Skiers and snowboarders can already benefit from airbags, albeit a different type of airbag than you'd see in a car. Avalanche airbags from companies like Snow Pulse and Backcountry Access are designed to inflate in the event of an avalanche, helping the victim to stay afloat on the snow and protecting his head and neck from blunt force trauma.
If Italian company Dainese has anything to say about it, skiers will also have access to a more traditional type of airbag designed to protect them in the event of a crash. The company's D-Air wearable airbag was originally designed for motorcycle racing and will soon launch in a street and racing version.
With its motorcycle version well in the works, Dainese has moved some of its focus off the asphalt and into the mountains in signing an agreement with the International Ski Federation (FIS) toward adapting the motorcycle-based D-Air system to the ski slopes to protect skiers from high-impact crashes.
The motorcycle version is essentially a vest with a series of sensors like accelerometers, gyrometers and a GPS. When those sensors detect a crash, the pressurized system delivers an airbag much like a car. The airbag is deployed as fast as 45 milliseconds and protects the riders neck, shoulders and collarbone, augmenting the head protection provided by the helmet.
While it might seem like a skier could just pick up a motorcycle D-Air and be protected, the company will need t recalibrate the system based upon ski data. The system is sensitive enough to decipher between a normal fall and a dangerous crash and it will need data specific to skiing to provide the same level of protection to ski racers.
Once Dainese perfects its formula, maybe we could see personal airbags for every dangerous sport and activity.