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Perpetual Skislope 241

the hollow room writes: "How about skiing on a never ending slope? A story at New Scientist suggests that some fool is going to try to build one of these. Built like a huge tilted record player, it can spin at up to 30 km/h. Any takers?"
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Perpetual Skislope

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  • by R2.0 ( 532027 ) on Saturday February 23, 2002 @02:35PM (#3057832)
    You travel up the hill, go into the equipment area, get sprayed with man made snow, and turn into a mogul.

    I want to see it built just for the entries into the Darwin Awards it will generate.
  • hmmm... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by psyco484 ( 555249 )
    A neverending halfpipe...something tells me this just would not work but it would be damn cool anyway. There are such things actually as skiing treadmills, terrain can be put on them, and stuff like that (obviously you can't do nearly as much as really being on snow), but this idea just doesn't really sound all that new or plausible. Maybe I'm just being pesimisitic.
    • "something tells me this just would not work"

      Picture an "up" escalator.... now start walking down it... Same principle.
      And as for being physically possible (the whole tilted record player idea), there are small amusement park rides that already do the same thing.

      I wonder if we'll be able to play B-sides on this thing, though ;)

  • by PhatKat ( 78180 ) on Saturday February 23, 2002 @02:37PM (#3057842) Homepage
    I learned how to ski as a kid riding a huge conveyor belt made out of a big rug in the bottom of a sporting goods store. It doesn't sound like much, but it was fun as a kid. The coolest part was that you could turn it on and off with a garage door opener type gadget. I always wanted to turn it up really fast and see how much speed I could get up tucking, but my ski instructor wouldn't let me. Now that I look back, tucking really wouldn't matter. There's no wind resistence to worry about when you aren't actually moving.
    • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Saturday February 23, 2002 @04:02PM (#3058131) Homepage Journal
      They have one here in the Calif. central coast area I live in, at a snow board shop. Ok if you want to keep in practice or get ready for the real thing, but no substitute for it. You just stand in place and move from side to side.

      What this guy has in mind is like an upended record, on a much larger scale, more terrain to move about in, but ultimately still what I would consider a dull experience. Probably good for teaching beginners and little else, since the inside and outside of the track would be moving at different rates you'd get pretty good at turning one way, but would find difficulty adjusting to a real slope. Nothing like screwing up your motor skills and equilibrium.

      IMHO it looks terrible. I'm sure it'll be a hit.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 23, 2002 @02:37PM (#3057844)
    ...that it's all downhill from here.
  • Why not just use some treadmill like contraption? Seems like you'd circumvent all the centripetal force/motion problems that way.
    • One advantage of a disk is that you get different speeds a different points on the radius. if you want to ski faster, you just move out instead of moving to a different treadmill.
      • Re: disk advantage (Score:2, Interesting)

        by SonicBurst ( 546373 )
        But wouldn't that also mean that skiiers who tend to carve/zig zag often would experience large swings in percieved speed as the travel from the inner disc to outer disc and back again? Or perhaps with a big enough disc, this wouldn't be a problem, but then skiing at the edges would be at some seriously scary speeds!
        • I'm pretty sure anyone who is capable of carving (ie., has at least a couple years experience) wouldn't waste their time on this. It sounds like a tool that would be more successful at teaching beginners who are too afraid to actually start moving on real snow, since this thing could be stopped whenever they want.

          That brings up an interesting point though: how are you supposed to learn to turn properly if you move at different speeds when you turn left or right? One of the biggest problems I had when learning was that I was better at turning left than right for a long time, and it really hurt me when skiing tougher terrain like moguls and deep snow. Eventually I figured it out, but that's a problem that will have to be resolved before I would send my kids to learn on this.
      • well, actually, a skier's top speed is mostly determined by the slope of the run, weight of the skiier, type of skis etc. your maximum speed relative to the track would be no different on the inside or outside. of course, if you ski too fast on the inside then you get to the bottom. ski too slow on the outside and you would rise to top.
    • I believe this is basically the treadmill idea, where the skiier stays basically stationary relative the the real earth, it's just that the ground is moving beneath them. So no centripetal force problems. This has the benefit that the snow pack isn't doing anything funny like going upside-down.
  • Professional skiiers use this to hone their skills and perfect their form!
    Newbies also uses this to learn how to ski... I know of some places in Holland (of all places) that they have this - It's like another post here says, it's a big rug you ski on, the instuctor is at the bottom directly in front of you, telling you what to do... :)
    Never tried it myself though. I don't plan to turn pro, but I do enjoy the occasional trip to France to ski the alps :)
    • I know of some places in Holland (of all places) that they have this

      Well with a country as flat as ours, where else are we going to practise? ;-)

      Recently though, this type of facility is getting more popular (Snowplanet []).

