The Return of The Speedwyre
Bugatti. Lockheed Martin. Spyder. What do these companies all have in common? Each is known to make products that help humans travel at ridiculous speeds. At Spyder, we even made a racing suit so fast it got banned by skiing’s international governing body, FIS. Professional skiers are, to our knowledge, not superheroes. It has been well documented, however, that they literally fly at speeds forbidden on any road besides the Autobahn when wearing our suits, and it just so happens that Picabo Street was busy racking up World Cup wins in Spyder’s SpeedWyre suit at the time*. The SpeedWyre was subsequently shelved forever after… That is, until Spyder athlete Jared Goldberg decided it deserved a few practice runs a couple weeks ago in Zermatt, Switzerland.
Some of skiing’s deepest roots lie in the history of alpine ski racing. We certainly pride ourselves on the quality of the outerwear we make for the majority of skiers who opt not to test the limits of physics by accelerating down what could be conservatively described as a very icy, very steep slopes. We’re also proud to supply state-of-the-art gear necessary for the insane Americans who do step into the start gate; otherwise known as the U.S. Ski Team. Admittedly, we at Spyder aren’t particularly qualified to test whether our race suits are up to snuff regarding comfort, fit, and, well, speed because we, like most regular skiers, avoid icy slopes as best we can. Fortunately, Jared Goldberg isn’t a regular skier. To retest the technology that made skiers so fast it got banned, and get some feedback for our future suits, we consulted Goldberg--one of the American Downhillers vying for a spot on World Cup podiums this upcoming season--about the ways Spyder can continue to push the boundaries of race suit technology to make the fastest skiers in the world even faster.
For context, the SpeedWyre was banned because it used a fabric seam (not an actual wire) strategically sewn into the sleeves and legs meant to break headwinds. Goldberg, like many ski racers, obsesses over minuscule details that can shave tenths or hundredths of a second off of final times; tiny intervals that ultimately make the difference between a podium finish or not. On the subject, Jared told us that “I spent 2.5-3 hours just to get my boots perfect. The amount of detail to every other thing we work on...nobody in the world can be in the same kind of circumstances we’re in, going as fast as we are with such small margin for error, and be able to tell us which lens we should use, how tight your goggle strap should be, what kind of booster strap to use, the list goes on.”
Most recently, Goldberg has been inspired increasingly by road biking race suits worn by world class cyclists in the Tour de France and the Olympics as innovative templates to draw from that could be applied in the future to ski racing suits.“What’s interesting to me is how they approach an arm different to a torso in terms of the wind resistance, which is proving that certain areas matter more than others in terms of drag, resistance, air flow, etc.”, Goldberg says. “The texture is something we’ve looked at as well not only in terms of aerodynamics but also in terms of body positioning, and whether they can then perhaps help you with your stance”, the question becomes how to incorporate these aspects without violating the FIS regulations.
Spyder has actually drawn inspiration from the same realm in its history of innovating on the ski racing front. Going back to the cycling world, SpeedWyre was developed by Spyder founder David Jacobs, and an aerodynamicist who works heavily in the cycling world and well because Spyder started in Boulder which also happens to be a cycling “mecca” within the U.S. Legend has it that Jacobs and his crew used to literally drive around Boulder sticking different fabrics out the window and testing their resistance. The main difference between cycling and skiing, however, is obviously speed. Cycling tops out at 40-50mph while skiing reaches 80-90mph. To gain a greater understanding of how we might utilize this technology in our race suits, we reached out to our friend Scotty Veenis, one of the Men’s World Cup Speed Coaches, unofficial Race Suit Developer for the U.S. Ski Team, and a former NCAA ski racer himself.
Veenis recalled that “After hearing that [Spyder] had an actual SpeedWyre suit, and hearing all the legendary stories about the technology and how it was way ahead of its time, it was actually banned specifically by FIS for being too advantageous, we had to get our hands on it! We tested the suit on Jared in Zermatt 2 weeks ago in live training, and despite it being almost 30 year old technology, it held up very close to the suits that we’re running right now, which speaks highly to how advanced that technology truly is.” Veenis continued, “We would love to find a way to replicate the SpeedWyre technology, in a FIS-legal way, and continue to push the boundaries of race suit development.”
Sure, tenths of a second don't sound like much, but for skiers like Goldberg, it’s the difference between a World Cup podium or 25th place. This kind of attention to detail certainly exceeds most normal people’s meticulousness with their ski gear, which is why, at Spyder, we’ve made it our mission to ensure that we take care of these details on behalf of the U.S. Ski Team’s racers. If you’ve ever seen the American daredevils accelerate down the infamous Corviglia downhill at St. Moritz or fly over the final jump at Kitzbuhel’s Hahnenkamm--ski racing’s most notorious and coveted downhill-- you know exactly how tragic even the smallest design flaw could be. To illustrate just how essential an athlete’s suit is to their performance Jared asserted, “you need any kind of confidence booster you can get. I remember two years ago we were testing these different materials… One suit was 3 millimeters thicker, and, while comfy, it felt spongy. Whereas the AirEvac I tried felt like a glove, and especially when it’s new, you put it on and it feels incredible”.
Thanks to Jared’s insight, our design team has been back at work designing the next generation of Spyder racing suits to push the boundaries of technological innovation in the world of ski racing. One detail, which is no secret at all, is that American racers’ suits could be likened more closely to superhero suits than to anything resembling ski wear. As much as we’d love to tell you about the newest Spyder technology, dubbed the [redacted], we’ve got to keep a couple secrets to ourselves in order for our athletes to be most successful**. One thing we’re happy to disclose, however, is that we fully expect to see Americans on the Olympic podium in 2022.
*We’ve been counseled not to comment further on our involvement in helping skiers to fly, since we constantly forget to warn domestic and international air traffic control centers ahead of races.
**The name of the next industry-disrupting Spyder suit was redacted after an intern nearly revealed it while it remains in testing. We revoked his security clearance.