Our physics expert explains how these skiers launch themselves off cliffs without getting a scratch—and why you shouldn't try
By Adam Weiner
Posted 06.03.2008 at 12:33 pm 0 Comments
Skiing off of a 245 foot vertical cliff–looks like fun. It also looks like an insurance disaster in the making. And yet the skiers make it to the other side with nary a scratch. As you doubtless intuitively suspect, they end up ok because of the relatively “soft” snowy landing. As long as the acceleration involved in coming to a stop during impact is not beyond a certain threshold they can survive the fall. According to Newton’s Second Law (F = ma) if you extend the time of impact you reduce the acceleration (a = Δv/Δt) and therefore the force acting on a crazy extreme sport adrenaline junkie. The snow increases both the time and distance over which the collision occurs giving these guys a reasonable chance of walking away alive and without serious internal injuries. So let’s estimate how deep the snow needs to be for a safe landing.
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