Physics essay Physics of snowboarding

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Eduardo Vera


Physics essay

Physics of snowboarding

An understanding of the physics of snowboarding is useful to snowboarders of all skill levels because it allows them to identify those key physics principles enabling them to properly execute certain moves, which is useful from a performance point of view.

A snowboarder typically gains speed by converting gravitational potential energy into kinetic energy of motion. So the more a snowboarder descends down a hill, the faster he goes. The two pictures above show a snowboarder going down a mountain. However, since the side of the mountain is very steep, the snowboarder must prevent himself from going too fast and losing control. He does this by skidding his board on the snow, in a controlled zigzags pattern (shown in the first picture). This creates frictional resistance with the snow and prevents his speed from reaching dangerously high levels.

A common snowboarder stunt is to jump off a helicopter and land on the side of a mountain, before racing down. The landing force experienced by the snowboarder is reduced because his normal velocity component relative to the mountain surface, just before landing, is small. This is a result of the side of the mountain being at an inclination

For some tricks, a snowboarder performs aerial acrobatics, spinning and twisting in the air. The basic physics principle at work here is the conservation of angular momentum. The angular momentum of the snowboarder is determined at takeoff (from the ramp), and cannot be changed once the snowboarder is airborne. So to make turns in the air the snowboarder must give himself initial rotation upon takeoff. Once airborne, the snowboarder can alter his body shape in order to produce an impressive aerial display of tricks and twists for the crowd, during which his angular momentum remains constant. When it comes to aerial tricks, the physics of snowboarding is similar to the physics of skateboarding.

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