FIS Sets Ski Radius Limits

With the start of the 2011-12 Alpine Ski World Cup just around the corner, there has been some controversy between the Federation Internationale de Ski (FIS) and athletes over proposed radius limits on various skis for the 2012-13 season. In line with this issue, the FIS Alpine Executive Committee has made the recommendation that the FIS Council permit an athlete to join the executive group.

The current controversy began in July when the FIS, the organization that governs the World Cup as well as European Cup races, brought forward a proposal to limit the radius of skis for super-G, slalom and grand slalom. The adjustments have been made for the safety of skiers. The main issue is carving skies. With this type of ski the skier’s grip on turns is affected by the degree of curvature along the length of the carving ski. Slalom racers have found that the carving skis require less energy and result in easier turning. On the downside it is placing immense pressure on athletes’ joints, increasing the risk of injury.

It is generally agreed that there should be a minimum radius on carving skis, though the argument comes in when deciding what that number should be. The limit that is attracting the most attention is that on grand-slalom skis, which have been set at 30 meters for women and 35 meters for men. A study was conducted by the University of Salzburg’s Institute for Sport Science, but many feel that the FIS has not examined the results carefully enough when setting the limits.

A number of ski racers have objected to the ski limits set by the FIS, with only Benjamin Raich of Austria fully supporting the changes. Many have criticized the FIS for not allowing athletes to assist in the processes related to safety decisions. Thus the FIS Alpine Executive Committee (AEC) decided to recommend that athletes are represented on the committee. The skier nominated to join the AEC must already be a member of the athletes commission, as well as a current participant in alpine racing events. There will be a meeting of the FIS Council in November, where the request by the AEC is likely to be approved.