Alpine Skiing Techniques: Gliding, Wedging, and Carving

  • David A. Lind
  • Scott P. Sanders


Skiing can be an extreme sport, requiring precise, split-second decisions that may call for total body movements from the skier. Sometimes these decisions and movements must be made while traveling at speeds that may range up to 100 miles/hour (mph) (147 ft/s). Ski equipment is relatively heavy, and, at the speeds involved, the penalties of a crash or collision can be severe. In short, lots of physics is going on, and we ask the reader to remember that our primary objective is to explain the “why” of skiing to develop a greater sense of what actually happens as we speed down the slope, not to detail “how to” best make that descent. Our goal is to work through the physical “why” of skiing to develop a greater sense of the “how to.” In the discussion that follows, we assume that readers have some familiarity with basic ski maneuvers. Any ski maneuver, no matter how complex, can be broken into small pieces that can be treated in simple terms—this is the fundamental principal of analysis, that a whole may be examined and understood by study of its constituent parts. For the most part, basic skiing techniques have been analyzed only after the fact of their performance. Scientific and engineering analysis has only recently been employed to guide the development of new levels of skiing performance.


Aerodynamic Drag Edge Angle Alpine Skiing Fall Line Aerodynamic Drag Force 
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  1. 1.
    For more information on Newtonian mechanics, readers may find useful the discussions in almost any college-level textbook that offers an introduction to physics. For example, see D. C. Giancoli, Physics, 4th ed. (Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1995),Google Scholar
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    For a similar discussion of this problem, see R. Perla and B. Glenne, “Skiing,” in Handbook of Snow, edited by D. M. Gray and D. H. Male (Pergamon, Toronto, 1981).Google Scholar
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    J. Howe, Skiing Mechanics (Poudre, LaPorte, CO, 1983).Google Scholar
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    I. Stenmark, “Ski Technique in the 1990s,” in Snow Country, 1990 (March), p. 18.Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    V. Bein, Mountain Skiing (The Mountaineers, Seattle, WA, 1982).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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