Fall Line and Gravity in Skiing
Name: Mel F.
Perhaps you can clear my confusion. In alpine skiing,
the "fall line" is defined as the path water would take when flowing down
an incline. A skier turns into the fall line to go down the hill. The
Professional Ski Instructors of America have changed this terminology to
the line of gravity, as "turning into or turning out of the line of
gravity". I believe this to be incorrect, as gravity pulls toward the
center of the earth, not down an incline. Am I right? I believe I
qualify as a student as I am studying for my level 1 certification with
Yes, gravity pulls objects down toward the center of the earth, and that is the normal component, or
downward force that is always pulling on you. When you are on an incline, the pull of gravity now has
an angular component to the force pulling you down the hill due to the path of the incline. Instead of
it being the full blown gravity if you were to free fall, you have a smaller amount of force pulling you
down the hill, but it is still due to gravity. The "turning into or out of the line of gravity" is just
a way of saying that you are going to affect the pull of gravity on your body by changing the angular
gravity component. One way to think of this is a ball rolling down an incline. The steeper the incline
the faster the ball rolls down the incline. It is no different than you skiing down a hill. If you
don't push off on the skis, gravity is the only force taking you down the hill.
If you know a little something about vectors, it may help you to understand how gravity and the direction
of your skis influence your trip down the mountain. If you still have questions, write us back and ask
about the vector component of skiing downhill.
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Update: June 2012