Physics of Downhill Skiing

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Skiing is a sport enjoyed by millions of people around the world. The adrenaline rush that skiers get from flying down the slopes is unmatched, but all too often the cause for this rush is overlooked. Physics plays a crucial role in skiing and without it, there would definitely be no skiing. The concept of skiing is simple. You attach a ski to each foot, go to the top of a hill or incline, and slide down, turning side to side. From this basic concept of sliding down an inclined plane, a worldwide sport has evolved. In this paper, I hope you gain a useful knowledge of the vitally important role that physics plays in the sport of downhill skiing.

m = mass of skier

g = gravitational force

a = acceleration

mu = kinetic friction coefficient

· Inertial Forces = (m)(a)

· Frictional Force = (mu)(m)(g)(cos theta)

· Graviational Force = (m)(g)(sin theta)

Gravity is the force that holds the skier to the ground and is also what pulls the skier down the hill. While gravity is acting straight down on the skier, a normal force is exerted on the skier that opposes gravity. As the skier skis down the hill, he or she will encounter an acceleration. This acceleration is due to gravity caused by a change in the skiers velocity. The mass of a skier is different for every person and is easily calculated by multiplying a skiers weight in kilograms by the gravitational force exerted by the earth. These forces and more are explained throughout the rest of this paper.

Gravity is a force that everybody is familiar with and is one of the simplest to understand. We all know that if you were to throw a ball in the air it would fall right back down. This force called gravity exerts a constant acceleration of 9.81 m/sec2 towards the center of the earth. Gravity is what pulls you down the hill. While gravity is being exerted downward, a normal force is being exerted on the skier opposing gravity. This normal force acts perpendicular to the earth's surface, and in this case the mountain on which the skier is skiing. Lets say for instance the skier was on a flat surface, both gravity and the normal force would be acting on the skier but in opposite directions, thereby canceling each other out and resulting in no movement. However when a skier is on the mountain, the combination of gravity and the perpendicular normal force result in the skier being pulled down the mountain at the same angle as the mountain’s slope.

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