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EpicSki › Performance Articles › Jumps And Air Getting Started

Jumps And Air Getting Started

From ShawnB

I really love air, and have been having a ball in the ether for 30-odd seasons now. Air sense has always been, luckily, very intuitive for me.

I have a few tips that work for me. I think they differ a bit from what was presented before:

1) Don't start on a jump with a steep kicker;
Anything that ramps up near 45-deg. is too steep and will throw you wildly off balance (when first learning). Seriously, if you don't know what you're doing, steep and sudden kickers will catapult you out of control in mid-air. Look for a nice gentle run-up and 30-deg. angle or less at takeoff, for starters.

2) Don't use a four-point takeoff;
I think a four-pt. takeoff is a sure way to get out of control when jumping. A pole plant at the top of the jump forces your hands behind your hips as you leave the jump. That's completely wrong, and ineffective, and unbalanced. Don't use this technique as a security blanket because of its implied "stability"; it's a bad habit that makes fearful beginner jumpers stay beginners. Instead you should...

3) Keep your hands in front of you as you leave the jump;

Related to the previous point. Your hands are key to keeping a strong and stable position in the air. Ideally, you want to control your angle in the air with them, and you can do that best when they're right in front of your center-of-mass--little adjustments to your hands tilt you this way and that while you fly.

So in preparation for the jump, your hands should be down near your hips--a little in front of them--as you reach the first part of the kicker. As you move up the kicker, you also move your hands up forcefully in a short punching motion--about 1'-2' max. This keeps your body in its proper relation to the fall line; that is, perpendicular to it. If you don't do this, your torso may angle back while traveling up the kicker.

4) Pop off the launch point;
Don't just ride off the jump; that will leave you passive to the forces of the curved kicker and will probably put you way in the back seat as you fly through the air. A disconcerting experience for any of us.

Instead, approach the kicker with knees slightly bent, loose and springy. As you travel up the kicker, extend your legs so that you "pop" slightly off the top as you leave the snow. The timing of this "pop" should be coordinated with the slight "punch" forward of your hands.

This is not something optional; it's the key to keeping your balance in the air. Leaving a jump in proper balance isn't a crapshoot, to be left up to chance. You have to be actively arranging yourself at the takeoff to NOT be thrown by the sudden angle change your skis are experiencing. If you keep aligned with your skis, you will lean back while going off the jump and that turns out bad. The "popping" motion lets your upper body miss all that drama, stay perfectly upright, and control the situation so that when you leave the snow your body is in the same attitude and angle to the snow that it was before that nasty kicker.

This is even more important because...

5) Your landing area should be as steep or steeper than the slope preceding the jump;
Flat landings are BAD. Really bad. You soon learn that the most painful faceplants accompany flat landings--all your vertical momentum is instantly stopped on a flat landing, and thus one little misalignment and you find yourself blowing up at touchdown.

Search for a jump that has a noticeably downhill landing. When you land from a few feet up, an inclined landing lets you more gradually distribute the vertical force so that the impact is less intense--like a glancing blow instead of a full-on punch to the chops.

Also please note that if your landing is as steep as (or steeper than) your takeoff slope, it's even more important that you spring off the kicker, keeping your upper body fairly perpendicular to the slope, as discussed above. If you ski off passively, and thus rotate a bit backward in the air, your problem is compounded when you come in for a landing on a steepish slope--you risk landing on your back!

So long story short, you need to be tilted forward in the air--not neutral, and certainly not backward. And that goes double if you have a reasonable incline to your landing (which you'll want, trust me).

6) Lean back just a bit right at touchdown;
It's a bummer to put a perfectly balanced jump together, only to have it blow up when you land. But often the snow is grabby, compared to the smooth, smooth air, and if you come in for a landing in perfect perpendicular position, half the time you'll find the instantaneous friction from the snow will pull you head over heels over your tips (and the other half of the time the snow will be nice and slick and you'll be fine).

So the thing to do is to plan on landing perfectly perpendicular to the slope, but have the ace up your sleeve of leaning back slightly the split second your skis touch the snow. Works like a dream--ramp up the technique when landing in powder, slushy snow, or crud, just to be safe.


I know all this is a lot to think about, and nobody expects you to take it all in at once. But those are the basics that I'm aware of, and if you study them and understand the principles involved, I'll bet your learning curve will proceed a lot faster than those of us who had to find this stuff out by trial and--OOF!--error.

It's a lot of fun; I know you'll dig the weightless feeling! You'll be begging for more; wonder if you'll ever get to that lesson...


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EpicSki › Performance Articles › Jumps And Air Getting Started