      No substitute for the real thing though

    • This is actually very new. This is no rug; it's actual snow which they create on the fly as the contraption rotates. Sounds pretty silly to me, and even if they do manage to make it work, I can't imagine it'll be any sort of a hit.

      I'm really wondering why they had to make it a rotating structure though; I don't see why they couldn't use a conveyor belt-like design. People will get dizzy this way.
      • Because with a rotating surface, up is always up.
        Remember, they are constantly reconditioning the surface.
        However, with a belt, appx. 1/2 of the surface would be upside-down at any given time.
        This would make it difficult (impossible?) to use snow as the ski medium.
      • If the'd get dizzy that would imply their speed is different to the rotation.
        And that means they would reach the other side of the slope and start to slip down backwards...
      • Look at the picture. Are you really proposing to put a mountain and trees on a giant conveyer belt? Move all the snow from one end to the other -- and not harm the people going off that end? And if the thing is large enough (or moves at about the same speeds as those on it), one shouldn't get dizzy at all.
  • by Xzzy ( 111297 ) <sether@tru 7 h .org> on Saturday February 23, 2002 @02:42PM (#3057858) Homepage
    When this thing is running at full tilt, how the hell do you get off it? Or worse yet, where do you go if you fall, as is sure to happen.

    Seems to me there's a lot of issues with physics involved as well, ignoring the problems of getting the thing to actually operate.

    People learn to ski on solid, non moving surfaces. What happens when you try to stop.. do you overbalance and fall down? Or how about the race track problem.. you're always turning left, cuz if you turn right you run into the wall.

    Basically I see this thing creating more questions than solutions. :p Be nice if the article was more than a brief overview.
  • for all those faulty IBM hard disk drives, perhaps.

    Built like a huge tilted record player, it can spin at up to 30 km/h. Any takers?

    Couldn't we somehow merge all those screwed-up IBM Death^H^H^HskStar drives into a pseudo Beowulf cluster that would spin that fast?

    Of course, I wouldn't want to be skiing on it when a few drives totally die :-/ officially endorses Ximian GNOME []
  • and when you go to an actual ski resort, all you can do is left turns, just like how nascar drivers turn right, by 3 left turns.
  • Wouldn't riding on a never-ending snow treadmill get a little tedious? Also, how would you accomodate the "green circle skiers" and the "black diamond skiers" on the same device? I assume the slope of this thing would not be very aggressive.
  • How do I get on? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by boio ( 533648 )
    So how do I get onto this thing? It seems like it would be hard to get started on it since it's constantly moving - and even harder to get off of it.
    It would also get pretty boring to ski around in a circle for hours on end... no new scenery. If they put up a big contiguous screen along the edges, and maybe some of the sky too, to prevent you from getting quite so dizzy and provide some additional entertainment.
    Then again you could also just go VR skiing and never have to go outside or worry about all these physical limitations.
    • there is an amusement park where they have some old school carousel where the workers can hop on and off of it at full speed just by learning how to keep their balance.

      w/skiis it would be obviously harder but the same idea could apply ;)
  • I remember 15 years ago as a kid I went to buy my first set of skis with my parents. At the shop there was a big carpeted slope that, with the flip of a switch, started to move like a giant belt sander. I can't remember wher it was but I just asked my parents and they thought it was at a some ski expo. Anyone else remember something like this?

  • Movies (Score:4, Informative)

    by spt ( 557979 ) on Saturday February 23, 2002 @02:56PM (#3057905)
    Movies of a working ski-trak []!

