10 Things You Need to Know About Taking Air

Random facts and knowledge about taking your skis off the snow.
Cody Barnhill, with textbook form, at Alta, Utah.

10 Things You Need To Know:

1. Gravity accelerates objects (such as people) at roughly 9.8 meters per square second, depending on one’s location on earth.

2. The variance in gravitational pull throughout the world isn’t significant enough to blame a slam on “not being used to the gravity here.” Sorry.

3. In 2008, Norway’s Fred Syversen set the world record for the biggest cliff launched by a skier when he missed his line and accidentally jumped a 351-foot cliff. The lesson? Scout your line.

4. Airs tend to look smaller from the bottom. Whenever possible, get perspectives from multiple angles (from the side or above) so you know what you’re getting yourself into.

5. Drive your hands forward while you’re in the air. This will move your hips forward and increase your odds of stomping the landing.

6. For cliffs over 50 feet, make sure you can stick your entire pole and most of your arm into the snow without hitting any hard layers (including the ground).

7. When possible, inspect landings and takeoffs before it snows, making sure to check for hazards that could be easily buried. That way, you’re ready to hit airs on the first run of a powder day.

8. Think of your body as a spring—the longer it is initially, the more force it can absorb. Extend your legs and torso just before landing and you’ll be able to absorb the impact more efficiently.

9. “Back slapping” refers to hitting your back on the snow, popping up, and skiing away. While technically not a crash, this is far from an ideal landing.

10. You can’t get hurt in the air.


#10 Learn How to Get Air

How To Jump

Nothing will put your stomach in your throat like launching a cliff or hitting a jump. Unfortunately, most of us flail like a hamster thrown from a window on our first few flights. To get past this, you need to learn the four stages of launching any air: inspection, takeoff, air, and landing.

James Heim wishing he were on belay. Location: Last Frontier Heli-Skiing, BC.Check out our suggestions for good gear for steep skiing.The first rule of skiing steeps: Don’t take off your skis. I was 11 years old and I still remember the name of the trail at Big Sky, Montana: Snake Pit. My family was on its first Western ski trip. I wanted to outperform my brothers, so I suggested this steep, rocky glade. Two turns in, panic struck. I inexplicably took off my skis, stacked them across my arms like firewood, stepped downhill, and slipped. I tumbled down hundreds of vertical feet, somersaulted, slammed my knee into a stump, and screamed like a dying rabbit. My parents consoled me by buying me a black-diamond Snake Pit pin from a Big Sky gift shop that I promptly stuck on my school backpack.The second rule of skiing steeps: Know how to self-arrest. And know that self-arresting is difficult without your skis on. When you fall, you’ll most likely be on your side. If you’re not, twist yourself around so your skis are perpendicular to the fall line. If you fall headfirst, roll over so your skis end up downhill, below your body. Now dig your ski edges into the slope as hard as you can to stop. If you lose your skis midtumble, kick hard with the toes of your boots and claw with your hands until you create enough friction to stop.The third rule of skiing steeps: In order to prevent a dangerous collision with trees or rocks, scope out your line carefully before you drop in. Note the locations of dangerous features such as cliff bands, trees, and lift towers so you have a clean run-out if you fall. Find your line and follow it to the bottom. And whatever you do, don’t panic the way I did. All you’ll end up with is a banged-up knee and a lousy pin.

Skiing Steeps: Everything You Need to Know

On steep slopes, the risks are higher—if you fall, it’s harder to stop. But so are the rewards. Pitches tilted past 40 degrees can be thrilling if you overcome your fears and tackle the terrain confidently. Learn how to self arrest and more. —Hillary Procknow

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