Physics of Downhill Skiing

Physics of Downhill Skiing

Length: 1027 words (2.9 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
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.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Physics of Downhill Skiing." 123HelpMe.com. 24 Jan 2020
    <https://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=153313>.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay about Physics of Downhill Skiing

- 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....   [tags: physics sport sports ski skiing]

Free Essays
1027 words (2.9 pages)

Physics of Downhill Ski Racing Essay

- Gliding is the art of maintaining the flattest ski in order to achieve the lowest possible friction. The forces associated with gliding are fairly straightforward: gravity, friction, and air resistance. Air resistance has several inputs that add to the total resistive force. Friction is caused by the lack of a perfectly smooth surface between the skis and snow on a microscopic level. Think of it as the Rocky Mountain range trying to slide over the Himalayas. On a microscopic level this is what friction is....   [tags: physics sport sports skiing]

Research Papers
1425 words (4.1 pages)

Essay on Physics of Skiing

- The sport of skiing has been around for thousands of years, originally existing solely as a form of transportation. Today the sport is entirely dependent upon the laws of physics, and has even had advancements through reliance on physics. There are two types of Nordic Skiing. These are Classic (or diagonal) and Skate Skiing. Usually these two forms are raced separate. To be fair, there are actually two slightly different forms of skate skiing; V1 and V2. As these can get very very complicated and precise in the technique, I will focus mainly on classic skiing, which is also the type of skiing that most people are familiar with....   [tags: physics ski skiing]

Free Essays
1116 words (3.2 pages)

The Physics of Skiing Essay

- The Physics of Skiing I have been skiing for about five years and I find it to be one of the most fun and challenging sports there is. A lot of the reason it is so challenging is because of the laws of physics such as gravity and friction. In this essay I will discuss how physics relates to skiing and how this physics makes skiing so fun and challenging. I will also discuss how things like wax and the shape and width of your skis can affect these laws of physics and enhance your skiing. There are really only two main forces acting on a skier, they are gravity and air resistance....   [tags: Sports Athletics Essays]

Research Papers
1246 words (3.6 pages)

Skiing Essay

- Skiing Almost everyone around the world enjoys sports in one way or another. Sports range from basketball, a team sport, to speed skating, to skiing. Sports are usually defined by the characteristics of the activity; good sports must be made of multiple strong attributes. These elements must make the sport enjoyable to all involved at many levels, to provide basic leisure, to test one's abilities and to develop the individual's mental and physical boundaries. Skiing includes all of the right elements to produce a perfect sport; it provides challenge at multiple levels, involves differing levels of risk and provides variety in activities....   [tags: Sports]

Research Papers
576 words (1.6 pages)

Physics of Cross Country Skiing Essay

- Cross Country Skiing has existed since prehistoric times. The oldest pair of skis were found to be over 4500 years old. Skiing was used as a way to travel or hunt during the winter season. The skis were designed not so much for speed but to keep the skier on top of the snow. Traditionally, the skis were made of wood, the poles were made of bamboo with leather hand straps. The boots were also made of tough leather and were fastened to the skis with sinew made from animal hides. Skiing was believed to have originated from the Scandinavian countries and this fact is complimented by active skiing lifestyle that we see today....   [tags: physics sport sports ski skiing]

Free Essays
1312 words (3.7 pages)

Physics of Skiing Essay example

- Skiing is an old sport; the oldest artifacts date back over 4000 years. It was developed in the Scandinavian region, especially Norway, and didn't spread to the rest of Europe until the sixteenth or seventeenth century. It probably came over with Norwegian and German immigrants during the nineteenth century. Skiing relies on many different forms physics. Newton's Laws of Motion, the transformation of potential energy into kinetic energy, air resistance, circular motion, even conservation of circular momentum is used as skiers pump upwards during a turn....   [tags: physics sport sports ski skiing]

Free Essays
1838 words (5.3 pages)

