SnowBoarding Physics

The Physical Phun

Half Pipe Phun

The half pipe at the Winter Olympics is one of the most anticipated events during the international games. However simple the structure itself may seem, the physics behind the snowboarder make the event itself a show worth watching.

The Pipe's Unique Shape

As the snowboarder travels down and up the walls of the semi-circular half-pipe, he/she experiences centripetal acceleration due to velocity and the circular shape.
The acceleration is directly proportional to the square of the velocity of the object along the path over the radius of the path.


As defined by the equation: ac=v^2/r

Physics Driving the Boarder

Gravity carries the snowboarder down the slope, as the ramp is angled downward along with being circular. The board itself is smooth so as not to create a strong frictional force and slow down the boarder. When the rider flies into the air, some energy is lost due to air resistance, but not enough to create a significant decrease in velocity.