I wrote an article for a local magazine this month and just put it on my blog, so I thought I would throw it out there for you guys as well. Anyone got anything different they think about/teach when hitting drops?
Are your GoPro videos lacking views? Is that cute member of the opposite gender doubtful of your skiing prowess? Do you need a banger new Facebook profile picture? Or do you just fancy a new rush? If any of these scenarios apply to you, you need to start jumping off of stuff. Right. Now.
In all seriousness, jumping off natural terrain is awesome fun, and if you're able to ski powder confidently and have previously got some air in the park, here's some tips to get you sending it off piste.
Due to the amount of snow we get, Niseko is the perfect place to start your cliff-jumping career, as landings are much easier and softer with feet of glorious powder than without.
First. Select your feature.
Niseko has a multitude of different sized and shaped things to jump off, from tree-rides and stumps, cliffs and pillows, to even a building or two. If you are a novice to hurling yourself off stuff, it is best to start off small, a drop that offers a few feet of air may not blow up on the 'gram, but you will almost certainly still be able to walk afterwards. A feature with a slightly upwards takeoff that'll help you get air is perfect, but be careful it's not too steep as it will make it trickier to stay centred. The landing should be as free as possible from trees/other obstacles that you can hit (check first!). A landing with a bit of steepness will be faster and maybe a little scary, but will have less impact and actually be easier to stick than one that is flat.
Next. Getting off the ground
A good way to think about any air is to break it down into 4 parts, Approach, Takeoff, Manoeuvre and Landing (ATML). Each part will be a little different depending on the feature you're hitting and what you want to do.
Approach, make sure you have the correct speed for the feature you are hitting, and are set up and balanced with a bit of time before take off, trying to speed check just before the lip will often throw you off balance, whilst going too slow can result in not getting air, or missing the place you need to land. Being in a slightly lower, more flexed stance on approach will give you some extra range of movement to 'pop' on takeoff. It sounds obvious, but going faster equals more air, slower equals less air, often powder takeoffs will slow you down considerably, so bear that in mind.
Takeoff, Your movements on takeoff depend on the feature you're hitting and your intent. If you're hitting a feature with a flat or downwards sloping takeoff, or you want as much air as possible, you need to 'pop'. Popping is similar to jumping as you would in shoes, going from a flexed position to an extended one very quickly in order to get off the ground, on skis you additionally need to project your upper body (including your hips) a little forwards in order to match to the angle of the landing. Some natural features already have steep upwards takeoffs, these are sometimes termed 'poppy' as they give you a lot of pop without you having to add any. These aren't ideal to start on, but if you do hit one, try and flex your legs on takeoff to absorb the impact of the lip, this will result in less air and it will be easier to stay centred.
Manoeuvre, trying any actual tricks on your first few attempts is not a great idea, so in this context a manoeuvre is just maintaining balance whilst in the air. A common position for novices is the 'couch air', this occurs when someone takes off leaning on the back of their skis, and gets progressively more back seat as they sail through the air, culminating with their feet and skis out in front of them, as if they were sitting on a couch. Another classic is the 'windmill', when someone gets air, but is scared or out of balance and attempts to fly with their arms, not steezy.
In order to avoid these embarrassing and potentially painful situations, first get your approach and takeoff right, then whilst in the air stay compact and centred with your arms in front of you, by your knees, with your legs sucked up underneath you. This cannonball position is the easiest way to stay balanced, before landing extend your legs, in order to have more range of movement to absorb the impact from the ground that is about to hit you.
Landing, With your legs extended and your weight centred, absorb the landing as you hit the snow by flexing your legs and waist as much as you need. On bigger drops or flat landings this may involve almost kneeing yourself in the chest, on smaller ones it shouldn't be that extreme. If you land with your weight on the tails of your skis, it will take a lot more muscular effort to pull yourself back into balance, and you'll take longer to regain control. If you land with your weight too far forwards, you might well faceplant. You'll have picked up some speed whilst jumping, so get that under control and slow down as quickly as you can, especially if there's some trees around.