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You can't ski on air

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Last night I watched Hermann Maier lose the GS in St. Anton and was amazed as I slo-moed my video tape, he lost it because he tried to ski on air.

The physiscs of skiing is this: gravity tries to pull all objects, including skiers straight down to the center of the earth. When putting slippery skies on a slippery slope that gravity gets vectored into horizontal pull since the skis can't go any further to the core of the earth. Now, as long as the skis are in contact with the snow that vectored pull of gravity translates into speed as they seek the closest point to the earth core, which is the valley.

Since Maier doesn't compete in slalom he isn't all that good in sharp turns. So what does he do? He takes air and throws his skis in the other direction while in the air, which has two negative consequences.

First, while a skier is in the air there is no control and as a ballistic projectile is slowing down while gravity pulls him back to the core and no vectoring is done and thus the speed generation is lost during that time.

Second, when Maier landed back on the snow there was a lateral movement until his edges bit enough to allow control. Granted, he anticipated that by early landing at the gates, but that scrubs speed also. Racers who stayed in contact with the snow had gradual sideways travel and were already going toward the next gate while Maier was still groping for his edges.

Losing a hundreds of a second while he tried to ski on air several times in his run could not be compensated by his strength which doesn't matter anyway while trying to ski air. Many other racers did the same and lost.
The winners were the ones who stayed in contact with the snow and didn't have the big up-unweighting jumps of Maier. In the downhill, racer are supposed to do a pre-jump so as avoid getting thrown way out and whoever lands soonest can take advantage of pressing the back side of the bump and gain speed.

So, in ski racing, air is bad... ..Ott
post #2 of 9
...which explains the benefit - yes? - of "pre-jumping" the airs on, say, the DH or Super G course....
post #3 of 9

you're already descending as you go over the top of the jump, therefore you land sooner. Landing sooner, means you can edge sooner, work the best line, and get the best time. Also, the position in mid air is generally not as aerodynamic as when on the ground... you don't have something to push against to compensate and/or change your position. So, the more you're on the ground, the more aerodynamic you will likely be able to remain.
post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 
Matteo, yes, I observed the same thing, but slalom is so fast racers use rebound to get unweighted enough to change edges by bringing the skis underneath them. Yesterday the conditions were sloppy and it was smart to be out of the crud when changing edges, though the airborne parts were not extreme.

The speeds are much slower in slalom so the centrifugal forces are less, you don't see racers with their hips close to the snow as in in GS and Super GS. Hermann Maier lost it in the first run of the GS when he pushed so hard he had to make jump turns on lots of gates, he was throwing his arms up to unweight, he looked like a chicken flopping his wings, while van Gruenegan (sp?) hardly ever left the snow, jus tlike the other skiers who beat out Maier, that he came in fourth is a tribute to his skill, any other skier who skied like he did in his first run ended up way back.

Think of the difference in slalom and GS skiing: in GS the idea is to go as straight with skis as flat as possible to a position above the gate and carve a quick turn to point toward the next gate and get off your edges as soon as possible. The inertia of the body weight wants to go in the direction it is going before the turn starts. To change that the racer uses his skis on edge to make a turn to go toward the next gate. In order to change direction the skis must be on the snow in order to deflect the body mass. Maier often got airborne while still on the original path, turned the skis sideways and the skis could not deflect him into the new direction until they came down and gripped.

Slalom only needs to deflect the skiers body weight enough to make the next gate, and unless the course is set wide open like a GS, his body moves in a smooth line around (through) the gates while he changes edges with the skis moving underneath him. In a flush the racer must keep contact with the snow because he must be able to use his skis to change directions quickly, albeit not much. But rarely are speeds built up to the extent that it requires jamming the edges to counteract inertia, but as in everything, there are exceptions.

My contention was that had Maier skied quietly as he is capable of doing, he may have won this GS.But the man who was expected to bring home a lot of gold didn't get one, maybe the pressure got to him.

post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
Matteo, I'm in no way prepared to write "Mr. Maier" off, I think he's got a year or two left, but the young bucks are always ready to pounce, and that's how it should be


PS..that men's world cup GS was set VERY turny almost like an open slalom...long gone are the downhill runs of Sailer and Killy, they were slow because of equipment and technique, but they didn't have all those fences to catch them when they wiped out, they were found after the spring thaw ...then the races got so fast that it was too dangerous to let them run all out so control gates were set to make them turn and slow down. I think now a downhill almost looks like a Super G with the racers always on their edges. In the olden days it was just: start at the top and finish at the bottom and try to stay on the trail, much like the Aspen 24 hour race.

post #6 of 9
Ott, I guess that is why they call Herman Maier "the flying pig". I understand the "flying" part. But do you know why "pig"? Doesn'y sound very flattering.

Hmm.. It's been a long time since I have read any reference to Toni Sailer. Not many people know about him (and that he won all three events in the Winter Olympics BEFORE Jean-Claude).
post #7 of 9
Also, it was very warm for the gs. A very few (I'm guessing the lighter)skiers could actually carve through the gates. If the rest of them tried to carve, the soft snow would shear off and they'd be on their asses. So what I saw them doing was throwing their skis perpendicular to the fall line as soon as they could, and hanging on until the skis grabbed. It was pretty ugly, but it was amazing how much speed they could still carry.
post #8 of 9
Thanks for your explanation, Matteo.
( I speak a little German myself but never would have made the connection.)

post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
BG & Matteo, when a ski is put on it's edge, 45 degrees is it's maximum holding power, that is, the holding power increases from a flat ski to the 45 deg. angle when the ski is pushing down equally to pushing out, thereafter, with a higher angle the pushing out, shearing action increases and the holding action decreases until at 90 degrees the ski lies on it's side and holds no more. A fall-away slope often increases the ski angle without the skier initiating more edging.

On hard, even icy condition, high angles will still hold because the ice doesn't give that much, but as BG said, the slush just peeled off and a heavy power skier like Maier will be penalized a lot more than a finess skier would.

Matteo, racers don't really consider anything but winning, which is the gold, everything else is "not winning" which is losing. A racer friend of mine always said "If you ever even consider losing, you tend to lose."

In the Super Bowl or World Series no one thinks of the loser as a silver medalist, they are just losers.

And so it goes... .....Ott
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