U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association, the national governing body for Olympic skiing and snowboarding, announced a partnership with Menlo Park-based STRIVR Labs to use VR to help prepare for and recover from World Cup and Olympic events.
According to the association, both 360 video and VR are being used “in multiple ways in competition, from inspections of the race course, helping athletes learn the lines they will race through, to helping athletes rehabilitate from injuries.”
Troy Taylor, High Performance Director at U.S. Ski & Snowboard says that due to limited time on the course, athletes that use VR have a distinct edge on the competition.
“The clear advantage of VR is that it is a great way to help athletes get more used to and learn specific courses, which is an obvious performance benefit,” says Taylor. “The implementation of VR is also part of a larger strategy of US Ski & Snowboard’s High Performance department to embrace the leading edge of technology and innovations to equip our athletes with the latest tools to aid their performance.”
“The feedback we have from our athletes suggests that the biggest benefit of using VR is building confidence,” Taylor explains. “They feel they know the courses they will race on better, so when they come to ski on it during a race they enter the start gate with an increased confidence level. That is a big part of competition, having the confidence to attack parts of the course where you can find time, so that’s a clear benefit.”
STRIVR, which has provided similar VR training regimes for teams in the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL, has given what U.S. Ski & Snowboard describes as “mental access” to each course their athletes compete on, providing a clearer internal map for the positions of gates, terrain, the way the turns appear—the sort of things that make athletes more confident.