Ski jumping's science

They fly through the air with the greatest of ease....and a bunch of science.

Ski jumper: Photo courtesy Morgan Goodwin, Calgary Canada.

When you're watching the ski jumpers fly off the huge hills at Torino during the Winter Olympics, you're not just seeing bravery and athleticism on display. You're also seeing some science.

While the forces of gravity eventually win out, the aerodynamics of lift play a big role in the outcome of the event. The way the jumpers position their skis and their bodies has will affect the air flows around them. The best jumpers will have mastered aerodynamics along with their physical training to get on to the medal stand.

The jumpers rely on scientific principles developed hundreds of years ago. The first is Isaac Newton's law that any action causes an equal and opposite reaction. In the case of ski jumping, the jumper's body and skis will push some air down. The reaction from that is that some air will actually then push the skier up.

The second scientific law in play is Daniel Bernouli's discovery that air pressure drops as air moves faster. Ski jumpers who know that will position their bodies so the air above them moves faster. The slower air beneath them will have more pressure, giving the skier another dimension of lift.

Another big change in ski jumping came in 1985 with the creation of the "V" position — holding their skies wide apart in front of them and crossed behind them. While the "V" was initially laughed at, jumpers discovered that it gave them a lot more distance. Jumpers were able to add up to 100 meters more distance to their jump with the change.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Hey this is a really nice explaination, however I was wondering how to use bernoulli's equation to calculate lift?

posted on Thu, 04/06/2006 - 3:29pm
Laura's picture
Laura says:

This is great, thanks for helping me get some info for my physics project.

posted on Mon, 02/27/2006 - 10:42am
bryan kennedy's picture

I always think that these mathematical descriptions over at Wolfram's Math World are pretty easy to understand. Check out their page on Bernoulli's Law (aka the Bernoulli Equation)

posted on Mon, 12/11/2006 - 2:12pm
Benjamin James's picture
Benjamin James says:

o boy this was fun reading and i used it well with my science paper. it was great fun and i love u guys for making this. it had exaclty wat i was looking for in my paper

posted on Sun, 12/10/2006 - 8:34pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

thnx for tthe help my friend says soooo too we r working on a project so thnx bye

posted on Tue, 04/03/2007 - 7:00pm
roo's picture
roo says:

hey thank u for this info it will help alot thanks bye

posted on Tue, 04/03/2007 - 7:01pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

this is great it helped me so much ay thanks xx

posted on Tue, 07/24/2007 - 3:26am
Nick Fairall's picture
Nick Fairall says:

Wow I am a Ski Jumper and I have never heard anything more clear and simple to describe a ski jump. good job.

posted on Tue, 08/28/2007 - 5:22pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

wat is the aerodynamics of ski jumping

posted on Tue, 02/19/2008 - 7:45am
whistler lodgings's picture

We hardly can wait here in Canada for the winter Olympics to kick off. Just watching these ski acrobats is an amazing experiencing, I can only imagine what it would be like to fly through the air.

posted on Fri, 05/02/2008 - 7:19am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

it is not relevant to apply the bernoulli principle to a human body...think about it. even an airplane doesn't fly sollely on the bernoully principles. the angel of attack determines the amount of lift created by the jumper.

posted on Fri, 02/27/2009 - 5:41am
Derp Herpington's picture
Derp Herpington says:

Thanks for the Information, It will be used in my Project in which I am making a video. Cheers!

posted on Tue, 02/21/2012 - 10:39pm

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