EUGENE, Ore. — Alpine skiing is one crazy sport, with racers barreling down the mountain at speeds over 80 miles per hour. Anything that can help skiers get ready to race can become a critical advantage.
This year in Beijing, the U.S Alpine Ski Team has the advantage of some warm-up shorts that keep them extra warm. The unique garments were created by an Oregon company.
“It was a joint effort between myself and the Sports Management Program at the University of Oregon. These are designed to be worn just to keep the legs warm with or without heat in the moments leading up to the race beginning,” said Colby Taylor with Innovative Sports, Inc. in Eugene, which designs and manufactures the unique heating elements.
"There’s a lithium battery system that powers the mechanism and what we did was we created custom shaped heating elements in our facilities that fit exactly within the perimeters of the shorts, on the inside of the lining," he said.
Taylor has been in the business of portable heated sports apparel for more than 20 years, providing heat to Major League Baseball, the NFL, and other athletes, including U.S. skier Bode Miller for the 2004 Olympics. But this is a first for the entire U.S. Alpine Ski Team.
And that’s where Lauren Samuels and Josh Daniel came in. Samuels is a former U.S. Ski Team Member with insight and connections to the current team, and Josh specializes in design.
As grad students in the University of Oregon Sports Product Management Program, they came up with the plan to insert the custom heating elements into the skiers existing warm up shorts.
“We’re like, 'what are your athletes currently using? Do you have any extra gear that we can look at?'" Daniel said. "And they’re like 'we have a box of these training shorts that they’re really using,' and we’re just like, 'perfect.'"
Daniel said "perfect" because they only had a few months to design and build a whole team's worth of custom fit shorts for the U.S. Alpine skiers.
In the end, he said it was worth the effort to get to see the gear being used for the first time at the Olympics.
“Obviously it was just like really exciting, but really it was kind a sigh of relief that was like 'oh, it’s not just sitting in a box somewhere,'" Daniel said with a laugh.