    Okay, it's just a model but they answer the everyone's question about getting on and getting off - there's a stationary area in the middle
  • by wadetemp ( 217315 ) on Saturday February 23, 2002 @02:56PM (#3057908)
    The problem I'm seeing here is pretty major. If you take a 3000m ski run and compress it into a 300m run, there's still going to be 3000m worth of "snow damage" per skier/run, but it will be compressed into 300m of distance. So the snow is going to be 10 times as chopped up in any one place. And real ski resorts have multiple runs that reduces the traffic on any one run... to even begin to pay for this thing it's going to have to be packed.
    • The snow is being constantly refreshed by the covered area, new snow being applied, and probably smoothed. You are stupid.
      • That was already pointed out in the article. Have you ever seen a ski hill groomed and flocked at 30kph? I didn't think so. It also doesn't change the fact that a normal volume of skiers are non-stop tracking the same 300m surface, which does not happen on any ski hill in existance... wear is spread out over longer hills.
    • Assuming the whole 'run' is groomed (no moguls allowed to form) it shouldn't be a problem. In fact, with the new snow application every cycle and a grooming device, you could end up skiing fresh corduroy all day.

      I might worry about some of the snow melting (if it wasn't getting too compressed, it'd have to go somewhere), but an adequate run-off system at the outer edge of the disc should suffice.

  • Seems like an awful lot of work when simulators are getting better and better. Seems you could spend that money to develop a better electronic version.

    BTW, a google search turns up a number of links to simulators which use treadmills (as has been mentioned earlier as an idea).

    Google link []
    • there are some things a simulation just can't capture

      1. laughing at that guy, who just crashed, as you ride the chair lift

      2. the sense of irony as you face-plant into a snow drift

      3. extracting snow from your thermal underwear

      4. marching up the hill to retrieve your skis

      5. realizing those guys in the chair lift are laughing at you.
  • uhh..not me (Score:2, Insightful)

    "However, Nenad Bicanic of the University of Glasgow says that the structure may be feasible. But he says precautions would be needed to ensure skiers could not be pulled into the mechanism at the top of the slope."

    I think I'll let them work the bugs out first.
  • Hang on... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 23, 2002 @03:03PM (#3057935)
    Didn't M.C.Escher draw one of these?

    Oh wait, that was steps...

  • Would this mean the motion of the hill moving upwards actually make you keep going downhill?

    Anyone else thinking of an embedded Linux system to recognized where a skiier is on the hill and adjust the speed accordingly? =)
  • Indoor Skiing (Score:2, Informative)

    by futuresheep ( 531366 )
    The japanese have been skiing indoors for years. You can have climate controlled fun year round here at the Tokyo Skidome:
    Indoor Skiing []
  • by LM741N ( 258038 ) on Saturday February 23, 2002 @03:10PM (#3057956)
    "Scientists debated for weeks over whether 33, 45, or 78 rpm was the best speed for skiing"
  • When I go skiing fast, it is of course important to move quickly relative to the ground. This model works fine for that. However... an equally important aspect is the fast wind in your face. I would imagine skiing would be much less fun without the relative air movement.
  • I the real outdoors, there's nobody to sue since you can't "serve" Mother Nature with a summons....but in a Man-Made fun park, with rotating snow hill and man-made mountains and snow guns.....well, I can just see the lawyers slobbering now.....anyone who falls....well it MUST be product liability....nobody SHOULD design and build a hill where people could fall down....should they? "My client was hurt through the negligence of those Snow-Hill-Builders....I demand compensation for this tragic twisting of my client's knee. She's been disfigured and will not walk untill Tuesday!"

    I'm just not convinced that taking EVERY naturally occuring (and read "free") effect of nature and turning it into a private, man-made, man-controlled, homogenized, and lawyer safe sport is a good thing. It comodotizes nature, and creates a situation which blurs the distinction between real life and "Real Life (tm)"

    I see this trend with surfing too, artificial wave generators, controlled "fun-parks" where people have to "Pay-per-Wave"....Yeah, Mother Nature does not create the exact same wave every time, but that's the fun of the sport!

