Plastics: omnipresent at Sochi

The 22nd Olympic Winter Games in Sochi would not happen without plastics: in the 92 different disciplines, polymers are omnipresent – and they are often the decisive bit. From alpine skiing to biathlon or toboggan, sport people and equipment have to deliver the best performance. To ensure the best results, the material used must be top quality. Nowadays, no winter sports equipment, no winter clothing nor shoes can do without plastics. This is true for Olympic athletes but also for all those playing sports in their leisure time.

  • Modern alpine skis
    are made of different materials and several layers of plastics. That makes them both lightweight, and highly resistant and suitable for snow gliding. 

    © Celanese
  • Cross-country skiing and biathlon
    In cross-country skiing and biathlon, the bottom surface and the way the skies glide often make the difference. Various types of plastic waxing can make the ideal glide surface for any type of snow and temperature.  These glide waxes are simply applied to the bottom surface of the ski. 

    © Matteo Festi Shutterstock
  • Luging
    as well as bobsleighing is heavily depending on plastics. Speeds up to 150 km/h would hardly be reachable without polymers. Aerodynamics and lightness is key to success. Modern composite materials give strength and stiffness, absorb shocks and withstand extreme temperatures up to minus 30 and below. 

    Brady Canfield skeleton racer © Shutterstock
  • Ski jumping
    requires courage, timing and perfect aerodynamics. Top jumping teams invest in the development of new materials to improve aerodynamics. At the current winter games, new jumping suits guarantee larger air intake thanks to innovative seams and optimised weft based on synthetic fibres, which help reduce airflows on the back. Modern jumping skis are smooth which results in reducing friction and increasing speed. In Sochi, the in run of the take-off ramp is made of plastics to guarantee equal conditions for all jumpers. 

    © Shutterstock
  • Ice hockey
    is a full contact sport. Protective equipment is therefore mandatory, including helmet, shoulder, elbow and shin pads, mouth guard, protective gloves and padded shorts. In this case too, plastics meet the requirements! Even hockey sticks, which were once made of wood, are today made of composite materials. Numerous sport clubs in Northern America and Eastern Europe provide artificial training surfaces made of plastics, leaving out the traditional ice.

    © Celanese
  • Ski boots
    Olympic games fashion quickly makes its way to department stores. The new generation of ski boots is already available for sale. These boots are much lighter and offer better insulation. Plastic inner and outer soles are designed to take the shape of the feet, enabling thereby better comfort and stability.

    © Shutterstock 
  • Ski helmets
    Today, for good reasons, a large majority of alpine skiers wear a helmet. These helmets which change design every season also increase the skiers’ performance. Nowadays, modern ski and snowboard helmets offer a high level of safety. Over the past years, their shock resistance has significantly improved without increasing their weight. 

    © Shutterstock
  • Avalanche airbags
    Even though snow slides are the most serious natural hazards, avalanche airbags will significantly reduce the risk of complete burial in the snow. This is why rescue teams in the Alps as well as many free riders use these systems that consist of big plastic cushions that can be blown up with air in a blink of an eye. 

    © ABS Avalanche Airbag / Hansi Heckmair  
  • Ski clothing
    Modern ski clothing (from underwear to pants, shirt, jacket and gloves) is made of synthetic fibres that keep you warm and dry, while making you look cool.

    © Celanese 
  • Outdoor furniture
    This fashionable and highly resistant outdoor furniture provides a colourful and comfortable "rest area” at 1,840 meter altitude. 

    © PlasticsEurope
Modern alpine skis
Cross-country skiing and biathlon
Luging
Ski jumping
Ice hockey
Ski boots
Ski helmets
Avalanche airbags
Ski clothing
Outdoor furniture


Did you know ?
  • Researchers recently modified an elastomer used to make tires so it can self heal. © American Chemistry Council, Inc.
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