Our Insider's Guide provides local insights into Canadian ski towns, sporting activities, music and culture. Check out our previous guides.
So you’ve mastered the piste and you want to push yourself to the next step. Or maybe you’ve seen some of the guys in the park and think it looks like the most fun on the mountain. Some would disagree, in favour of keeping both skis firmly on the snow, and that is understandable: some people aren’t ready to fly!
Going into the park for the first time can be an intimidating experience. All the guys in there look like they were born in the park. Just remember that most of them probably had their first day a lot more recently than they’d like you to believe. Plus most of the riders in the park are only too happy to help someone who asks.
The most vital piece of information anyone can give you is to always be aware. It can’t be stressed enough. Be aware of the other people around you and look where they are going. Be aware of the set-up of the park. That is to say don’t just ski into the park oblivious to the fact that you’ve just crossed the landing of an XL jump with people landing on you. It will hurt them and you and if they can walk and talk after the clash they will be rightfully angry and let you know it.
Try and get yourself into a position at the top of the park, where you are not holding people up, and spot a route through the park to the bottom which doesn’t cross a run-in to any features. A safe bet will be sticking to the fencing on the side of the park. It would be abnormal for a feature to be this close to a fence but not impossible so just keep your wits about you.
When you are ready to hit something have a look around you to make sure you’re not about to cut in front of someone. To avoid this some parks will have a system in place so the next person to go will call “Dropping Next”, it’s not always the done thing but there is absolutely no harm in calling it to make sure people know you intend to go. Taking into account a lot of people will have music playing, hold up a pole as well so they can see it.
Make sure you have seen the person before you leave the landing. The last thing you want is for them to be hurt on the landing and you go and double the trouble by landing on them. Look out for people holding their poles in a crossed signal meaning the flightpath is full and you are not clear to drop in! When the signal changes to a circle over head you are free to go.
As the video shows the points made above are valid and although this girl got off lightly, had she been six inches taller it could have been a lot more serious.
However many times on previous days you have been through the park, on your first run through of the day it is advisable not hit anything before you’ve had a look. So many injuries are caused by people being caught out by the jump being made bigger than it was yesterday or the rail having more of a drop at the end than it had done on previous runs.
The park shapers are constantly changing things up to keep it interesting so just check it out first. This isn’t something that only park beginners do. I certainly do it and know that most of the pros will never hit anything they haven’t scoped out first.
The sort of things you want to be looking for might seem obvious but getting caught out isn’t much fun! Look at the condition of the run-in. Is the landing ‘bombed-out’ which means you’ll more than likely want to avoid that part of the landing?
Watching the amount of speed other people are taking to hit a feature is very important. Going too big on a jump can be bad but coming up short through a lack of speed is more common and the cause of some serious injuries. And going too slow onto a rail or box will be your natural reaction through fear but it is the key to failure.
When coming up to the jump your stance is essential. Make sure you are centred over your skis. Legs should be shoulder width apart and bent knees. Having your arms out in front of you is a good way to keep your balance. About a foot before the lip push off with your toes, (this is popping). Keep your head up at all times looking forward. Tuck up in the air; maybe try a safety grab by grabbing the ski under your boot, although this sounds harder it is, in fact, a good way to keep your composure in the air. When you see where you are going to land straighten your legs out to cushion the landing.
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