Phenomena

Beijing 2022: Ski Jumping

A ski jumper in flight.

In ski jumping, aerodynamics are paramount. Each jump consists of four segments: the in-run, take-off, flight, and landing. Of these, aerodynamics dominates in the in-run — where jumpers streamline themselves to minimize drag and maximize their take-off speed — and in flight. During flight, ski jumpers spread their skis in a V-shape and lift their arms to the sides to turn themselves into a glider. Their goal is to maximize their lift-to-drag ratio, so that the air keeps them aloft as long as possible. Because of the short flight time and high risk of taking jump after jump, many elite ski jumpers use wind tunnel time to practice and hone their flight positioning, as seen in the video below.

Weather also plays a significant role in ski jumping; it’s one of the few sports where a headwind is an advantage to athletes. To try to adjust for wind effects, scoring for the sport uses a wind factor. (Image credit: T. Trapani; video credit: NBC News)

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