Freestyle skiing looks amazing, and will give you one of the biggest buzzes you’ll ever feel on the snow. But how on earth do you make the transition from scooting about on-piste to launching yourself off the jumps and walls of a terrain park? Teague Holmes of Breckenridge Ski School regularly teaches freestyle skiing in the resort’s five terrain parks, and here explains how to prepare for your first jump.
1. Start exploring the rest of the mountain first
There’s no point hitting the terrain park unless you’re developing an appetite for lumps and bumps elsewhere on the mountain. So if you’re starting to take air off little rollers on the pistes/trails – and enjoying it – then you’re probably ready to try your first shaped jump.
2. Unleash your inner gorilla
Before you go into the terrain, you need to adapt your stance. Teague shows you how in this short video clip.
3. Learn how to ski backwards (switch)
Eventually, you’re going to need to know how to do this, so you can take off or land jumps backwards. But at this early stage it’s as much about experimenting with different ways of using the mountain, and breaking out of the piste-skiing straitjacket. The confidence you’ll develop from perfecting the skill will help you with other tricks, too. First of all, practise a single turn skiing backwards. Then work on your linked turns.
4. Work on your ‘pop’
To jump well, you need to project your body through an arc when you jump – rising up from a centred stance as you take off, and coming back down onto a centred stance as you land. The best way to practise this ‘pop’ is on the flat, outside the terrain park. Here Teague shows you how with a couple of exercises. First of all, work on a static pop. Then link a series of pops together while you’re moving slowly.
5. Learn good terrain park habits
This Breckenridge signpost (above) lays down the three golden rules of terrain park use:
1. Look before you leap. As well as inspecting the park before you start jumping, you should get a spotter to stand by a feature if you can’t see the back side of it. Otherwise, how do you know whether or not there’s anyone there? Someone could have fallen.
2. Easy style it. Stay within the limits of your freestyle ability.
3. Respect gets respect. Be very aware of everyone else in the terrain park, and give them the space and time they need. At each feature, wait your turn and tell people you’re about to start. Don’t follow anyone closely over jump – they could fall right in front of you. If you fall yourself, get off the landing spot quickly.
6. And finally, test your ‘pop’ on your first proper jump
Here’s Teague in action. in the Eldorado terrain park, on Peak 9. It all looks so simple, doesn’t it?
Don’t forget to check out our feature on how to take off and land in the terrain park.