A 2022 Ski Odyssey

Fitness
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Flash back 20 years: Safety straps stopped runaway skis. Flash forward 20: Electronic brakes will do the job within milliseconds. Flash back again: Stretch pants were all the rage. Flash forward: Sleek, streamlined clothes will not only produce heat but also monitor our physiological functions. Sound far-fetched? Not to the handful of experts-from stem-cell researchers to clothing manufacturers-we asked to predict how a skier will look, feel and perform in 2022. Though their answers might surprise you now, in two decades you'll think they were too conservative. As one expert puts it, "Anything that sounds so cutting edge now will probably seem outdated in 2022."

Future Fuel

Forget any Jetson-like vision of swallowing just one supervitamin in the morning for your daily fuel. "Food is too pleasurable," says Jeff Zachwieja, a senior scientist at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute. "People will always enjoy sitting down to a meal." But in a couple of decades, chowing on an après-ski pizza will provide more than just pleasure and satiation: Food will be genetically modified to fit your specific nutrition needs. As research on the human genome progresses, Zachwieja foresees a day when a simple test will reveal how an individual human body processes foods and creates energy. For example, my body might perform better on a high-protein diet (so the sausage on my pizza might be 100 percent protein), while yours might thrive on carbs (lots of veggies, extra-thick crust).

In addition, the PowerBar-in-the-pocket practice might become passé. "Food will have better time-release capabilities, so there will be a constant flow of energy," Zachwieja says, which means you won't get the munchies three runs into your ski day. But you still may have to make a pit stop: Because water comprises 70 percent of the body, we'll always need to hydrate. Just as with food, scientists will be able to determine the makeup of your sweat and be able to replace the lost minerals properly. "Some people lose more sodium, some more potassium," Zachwieja says. "We'll have a drink specifically for your needs."

Coverup
While there's no guarantee that freezing on the chairlift will be a concern of the past (although global warming might have some serious impact), technology in clothing will ease the chill. Polartec is now developing fabrics for the U.S. military with physiological monitors knit into the fibers. "We can measure your blood pressure, skin and core temperatures, and heart rate," says David Costello, business manager at Malden Mills, who sees a less expensive, commercial application available in the next decade or so. "Plus, you can also measure altitude, barometric pressure, whatever else interests you." Those measurements will be transmitted to your watch; then, using that data, you can actively heat and cool your body with the push of a button. Most fabrics, Costello predicts, will have pores that can detect the weather conditions and react accordingly: If it's windy and chilly, the pores close; if you're midway through an intense bump run, they open for ventilation. Goodbye, pit zips.

Smartskis
Today's shaped, short skis aren't likely to be replaced, says Tim Petrick, vice president and general manager of K2 Skis, who doesn't foresee skis getting much shorter than 165 cm for women and 175 cm for men. "We have hit the point of diminishing returns where ease in turning is offset by reduction in balance," he says. "A ski that is too short is actually more work." Ted Wardlaw, manager of Salomon alpine skis and bindings, agrees, although he sees skis for beginners and terrain park tricksters getting just a bit shorter and definitely wider. "It'll make it easier for them to control their skis in all conditions," he says. Boots will be softer, which will make them easier to walk and climb in, and might have features to help reduce ACL or other knee injuries. Perhaps most forward-looking is the prospect of electrons built into skis: An electronic dampening system or electronic bindings are potentials, but until a small, reliable, long-lasting power source can be harnessed, they're not likely to be a reality, Petrick says. (Although Polartec is also working on clothing that will capture and store solar power in a tiny battery, which could power your skis, boot warmers and car radio, among other things.) And those electronic brakes? They've already been suggested numerous times to Wardlaw, and he keeps them in his "wacky inventions" file. One thing is for sure: "As technological advancements keep making skiing safer," Wardlaw says, "people will keep pushing the limits until it's unsafe again."

Headgear
Helmets are here to stay. Their inclusion into our gear wardrobes won't be mandatory; it will just feel natural. "Five years from now, a helmet will just be considered a normal part of your equipment," says Bill Jensen, chief operating officer at Vail, Colo., which this season instituted a helmet policy for kids in ski school. Helmets will be sleeker and probably lighter, but don't expect paper-thin protection. "Regulations require specific thicknesses for impact standards, and I don't see those changing much," says Robyn Hasson, marketing director at Boeri. Do, however, expect to see integrated helmets and goggles, and possible full-face protection (more for sun than speed reasons). And the coolest part? Helmets will have built-in dashboard-like displays worthy of a 747. As you stand at the top of a run, the display, illuminated on a visor or corner of the goggles, will give you its vertical feet, best line and potential obstacles. In addition, Letterman-like helmet-cams will be cheaper, so you'll be able to replay the day at the lodge. Or, if you want to chat with your daughter who is 10 chairs back, you'll simply have to speak into your helmet; it'll be wired with communication technology.