    Both of these are, in my view, attempts by corporations to get people to pay for something that's inherently free. Surfing for instance...paddle out, ride back for free....Sking too, climb to top of hill, slide to bottom for free...Only with sking, you do pay for the lift (but you can walk for free too)

    Perhaps I'm not looking at the best side of this though.....the rotation of the hill might counteract the rotation brought on by too many Irish Coffee's at the bar! Now that would be something.
  • Natural equivalent (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jeti ( 105266 ) on Saturday February 23, 2002 @03:14PM (#3057969) Homepage
    If you think about it, there are natural perpetual slopes: Standing waves (wakes?) on rivers.
    I even found a very cool video (8MB) [] demonstrating riversurfing on the Eisbach in Munich.
  • by FakePlasticDubya ( 472427 ) on Saturday February 23, 2002 @03:16PM (#3057974) Homepage
    So couldn't this somehow be used so that someone could end up walking to school, in the snow, uphill BOTH ways?
    • the solution to the example you are citing is simply that the hill itself is between the student's home and the school ( the school of course would be located at the bottom of the hill on the side direct opposite the house.) So, assuming the climate was cold. It would certainly be possible to walk to school in the snow, uphill both ways.
  • I suppose he wont be skiing straight down so he will need to make turns. Yet when he is making turns, if he is on one side of the slope it will be moving faster under him then if he is on the other side. I have a feeling this discrepency will quickly cause him to fall.
  • how would they rescue somebody with a broken leg or something? shut it off? they would have to shut it off ASAP and the inertia of that thing would be hard to stop. not to mention the inertia of the skiers...they would be flying as it decellerated. not to mention the fact that stoping the thing every 5 minutes when somebody fell down and couldn't get up would be hell for business.
    • All of the comments keep stating that the skiiers have inertia and will go flying off or the skiiers have to fight centripical forces to resist going off the edge.

      This is not true! The skiers have NO momentum. The are not moving. They might have centripical forces, but ONLY if they angle towards the outside edge of the disk. As long as they keep aimed perpendicular to the radius (which will feel like 'turning'), they won't go flying anywhere, and will in fact remain stationary. If they speed up a little too much, then they will naturally move towards the edge, but as long as they aim perpendicular to the radius, they won't build up centripical force.

  • Chairlifts... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Chazmati ( 214538 ) on Saturday February 23, 2002 @03:23PM (#3058003)
    No chairlifts sounds nice. If you out-ski the turntable you just pull off to the side and ride to the top, then hit the trail again.

    But chairlifts also meter traffic. I'm talking out my butt here, but I'm sure that ski slopes do some kind of calculations involving skiers/hour and trail capacity. Without a traffic limiter, the turntable could get 'too busy' on heavy days.
  • The last time I was in Japan I saw something similar to this in concept, if not scale. There was a wide conveyer belt with a carpet-like material on it tilted up at an angle similar to that of a ski slope. A snowboarder was carving turns on this surface, and looked to be having fun. With real (ok, fake real) snow this idea might be popular in Japan.
  • "How can the children learn to ski if they _can't even fit on the slope_!"
  • by zaffir ( 546764 )
    It seems like always skiing to your left would get old after a while.
  • Years ago i was at a expo for well stuff and they had some one just skiing in there stationary but kept sking.

    It was basicaly a large carpet on a large coveigher belt making an endless loop of carpet.
    think huge treadmill that slops down and rolls upwards. i think it tilted side to side and up and down for vaitation in slope and whatnot. it was really kinda cool then.

    a large disk just doenst sound like a good idea.. the inner area of disk would prolly suffer much more wear and tear sinice it goes faster. not to mention the uneven speed across the surface of it.
  • by Dr. Zowie ( 109983 ) <slashdot@ d e f o r e s t .org> on Saturday February 23, 2002 @04:10PM (#3058157)
    Anyone here actually old enough to remember LPS and the skating force? Skiers would be drawn toward the middle of the disk and would have to be constantly turning outward to avoid hitting the spindle at the center of the terrain. Odd, that.

    If you've never operated an LP phonograph -- the skating force is due to the differential friction on opposite sides of the needle on a phonograph, and tends to draw the needle inward toward the center of the record. It's large enough to cause a needle to skip, bump bump bump, right over the grooves unless a counteracting force is applied. Low-end turntables used springs to pull the needle outward and combat the skating force; high-end turntables used little weights with little mechanical linkages that were designed to match the changes in the skating force with radius.

