How to Build a Backcountry Kicker with Sage Cattabriga-Alosa
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1) PICK THE RIGHT SPOT
Find an inrun that leads down to a flat spot and then rolls over to a 35- to 40-degree slope. Put the ramp in a spot that will launch you at least 10 to 15 feet down that slope.
2) PILE AND COMPACT
Start shoveling. Then walk up the middle of the pile with your boots on. Take your shovel and force the snow from the center out to the corners-it’s easier to fill in a depression than to add snow to the ramp’s edges. Repeat. You’ll need 75 percent more snow than you think.
3) SMOOTH OUT THE INRUN
Sidestep up the inrun (sideslipping down can produce washboard). The last 50 feet or so before the jump need to be at least eight feet wide and as smooth as possible.
4) SHAPE IT
To maximize your chances of landing in fresh snow, the top of your ramp should be at least six feet wide. A steep ramp will pop you higher, while a gentler slope is easier to hit at high speeds-and will launch you farther. Avoid making a “Wu-Tang”-a sudden steep section at the jump’s lip.
To make the lip easier to shape-and to keep it from crumbling as you take off-create a flat spot, or deck, between the lip and the back of the ramp by stomping it down with your skis.
6) LET IT SET UP
Smooth out the ramp, double-check the trajectory, and then take at least a 15-minute break to let the snow set up. This is crucial. Wet snow doesn’t take as long to set up; powder takes longer. Skip this step and you’ll risk augering into the jump slightly on takeoff, dumping speed, and coming up short.
7) SPEED CHECK
Hike up your inrun, point ’em as if you were going to hit the jump, and either throw in a hockey stop at the last minute or veer off to the side. Now fine-tune your inrun.
TOOLS: Shovel, skis, and three friends.
TIME: It should take four hardworking skiers 90 minutes to build a five-foot-high ramp that’s six feet wide and 10 to 15 feet long.
THE EXPERT: Sage Cattabriga-Alosa, 25, has been building kickers for the past five years-including the massive ramp required to clear the 120-foot gaping maw that is Utah’s Chad’s Gap. He typically builds five to 10 “really big” jumps each season. Watch him launch off one of his creations in the Alaska backcountry in Teton Gravity Research’s new film, The Tangerine Dream.
LEARN MORE: There simply aren’t very many good sources online or in print. And like origami, building kickers takes hands-on practice. Tag along with someone with a lot of experience, or start building smaller ramps with your friends. And, as always, know before you go: Check local avalanche conditions (avalanche.org) and be prepared.