Aerodynamic Drag

  • David A. Lind
  • Scott P. Sanders


The aerodynamic drag force on a skier resulting from the viscosity of the air consists of two different types. If air flows in a perfect, streamlined, laminar flow around the skier’s body, the aerodynamic drag on the skier results from the shear velocity gradient at the surface and increases or decreases proportionally with the velocity of the airflow. Drag from laminar airflow is negligible in the context of this discussion. As the velocity of the airflow around the skier increases, however, the shear also increases until the laminar flow separates at some angle f on the downstream side of the skier’s body and turbulence develops in the wake that trails behind the skier. The momentum that transfers from the skier to the air in that turbulent wake represents a drag force on the skier.


Reynolds Number Wind Tunnel Drag Force Aerodynamic Drag Turbulent Wake 
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  1. 1.
    See, for example, N. de Mestre, The Mathematics of Projectiles in Sports (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K., 1990).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    The discussion of aerodynamic drag that follows is indebted to C. B. Mil-likan’s analysis of aerodynamics, Aerodynamics of the Airplane (Wiley, New York, 1941); for the parts of the discussion more specifically centered on skiing, we are indebted to S. C. Colbeck’s “An Error Analysis of the Techniques Used In the Measurement of High-Speed Friction on Snow,” Ann. Glaciol. 19, 19 (1994), and M. S. Holden’s “The Aerodynamics of Skiing,” Sci. Am. 258 (2), T4 (1988).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Both Holden (1988), cited in Ref. 2, and A. E. Raine, “Aerodynamics of Skiing,” Sci. J. 6 (3), 26 (1970), present the results of wind-tunnel tests of the air drag on speed skier suits, boots, and fairings, as well as the body positions a skier might assume. Neither author mentions tests of rough-surfaced or dimpled equipment or clothing.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    C. C. Roberts Jr., “Numerical Modeling of the Transient Dynamics of a Skier While Gliding,” in Biomechanics of Sport: A 1987 Update, edited by E. D. Rekow, J. G. Thacker, and A. G. Erdman (American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 1987).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • David A. Lind
    • 1
  • Scott P. Sanders
    • 2
  1. 1.University of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  2. 2.University of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA

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