“We’re just at the cusp of changing an entire sport, and it’s coming out of a town of 23-thousand people. It’s incredible where we’ve got to,” said Alastair Smith, co founder of Proskida.
Current performance-monitoring technology that’s widely available in the sport doesn’t tell you how much you’re producing; it just tells you how much energy you’re expending while exercising. Proskida is a Yukon company with a performance-monitoring technology aiming to change that. “Cross-country skiing has never had this,” said Smith, noting that it is standard in other endurance sports.
The company marked its three-year anniversary in November. “My co-founders and I cycle, we run … and the question was, Why isn’t there some kind of tool in cross-country skiing to be able to measure performance? What’s holding it back?”
Smith, a computer scientist by trade, worked with his team of engineers and an exercise physiologist to develop a technology that can measure a skier’s force and efficiency. It’s a tool similar to what you have in other endurance sports that can measure “external load.” Which is how much you achieve when you exert yourself. “If you compared it to lifting weights, the performance would be how much you can actually lift,” said Smith. So far, cross-country skiing has only been able to measure “internal load.” As an example, “Whenever I lift 150 pounds, my heart rate is X.”
The monitor comes in the form of a ski grip. It monitors the amount of force being applied to the pole and the orientation of the pole so that it can measure how efficient you are in your skiing. In cross-country skiing, Smith said conditions can affect performance a lot more than in other sports. “Cross-country is super dependant on the snow conditions, so you can’t even use time as a method to tell whether or not your technique is better. With running, you can measure the time; whereas with skiing, the snow could just be slower or faster.” He said his technology solves that problem.
Another part of the package is the software, which has three components. Sensors tie into the ski-pole grip, and metrics tie into an application (this can also tie into heart-rate monitors or high-accuracy GPS devices). The data is streamed in real-time to a cloud so that the coach can see the information coming in while it’s being collected. This allows them to give on-site feedback to athletes while they practice. “Now, skiers have access to all the metrics. They can now further optimize their skiing.” It’s no longer guesswork in terms of trying to improve their skiing. “Up until now it’s been that you modify technique based on feel, and hope that you get faster.”
The Canadian and Swiss national ski teams were Proskida’s first clients. But word gets out, “It’s not like they’re calling each other up and telling each other about it. They would rather no one else has it, of course.” Proskida’s customer portfolio now includes the Canadian National Ski Team, the Swiss National Ski Team, the German National Ski Team, the French National Training Centre and the Norwegian Olympic Federation. “We’ve had good uptake at the highest level, where they see the immediate need for this type of tool. Our goal is to work with those top-end teams and learn how it can be used to optimize the tool. And from there, release it to the broader cross-country-skiing market.”
Smith said the teams are already more efficient and are able to fine-tune training in a way that they couldn’t before. “Skiing in the past has been based on perceived effort—the feel—It can be hard to achieve results without any quantifiable data.” The Swiss have also been using the technology in Alpine skiing. It allows athletes to test start techniques, and the cloud platform makes it possible for them to give feedback to the skier on-site.
“The coolest thing is that it’s a Yukon company that has built a tool that is being used by the world’s best people in the sport.” Smith said it’s important to understand that “we can do this in the Yukon, and we can build companies that have global impact.”
Noting that the Yukon consistently pulls over its weight in endurance sport, Smith said, “There’s a pedigree here, and that served us really well at the early stage.”
For more information or to reserve a pair of Proskida grips, you can visit their website at www.proskida.com.