    You can see skating force in action at the bottom of a teacup if there are a few tea leaves floating around down there at the bottom. The tea leaves (after they're waterlogged) sink, so spinning the tea in the teacup "ought" to make them fly outward in the local gravity field. But in fact, tea leaves at the bottom of the cup tend to pile up in the center (when you spin the tea). Counter-intuitive and mysterious, until you realize that the leaves are also dragging on the bottom of the cup and therefore are subject to the skating force.

    • I don't quite agree with your explanation of the tea leaves' behaviour. This is how I remember it from my fluid mechanics course:

      When the tea is spinning steadily, the leaves are honogeneously distributed near the bottom. The centrifugal tendencies are cancelled by the pressure gradient: the surface of tea becomes parabolical, so at the bottom there is greater pressure towards the edges.

      However, when you stop spinning the tea, viscosity starts to slow down the rotation. The bottom layer will, for a while, rotate slower than the rest of the tea. But the parabolical shape of the surface is still there, along with the pressure gradient it causes. Therefore, at the bottom layer, the inward forces are greater than the necessary centripetal force, so the leaves are pushed to the center.

      Do try it, it's essential to notice the difference between steady spinning and slowing down.

    • by GlenRaphael ( 8539 ) on Saturday February 23, 2002 @06:23PM (#3058585) Homepage
      [due to the "skating force"] Skiers would be drawn toward the middle of the disk and would have to be constantly turning outward to avoid hitting the spindle at the center of the terrain.

      I'm not sure I get the physics involved in this assertion, but it seems like it you could discourage people hitting the spindle by building up the middle of the disk such that you have to ski "uphill" to get to it.

    • Anyone here actually old enough to remember LPS and the skating force?
      Sigh... Didn't you read the article? This is about skiing, not skating, so the problems you describe are irrelevant. :-)

      Seriously though, I don't know whether the skating force would be an issue; the LP and tea-leave examples have very little friction downwards as compared to skiing, so that effect might not be as pronounced. (I could be completely wrong, though :-)

      I think the constant-left-turn thing would take a lot of the fun out of it. And the fact there's a place to get off in the middle doesn't help you a lot when you crash. Crawling from the outside to the inside, while going uphill then downhill, with other people whizzing by, sounds like a disaster in the making. Cute idea, but sounds impossible to execute successfully.

  • What about the centripetal forces on the snow at the outside of the disc? Is the snow going to go flying off?

    30km/h ~= 10m/s

    The radius sounds like it's a little less than 100m (if 300m is the circumference of a half of the circle


    So acceleration at the edges will be about 1 m/s^2

    You'll have to add or substract that to the 9.8m/s^2 vector.

    Actually, in retrospect of this calculation, I think it will be that 9.8m/s^2 accelleration vector spinning like a top that will have the worst effect on the snow. First you're an upslope, now you're a downslope!

    Hope they groom it well.
  • From the ski-trac site [] (one of the model pages).
    Model of the underside of the Ski-Trac snow deck, showing Amsterdam St, Ice Hockey and Events Stadium, Snow Play Area, Hotel and Live Penguin Rookery.
    At least they have penguins.. :)
  • I seem to remember some little factoid somewhere that said PERPETUAL MOTION IS IMPOSSIBLE! The kinetic energy (your speed for the illiterate) when you ski comes from your potential energy (your height) at the top of the hill... assuming this contraption works, you will be constantly at the same elevation meaning your change in potential energy is 0 meaning your change in kinetic energy down the hill is 0. All that this thing is is a giant teacup ride.
  • That's a cool idea. Maybe for driving practice, you could take a stretch of road, and wrap it around so the end of the road is connected back to the start, and you'd have a perpetual... uh, wait, never mind.
  • They seem to like to build high tech gizmos. I recall they built the first fake wave generator for indoor surface and have many artificial ski slopes. They are bit shy about investing in the current economic climate.
  • Check out their maglev bobsled [] proposal. Now that's kind of neat. Probably not cost-effective, but neat.

    Their business plan also points out that global warming increases their potential market. [] May take a while for that to kick in, though.

    The Anaheim, California Gotcha Glacier [] project was somewhat similar, minus the big turntable, but financing fell through late last year. Somehow I expect that may happen to this project, especially since the first site is planned for Wales, instead of near some major urban area.

    These guys have bad timing. Three years ago, you could have IPOed something like this. Today, forget it.

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"