Serious Rays
In two decades, SPF 20 will seem like baby oil did in the 1980s: completely unsafe. "Even SPF 30 might not be good enough in 20 years," says Dr. Darrell Rigel, a professor of dermatology at New York University. "SPF 50 may be the norm." Because every 1,000 feet you ascend equals at least a 5 percent increase in UV intensity and because ozone depletion will likely continue well into this century, skiers will have an even higher risk for sunburn and skin cancer. There will be, however, a couple of ways to protect your skin beyond today's Coppertone. One option is a pill, which you would take at regular intervals. "It's being researched," Rigel says. "The problem right now is that the chemicals in the sunscreen get destroyed by stomach acid. They need to find a way around that." A second option is an injection that would stimulate pigment cells to increase in size and number, which creates a tan. And self-tanners, instead of just making you look bronze, could also produce pigment for protection, says Dr. Gregory G. Papadeas, a former president of the Colorado Dermatologic Society.

Snap Recovery
Ski-equipment technology might alleviate some ACL injuries, but the current rate of injury-about one per day on every major ski hill-means many of us will still need to go under the knife. But instead of enduring a yearlong recovery period, future patients could be back on the slopes within two months-at least if Greg Altman, president of Massachusetts-based Tissue Regeneration, Inc. has his way. Using stem cells harvested from the injured person's hip, Altman has engineered a way to grow ligament tissue, which can then replace the torn tissue in the knee. (Currently, doctors either use your patella or hamstring tendons, which means two places on your body need to heal. Or, if you're older than 40, they typically use tissue from a cadaver, which runs the risk of rejection.) Altman's technique, which he hopes to have commercially available within seven years, means skiers can get back out there within the same season. "We can even bank their cells and have them ready to go if they get injured," he says. Altman ultimately envisions off-the-shelf replacement parts. "You'll be able to give your body a tuneup, just like you give your car."

We can't guarantee that in less than 20 years you'll be popping SPF pills or that your helmet will give you the best line for every run. But we can safely predict that the sport of skiing will continue to evolve and, better yet, that safety straps and long, narrow skis-no matter how strong the retro trend becomes-will never resurface.

Health Hit
Don't expect to skip the sunscreen anytime soon. Many ozone-depleting chemicals have been banned, but the ozone layer will likely take 50 years to heal.

Any Day Now
In the near future, keep your eye out for:

More fragrant armpits A deodorant in development by Unilever causes iron-the chemical that odor-causing bacteria need in order to multiply-to bind and thus be taken out of the picture. Initial tests, on 8,000 armpits, found a significantly improved smell.

Fewer bacteria-caused colds A super soap, marketed by Colgate Palmolive, allows fewer bacteria to attach to the skin. Now available in Latin America under the name Protexa, it should migrate to the Northern Hemisphere soon.

A less greasy, more effective sunscreen Next year, L'Oreal will introduce sunscreen in the U.S. that contains the less greasy UVA-blocker Mexoryl SX. It will be in products with an SPF of at least 50.

Fewer trips to the emergency room German scientists have developed self-tying sutures. They possess properties that cause the plastic to change shape and shrink with temperature increases.son. "We can even bank their cells and have them ready to go if they get injured," he says. Altman ultimately envisions off-the-shelf replacement parts. "You'll be able to give your body a tuneup, just like you give your car."We can't guarantee that in less than 20 years you'll be popping SPF pills or that your helmet will give you the best line for every run. But we can safely predict that the sport of skiing will continue to evolve and, better yet, that safety straps and long, narrow skis-no matter how strong the retro trend becomes-will never resurface. Health Hit
Don't expect to skip the sunscreen anytime soon. Many ozone-depleting chemicals have been banned, but the ozone layer will likely take 50 years to heal.Any Day Now
In the near future, keep your eye out for:

More fragrant armpits A deodorant in development by Unilever causes iron-the chemical that odor-causing bacteria need in order to multiply-to bind and thus be taken out of the picture. Initial tests, on 8,000 armpits, found a significantly improved smell.

Fewer bacteria-caused colds A super soap, marketed by Colgate Palmolive, allows fewer bacteria to attach to the skin. Now available in Latin America under the name Protexa, it should migrate to the Northern Hemisphere soon.

A less greasy, more effective sunscreen Next year, L'Oreal will introduce sunscreen in the U.S. that contains the less greasy UVA-blocker Mexoryl SX. It will be in products with an SPF of at least 50.

Fewer trips to the emergency room German scientists have developed self-tying sutures. They possess properties that cause the plastic to change shape and shrink with temperature increases.

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