Hundredths of a second and fractions of an inch can mean the difference between first and 10th when it comes to alpine, para-alpine, and ski cross racing.
With a focus on delivering the environment and resources its athletes need to realize their full potential, Alpine Canada has been partnering with Solace Systems – an Ottawa-based smart data movement technology leader – to provide funding and technology to implement unique research and innovation programs focused on improving team performance.
A gold-level partner, Solace has collaborated on wind tunnel testing of speed suit materials and athlete performance in varying wind speeds and conditions. The results of these off-season tests have been incorporated into this season’s approach by Alpine Canada when it comes to materials’ selections and fit, as well as other aerodynamic factors, with the goal of closing the gap on podium results every race.
“This is a rare opportunity to test materials and equipment to see the difference. It’s really important to do this and it is really awesome that we get this opportunity,” said Marie-Michèle Gagnon, member of Canada’s Alpine Ski Team, during the wind tunnel testing.
With Solace’s support Alpine Canada kicked off a top-secret wind tunnel project designed to generate data and insights the organization’s race suit provider could use to design the fastest race suits possible.
Gagnon was one of select team athletes who performed the wind tunnel testing, which measured permeability and aerodynamics to provide details for the customization of suits to each individual athlete.
“Obviously if we have wrinkles or folds in the suit, there’s more drag…” began Canadian team member Erik Guay.
“But as well the actual material makes a big difference. So we spent a lot of time, research and development on the material itself, making sure it fit properly. And then the suits are custom built for each one of us so that they’re fit perfectly.”
The most dramatic evidence of the project’s success came at the 2017 World Alpine Ski Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland. It was there that Guay, already Canada’s most decorated alpine ski racer ever – won gold in the Super-G and silver in the downhill.
Since the start of the 2018-19 season, Canada’s national alpine, para-alpine, and ski cross team athletes have combined to earn 22 World Cup and World Championships’ medals, as well as career-best results for Benjamin Thomsen and Brodie Seger at the famous Hahnenkahmm downhill at Kitzbuehel, Austria, sporting special-edition Solace-themed race suits.
Alpine Canada and Solace Systems are looking to include some of the younger World Cup athletes in future wind tunnel testing projects to help them learn critical elements of aerodynamics and speed that can be difference makers in races as we look ahead to the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.