Canadian skiers use 'Stealth' technology

Canada's ski team is training with GPS technology that tracks the line and speed of a racer down a course.

Provides continuous data on line, velocity

Calgary's John Kucera won the giant slalom at the 2009 Canadian championships. ((Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press))

Canada's ski team has revealed that it has been using a homegrown high-tech device in its quest for Olympic gold.

The skiers have been using a compact tracking technology nicknamed Stealth, based on the global positioning system and developed at the University of Calgary.

The device, accurate within centimetres, tracks the lines that skiers take down a course and monitors their speed, looking for the optimum route.

Gerald Cole, who worked on the program with the University of Calgary and Alpine Canada, said the program helps skiers find the most efficient line of descent.

"You look at the line selection, and it's not just through a turn but how did they come out of the turn and how did they set themselves up for the next turn," said Cole. "And if it's done properly you see them through a series of two or three turns carrying more speed out of it. And if it's not done properly you see exactly where they're losing speed and ultimately they end up coming out of that series of turns a bit slower."

Canada's alpine team has been training with Stealth for three years but was sworn to secrecy until a confidentiality agreement with the developers expired, to prevent the technology from falling into the hands of other racing teams.

Patrick Breault, manager of the competitive clubs program at Canada Olympic Park, noted that fractions of seconds determine who gets to the Olympic podium.

"Even messing up on one turn could jeopardize your entire run, and that's by hundredths of seconds. Skiers are so good at that level everything makes a difference."

The device is small enough to fit in a hand  and weighs 270 grams. It fits to a belt and it is attached to a metal disc — the antenna — on the skier's helmet.

Gerard Lachapelle of the university’s Schulich School of Engineering says Stealth enables coaches and skiers to analyze an athlete’s entire performance down a ski run.

"They have continuous measurements, data on the performance of the skier as the skiers come down the slope in terms of their velocity, their position, their radius of curvature, rate of descent and so on and so forth."