Ahh, the glory of swishing through fresh snow on a majestic mountain. Our love of wintertime activities hasn’t changed much over the years but, thanks to lighter, nimbler plastics and high-tech materials, skis, sleds and other winter equipment have improved, boosting athletic performance as well as safety.
Let’s journey back in time to pay homage to some old-fashioned winter sports gear and contrast it with today’s cutting-edge equipment!
Ice hockey skates
Ice hockey has been around for nearly 150 years, but the skates, or “boots,” competitive players wear today are no longer crafted of a flexible leather. These days they’re made of a nice, hard plastic, which helps support a player’s ankles and limits unwanted movement within the boot.
Pro skiers first started wearing helmets in the mid-1930s. The “protective gear” was made of leather and looked a lot like the motorcycle helmets of the time. Over several decades – and the advent of downhill as a sport – manufacturers improved the helmets with cutting-edge petrochemical materials like fiberglass, Styrofoam and butadiene. The Styrofoam-butadiene combo is the leading makeup of ski helmets today, as it’s lightweight and shock-absorbent.
Antique skis are so cool that they’re now used for wall decoration – but you wouldn’t want to be caught wearing them on the slopes. Current-day skis do share something in common with their predecessors, however: wood. Nowadays, in addition to a wooden core, skis are made from stronger, lighter carbon and fiberglass. Their steel edges also help you carve around moguls on slippery slopes.
The first bobsleds, made in late the 19th century, were constructed of wood, much like any other sled at the time. As the pastime grew into a real sport, however, fiberglass and steel became the preferred materials to encase speeding sledders. Thanks to advances in design and materials, today’s sleds tear through courses as fast as 150 kilometers an hour (93 mph).