The Physics of Cross-Country Skiing Essays

- Missing Figures Cross-country skiing is as much of a competitive sport, as it is a back country one. Cross-country skiing is enjoyed by people of all ages, and can be relatively inexpensive. There is no need for lift tickets and with a little maintenance equipment can last for decades. As a result of its broad audience, many people don't realize that physics plays a large role in cross-country skiing. This web page was designed to briefly describe some of the concepts behind the physics of skiing, and give a basic understanding of both the sport and the science....   [tags: physics sport sports cross country ski]

Free Essays
1429 words (4.1 pages)

Essay about Physics of Ski Waxing

- Skiing is one of the things to do during the winter, here in Canada. It is also cheap and easy to start, since there are ski-tracks almost everywhere and it is possible to find used skis for less then $50. Skis are pretty simple in design. Originally they were designed just as the snow shoes, though today they are much more advanced. (Wikipedia) Skis can be used just after you bought them, without doing anything to them. However, if you want your skis to perform to their best, simple maintenance needs to be performed....   [tags: physics sport sports ski skiing wax]

Free Essays
1023 words (2.9 pages)

Skiing Essay

- I can still remember the first time I went downhill skiing. It was a cold and dry November day. It hadn't been snowing much at the time, so most of the snow on the hills was that slick, jet blown, artificial-ice/pseudo-snow. Not exactly what a first timer likes to start on.My friend Michael had been trying to talk me into going on a skiing trip with him and the local Boy Scout troop for some time. I was afraid at first; I had heard many over-exaggerated stories from people who had claimed foul play, on the part of gravity, while skiing....   [tags: essays research papers]

Free Essays
606 words (1.7 pages)

You would definitely not be able to ski powder or jump cliffs without the force of gravity.

As you ski down a mountain, you will experience both acceleration and deceleration. This can be both fun and dangerous. Acceleration is defined as a change in velocity divided by a given amount of time. A skier accelerates as he gets started going down the mountain and begins to pick up speed. As the skier is coming to a stop, he begins to decelerate. Acceleration is not what kills people, but rather a sudden deceleration. Acceleration is safe as long as the skier is in control, but if the skier were to ever lose control and hit a tree, then Newton’s laws come into effect and the skier could be seriously injured.

Sir Isaac Newton came up with three laws that govern motion. His first law plays a huge role in skiing. It states that “An object in motion will stay in motion, and an object in rest will stay at rest until acted upon by an outside force.” Therefore if there were no friction and you started to ski down the mountain, you could ski indefinitely except for the fact that you would eventually encounter a tree or some other outside force that would bring you to a stop. Newton’s second law states that Force = (mass)x(acceleration) (F=ma). This equation allows you to determine the amount of force you have as you ski down the mountain. It also allows you to see the relationship acceleration plays in your force, and how if you were quickly accelerating and hit a tree, then the force you hit the tree with would be considerably higher than if you were skiing slowly. Newton’s third law says “For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction.” What this simply means is that, with the force that I hit a gate on the slalom course, that gate will exert the exact same amount of force back on me. This law is also what keeps running through my head when skiing through trees, knowing that if I were to hit one, it might be my last run for the day.


Friction is what allows you to stay in control while skiing. Because friction is a force that opposes motion, it is the reason you slow down. In order to stop you use a lot of friction by applying the whole edge of your ski perpendicular to the direction of travel. Skiers apply wax to the bottom of their skis in order to decrease the coefficient of friction. This coefficient is dependent upon snow conditions and varies with temperatures. On a colder day the friction between the snow and the skis will decrease, but when temperatures rise above 30 degrees, the friction increases and the snow becomes sticky.

Downhill skiing presents a great example of the relationship between work and energy. A skier possesses a large amount of potential energy at the top of a mountain. If starting at rest, all of the mechanical energy a skier possesses is in the form of potential energy. As the skier begins to descend down the mountain, his potential energy is depleting and being turned into the form of kinetic energy. At the point the skier reaches the bottom of the mountain, his speed and kinetic energy have reached their maximum. As friction begins to act upon the skier, the quantity of work increases and the mechanical energy of the skier is eventually lost. Finally the skier runs out of energy and comes to a stop. A great animation of this relationship is presented below.

Return to 123HelpMe.com