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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.

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So Just Point It from Here?

Growing up skiing a mountain without a terrain park, I was eager to prove my worthiness in the air any chance I could. So on a trip to Mammoth when I was 14 years old, I headed straight for the meatiest feature in the park. I consulted whom I presumed to be a knowledgeable source—an 80-pound, four-foot-nothing 10-year-old. He assured me that if I pointed it from where I was standing, I would have no problem clearing the massive tabletop. Filled with confidence and ignoring the fact that I had 60 pounds on the kid, I poled downhill and dropped into a tuck. I hit the lip. Immediately, I knew something was wrong. My stomach sank, my feet began to rise above my head, and my entire body flailed as I desperately struggled to regain composure. I soared past the flat of the tabletop, past the knuckle, and past the intended landing zone, wondering if I’d ever come down. Gravity eventually showed up and ripped me back to earth. I exploded on impact. I lay there starfished, listening to heckling from the chair, and bewildered and in awe of how everything could go so wrong. Here’s what I learned that day: While input from others can be helpful when catching air, in the end it’s no substitute for your own assessment and gut instinct. If something doesn’t look right, take a closer look. The best air all day may be the one you don’t take. As the saying goes, taking off may be optional, but landing is mandatory.

Four Steps to Landing Any Air

1. Inspection

“When considering an air, go through the what-ifs. What if you blow the takeoff trajectory? Land on your side or your head? Overshoot or undershoot your landing? Take these into account because mistakes can and do happen.”—Chris Davenport

2. Takeoff

“The takeoff is all about the pop. Spring off the balls of your feet at the lip of a jump or the edge of a cliff. Keep your eyes ahead on the horizon. If you look down, you are going down.”—Lynsey Dyer

3. Air

“Take control in the air by keeping your center of gravity slightly over the balls of your feet. Hold a tight body position—arms forward, knees bent, and charging—all the while looking out and ahead for your landing.”—Rachael Burks

4. Landing

“For a perfect four-point landing, you need commitment. As you descend into your landing, focus on putting your feet down first. Hesitating is what leads to back slaps and landing too far forward, causing you to tomahawk. Extend your legs. Position your body squarely and slightly forward. Commit your mind and your body will follow.”—Cody Townsend

Best Places to Learn

Windells, Mt. Hood, Oregon

While famous for its youth park-and-pipe program, Windells also offers an adult camp that will teach you to stomp switch 10s in no time. Last summer, the resort opened a new private lift just for campers. [from $724;]

Bush Pilots, Sugarbush, Vermont

Vermont Ski Hall of Famer John Egan and the Vermont North Pro Team will teach you how to do everything from airs to steeps. It’s a season-long program designed for experts. [from $1,069;]

Woodward at Copper,Copper Mountain, Colorado

One of the first indoor-and-outdoor ski and snowboard camps in the U.S., Woodward at Copper teaches new skills on The Barn’s trampolines, foam pits, and Snowflex ramps before taking you to the snow in Copper’s terrain park. The outdoor park is also open for campers during the summer. [from $199;]