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The Design and Analysis of Safer Ski and Snowboard Jumps

Project Summary 


Skiing and snowboarding accidents are the second leading cause of spinal cord injuries in the US—many of these occur in terrain parks. Current terrain park jump designs are based purely on designer experience with little scientific consideration. A rigorous mathematical design method for these jumps has been proposed, but this approach requires a technical background to understand and implement. The focus of the present research is to create a novel graphical user interface (GUI) that allows non-technical users to employ the technical analysis methods mentioned above without having to understand the details. The GUI (1) allows safer jump design without technical knowledge (2) limits the number and range of design parameters to avoid unrealistic jump designs (3) includes a margin of safety to address variable conditions and (4) produces instructions to build the designed jump. The GUI is the first of its kind and will facilitate safer jump designs, hopefully reducing the number of skier and snowboarder injuries on terrain park jumps.


Figure 1: Ski jump design GUI.

Good engineering involves both design and analysis. The impact that the jumper feels at landing is the same as the impact experienced after falling an equivalent vertical distance to the ground, called the equivalent fall height (EFH). The overall safety of a jump can be represented by the EFH function, which characterizes the impact of the jumper everywhere along the landing surface. If the EFH is very large anywhere along the landing surface (and the impact is high), then the jump is unsafe and needs to be rebuilt or reshaped. Jumps that have been constructed without any analytical design are likely to have excessively high EFH. This analysis GUI calculates the EFH for a given landing surface shape and takeoff ramp angle.


Figure 2: Equivalent fall height analysis GUI.

Whether designing new jumps or analyzing existing jumps, the above GUIs provide a necessary link between terrain park personnel and sound engineering practices. Ultimately, these GUIs exist to keep users on the slopes and out of the emergency room!

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