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Sports equipment such as skis and toboggans, as well as snow groomers and cannons, need to operate flawlessly in snow and extremely cold temperatures. Our snow expertise is therefore in demand for optimising these products.

 

Our work encompasses technical snowmaking, piste preparation and gliding and carving on snow. We are especially interested in the interplay between snow, equipment and athletes. We also undertake specific projects for the winter sports industry or manufacturers of snow groomers and snowmaking equipment in which we use in-house research on snow microstructure or snowpack simulations to optimise equipment and systems for use in snow. Our research projects are carried out in close collaboration with the industry and sports federations such as Swiss-Ski and Swiss Olympic.

Gliding and carving

Today's skis differ from the 'spaghetti' skis of the 1990s, and not only in their shape. The handling techniques of gliding and carving are different too, as are their interactions with snow.

With gliding, the ski touches the snow only at a few microscopically small contact points (about 6% of the total area). This 'real contact area' depends on the hardness and temperature of the snow and the contact pressure (Fig. 1). During gliding, this area increases as the contact points on the snow surface warm up and continually melt. Using a snow tribometer, we can measure the gliding properties of ski bases, ski skins or runners under controlled conditions. The key physical processes between ski and snow are described in a computer model.

 

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