Science of Slopestyle Skiing

The Science of Slopestyle Skiing

From an Olympic perspective, it’s the new kid on the mountain. But for years, slopestyle skiing has been the darling of primetime events, like the X-Games and the Dew Tour.
The appeal of the sport is apparent when watching stars like University of Utah alum Tom Wallisch dazzle audiences by launching off kickers and flying through the air onto rails, pipes and the occasional box wall, where they perform a finely tuned “jib” routine, and then launch midair once again, performing twists, flips and corkscrews before landing the aerial adventure skiing backwards (known as a switch).

It’s no wonder the Olympics wanted it to be an official event. With moves like the ones that made Wallisch famous (he’s arguably the sport’s biggest name) it’s a mesmerizing spectacle of speed, grace and courage. One that appears so improbable, it begs the question, how do they do that? NBC spoke with University of Utah physics professor Jordan Gerton to unveil the science behind it all. Here’s an excerpt from the discussion:

Jordan Gerton, a professor of physics at the University of Utah describes how Nick Goepper, a 2013 world champion slopestyle skier, will need to follow the laws of physics and rotational motion in order to nail his gravity-defying tricks in Goepper’s quest for Olympic gold in this freestyle skiing event debuting in Sochi.


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