Originally Posted by JayT
I've been meaning to go into the park more often but find myself getting distracted. I really like to drop small to mid-sized cliffs (10-15 feet) and find natural kickers around the mountain, so one of my goals for next season is to introduce a little freestyle instead of the standard hands to your knees tuck and huck.
Where's the best place to start? With a shifty, then maybe a grab, and work my way up to a 3? I can do a small 3 - say when boosting off a cat track - but haven't ever tried one of any real substantial size.
The park is a great place to go when the skiing on the rest of the mountain is blase. Perhaps your favorite steeps are thin and icy. Maybe the bumps are frozen solid. Most terrain parks are meticulously groomed and maintained throughout the day. Even when the weather doesn't fully cooperate, the terrain park offers tons of options within itself. Headwinds and low visibility can make jumping treacherous. On these particular days, rails and boxes are much more accessible features. And at the beginning and end of each season when terrain is very limited, the terrain park offers a place where you can hangout all day and never get bored.
Regarding big mountain and natural features, the terrain park is a perfect controlled environment to develop the necessary skills. I think the progression you outlined is pretty spot on. That is exactly what I teach to my students when they are beginning to introduce more style into their airs. The only other maneuvers I would suggest as part of that progression are things like spreaders, daffys, and back scratchers, which all require independent movement of your legs and skis; super important skill when you eventually want to cross your skis during different grabs like mute or tail, or "kick" a ski when you do a lui kang or japan grab.
360s are an interesting subject. They are so unbelievably easy but they tend to present a huge challenge for a lot of people. 3s off cat tracks are a perfect place to start. Cat tracks usually offer enough air without a whole lot of upward trajectory on takeoff. This makes it easier to stay on-axis and it can be very representative of the sensation of doing one off a cliff. In time you will find that doing any trick on larger features is much, much easier. Air is your friend. That being said, it is a lot scarier. With enough mileage, however, you eventually develop the confidence to go bigger and bigger. Soon airs that you used to think were big start to feel much smaller. The first time you hit a 50ft jump it is terrifying. Even the first 10 times can be pretty scary. But the more you do it successfully, the more your brain begins to relax. You start focusing a lot less on pure survival and you can begin to focus on the subtleties of your maneuver, whether it is a grab, a spin, or a flip. Hope that helps!