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University of Utah program to explore science of skiing and snowboarding

Published: Tuesday, March 25 2014 2:36 p.m. MDT

Athletes practice for the slopestyle skiing competition at the FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships in Park City. The "Greatest Snow on Earth" will be a backdrop for the greatest physics lesson on Earth as the University of Utah explores the science behind skiing and snowboarding.

Ezra Shaw, Getty Images

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PARK CITY — The "Greatest Snow on Earth" will be a backdrop for the greatest physics lesson on Earth as the University of Utah explores the science behind skiing and snowboarding. The U.'s first Physics of Freestyle event runs from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday at the Eccles Center, 1750 Kearns Blvd. The program is geared toward K-12 students in the Park City School District but is free and open to the public.

The 90-minute program explores backcountry and avalanche safety, ski racing, aerials and slopestyle skiing. Prior to the presentation, students will have an hour to meet athletes and industry experts and learn about a variety of related academic programs at the U.

“We hope that exposing students to science in this way will encourage them to become engaged in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines,” said Abby McNulty, executive director of the Park City Education Foundation.

Avalanche Safety will be presented by Scott Marland, chairman of the National Ski Patrol and an expert on ski safety and backcountry rescue techniques. Marland's presentation will explore the forces that cause avalanches, safety basics and demonstrations using rescue equipment, including inflating an avalanche backpack airbag onstage in seconds.

Erik Schlopy, a former Olympian and coach for the U.S. Ski Team, will present Ski Racing, which investigates the role of friction in achieving speed.

Freestyle Aerial Skiing will be presented by Trace Worthington, a two-time Olympian, member of the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame and TV host. Worthington will bring athletes to perform aerial tricks on an Olympic-size trampoline, while U. physicist Adam Beehler explains the fundamental physics concepts behind each move.

Fly Freestyle, the resident freestyle program of the Utah Olympic Park, will present Slopestyle Skiing. Coaches will demonstrate a variety of tricks seen at the X Games and Olympics that showcase angular momentum — how athletes carry momentum through their tricks.

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