ski prototype tests. They concluded that the new skis would enhance athlete safety and reduce the risk of injury and received the approval for the new regulations from the FIS Council this July. Friday's Forum included presentations by Tone Bere from the OSTRC and University of Salzburg professor Erich Mueller, who overviewed the details of the risk analysis study on which the new specifications were determined.
The new ski specifications, however, have met with a great deal of opposition from World Cup athletes, several of whom spoke up during Friday’s Forum in Soelden.
Didier Cuche questioned whether the new rules might deter young racers from pursuing the sport, saying the longer skis will “definitely not be safer” for young skiers.
Bode Miller was also very vocal during the forum, asserting that binding regulations were more pertinent to racer safety than ski size and that the new dimensions would force the sport to regress.
“I think that if the restrictions were all removed entirely, there would be a technical evolution where the skis would change, the bindings would change, the boots would change and all these young athletes would who grew up skiing on shape skis would be able to use their innovation and their ideas to develop the sport,” Miller said.
Anja Paerson asked why the new ski specification tests were focused mainly on male skiers, and used Lara Gut and Askel Lund Svindal as examples of the disparity in size among ski racers subjected to the new restrictions.
FIS Chief Race Director Gunther Hujara, who called upon athletes in turn to voice their concerns, reiterated that the extensive studies, tests and decisions behind the new regulations were made purely with safety and injury prevention in mind.
“The goal and aim was to reduce injuries, not to change the feeling or look of skiing,” Hujara said.