Who really controls airtime?

On the 30th October the world’s best skiers and snowboards, along with thousands of fans/groupies will descend on Battersea power station in London for the Freeze.

The freestyle snowsports competition will involve athletes descending a high run in slope before launching off a massive jump. The organisers have invested heavily in the event and along with the spectators are expecting massive airs and impressive tricks. This is a format which has been applied in cities across the world; although it hasn’t always gone exactly to plan.

On the 5th February 2009 the Redbull Snowscrapers event hit Manhattan. A colossal hip jump was constructed with the intention of producing huge air with the New York skyline as the backdrop. However, the jump didn’t perform as planned, The following quote from White Lines Snowboard Magazine describes what happened;

Unfortunately the run-in proved slower than hoped, and the guys were losing speed on the flat before the take-off. A wakeboard toe-in rope was drafted in to catapult riders down the scaffolded slope with more ferocity.

The organisers dodged the bullet but the mistake was picked up by the press, which would have cost them some crucial street cred.

So what went wrong? It is likely that either;

  1. A technical team was not employed to calculate the physics of the jump
  2. The technical team got theirs sums wrong.

In future, organisers of such events should allocate funds to allow the physics involved in winter sports jumps to be fully understood.

This might involve calculating the run-in height to provide the riders with the required amount of potential energy. They could create aerodynamic models to predict their speed at take-off, or use analytical models to calculate their impact forces. Get this sorted and you will know exactly where to position your TV cameras and ensure the riders don’t overshoot the jump, causing injuring. Let’s hope the necessary calculations have been undertaken to ensure the Freeze is a great success!


About Dr Tom Allen

Dr Tom Allen is a lecturer in engineering design at Sheffield Hallam University. He leads the University's BSc (Hons) Sports Technology course and is the associate editor of Sports Engineering.

5 Responses

  1. TheSlob

    So Dr Clownshoes, what did you think of the Freeze this year? Did they do a good job? Or are they better off keeping these things for the mountains, where the real slopes and snow are at?

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