A weekend storm is predicted and could bring some great sledding conditions to Maine. An online calculator can help you factor in safety with the fun. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The previously bare hills in Maine will be ripe for sledding this weekend.

And thanks to a physicist based in Poland, you can figure out just how fast and far your sled will take you before the first snowflake falls.

The online sled ride calculator created by Davide Borchia, who holds masters and doctoral degrees in physics, incorporates all the factors that go into getting from the top of the hill to the bottom.

The idea behind it is equal parts showing the usefulness of physics in everyday life and providing a tool that promotes safety, he said.

“When we looked at statistics with sledding we found it can be very dangerous,” Borchia said. “Every year in the United States alone there are tens of thousands of injuries, in particular with children.”

More than 20,000 children are brought to emergency rooms annually due to sledding accidents, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Injuries range from bruising to broken bones to major head trauma.

These injuries are most likely to occur because of how fast sleds or snow tubes can go and the lack of control children have over them.

“We decided to create a tool that could help parents and kids see if a hill is safe to sled on,” Borchia said.

To the untrained eye, the physics behind calculating that speed look pretty complicated. The formula includes gravity, friction, mass and force. But by simply plugging in the type of sled you are using, the length of the hill and its angle, the online calculator does all the work for you in  determining how fast you will go, how far and your stopping distance.

Last year, Borchia’s colleague Dr. Anna Szczepanek, professor of applied mathematics at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, unveiled a similar online calculator that helps create the perfect snowman.

For Borchia, it makes perfect sense to use physics when it comes to sledding.

“I’m a physicist and I use physics for almost everything,” he said. “When people look at physics they think it is really obscure and hard, but one of the secrets is it is really not that hard, we just like to show off a little.”

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.