Most bands find inspiration in their day-to-day lives, hoping to translate a personal experience into a universal song with a catchy melody. For American Authors, rather than pen tunes about being broke while living in Brooklyn, coming up with new and inventive ways to cook ramen noodles and trying to make it as a pop-rock band in the big city, the group decided on a more aspirational approach. Lead singer Zac Barnett, guitarist James Adam Shelley, bassist Dave Rublin and drummer Matt Sanchez focused on writing songs that would lift their spirits and help them not give up on their dreams.
“One of the things that bound us together was the fact that we did have one another to keep us inspired during the hard times,” Barnett said. “The first song we wrote as American Authors was ‘Believer,’ (which is about) how as people we all have these faults, we all have these insecurities, but you’re not supposed to let those things weigh you down. Know that you can make things better for yourself.”
‘WRITING SONGS WE LOVE’
While “Believer” was the band’s first official single, it was the 2013 smash hit “Best Day of My Life” that took the band from the tiny apartment they all shared to playing bigger crowds and garnering more fans. “Best Day of My Life” has been played everywhere, from TV commercials to this year’s Miss America pageant during the coronation, which seems fitting. No one’s more surprised at the song’s success than Barnett himself.
“We thought it was a bit crazy at first,” Barnett said. “There are five different experiences in one song; it’s a bit bizarre and weird. After recording it, we sat on it for a few weeks (and thought) we’d release it as a B side to ‘Believer.’ For it to become what it is is totally amazing, and we’re pretty thankful for that.”
Many indie rock bands try to keep their street cred, even when they hit the jukebox jackpot, but American Authors are comfortable with the “pop” label and like crafting songs a wide audience can relate to.
“It’s just about writing songs we love,” Barnett said. “I think a great song shines through no matter what the song is, and a truthful song will shine through as well.”
TOURING THE WORLD
Now that the band spends most of its time touring instead of searching for pennies under the couch, Barnett has devised an expert packing strategy unmatched by most rock stars.
“I used to be a ninja where I could fit everything into one backpack and have more clothes than anyone else on tour,” Barnett said. “We’ve been flying a bit more, so now I bring a roller suitcase, because it fits a bit more things, just in case I get any gift or souvenirs, then I just walk through security with nothing on me. If you ever see me at the airport, make sure you get behind me.”
American Authors will perform a free concert on Saturday, April 18, at the base of Peak 8 in Breckenridge as part of Breck Spring Fever, and if you were to see Barnett on the slopes for closing weekend, it would be on a snowboard.
“I don’t like the idea of my feet being apart,” Barnett said. “I get real wobbly and get nervous that I’m going to do the splits.”
One of the oldest ski areas in Colorado has joined the rest in adding a center for its ski and ride school.
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area opened its $2.3 million kids center in early March.
“With more families choosing to ski the Basin, we wanted kids to have the same positive and fun experiences that their parents have here,” said Alan Henceroth, A-Basin COO. “This new space not only allows us to improve our kids lesson offerings, but lets kids feel like this is their mountain too.”
A-Basin has been known for decades as a locals mountain with challenging terrain and not necessarily as somewhere to learn to ski, said Peggy Hiller, the ski area’s assistant general manager.
“In the last 10 years we’ve really changed that perception,” she said, and families have been taking advantage of A-Basin’s easy-access parking and one base area.
The ski area has seen a substantial increases in its kids lesson programs and the number of skiers ages 3 to 6, Hiller said.
Staff talked about creating a ski school facility for at least the last seven years, she added, and the change came partly in response to the success of the Kids Club Arapahoe program, which allows children to take a weekend lesson for four or eight weeks in January and February with the same instructor and same group of kids.
Plus, A-Basin hopes the kids center will help children bond with snowsports and the ski area.
“It’s the future of our sport,” Hiller said. “We certainly believe that people have a special connection with their home mountain — the place they learn to ski and ride.”
However, she said A-Basin doesn’t want to hurt its laidback vibe or popularity among often expert-level High Country and Front Range skiers and snowboarders.
“We’re not trying to change that at all. We just want those local, better skiers to be able to bring their kids to learn here,” she said.
JUST FOR KIDS
The 7,000-square-foot, three-story building has replaced a small ski patrol hut built more than 50 years ago at the base area, which still has five buildings.
Lessons usually start at 10 a.m., and now parents will be able to drop their kids off as early as 8 and go ski while ski school staff handle kids’ rentals and snacks and supervise and play with the children.
Until now, Hiller said, “we’ve never had a place where people can drop off their kids before the lesson starts.”
Instead of sitting and waiting for a lesson to begin, kids can get active on soft, low-to-the-ground balance beams, obstacle courses and other fun equipment that tests skills they’ll use on the mountain.
Television screens at kid-level show video of activities at A-Basin, from meeting avalanche dog Rio to skiing deep powder.
The designated space for all kids lessons, programs, rentals and dining helps alleviate crowding in the rental shop, restaurants and other areas, Hiller said.
Staff can help children gear up with Rossignol skis, Burton snowboards and Giro helmets, and a retail space at check-in lets parents purchase anything they may have forgotten.
The dining area features kid-sized furniture and fresh, kid-friendly food, Hiller said.
“It’s not your run-of-the-mill chicken nuggets and French fries,” she said. “We don’t even have a fryer in there.”
The kitchen has been serving kids foods like pasta, grilled cheese with tomatoes, and fruit.
ENERGY, SKI PATROL UPGRADES
As part of A-Basin’s commitment to sustainability and energy savings, the ski area installed LED and low-wattage lighting system with occupancy and daylight sensors as well as a ventilation system designed to recover energy normally lost in typical systems.
The solar panel on the center’s roof offsets a majority of the building’s electricity use and can produce about 15 megawatt-hours of energy per year, or the equivalent of planting 260 trees or driving a car that gets 20 mpg about 17,000 miles.
Hiller said the center’s interior incorporates environmental education elements.
For example, a height chart that helps staff fit kids with rental gear lets children compare their own heights with that of animals like a weasel, lynx, bear and moose.
The lower level of the center also houses ski patrol offices and a first aid room with private waiting and treatment areas and modern medical equipment.
“The ski patrol facility is a huge upgrade,” she said. “It’s really state of the art. It came a long way from where it was.”
The kids center is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. seven days a week through April 26. Kids lessons will still be offered later in the season, and the center will reopen in November.
The Summit County real estate market doesn't quite abide by mud season rules.
Then again, neither did Mother Nature this year. It started feeling like late April in early February, with lengthy stretches of warm, almost balmy weather and only a few briefs spurts of snow in between. The annual lull between ski season and Memorial Day will be muddy, for sure, but it might not feel as dull and dreary as usual.
Yet even in a typical year, mud season isn’t completely dead. Local real estate brokers consider March and April the unofficial start of buying season. When paired with a strong housing market across the nation, late spring and summer are shaping up to be banner seasons.
March was impressive to say the least, with 150 transactions adding up to more than $83 million in total sales. That’s $23 million higher than March 2014 — itself a banner month in a recuperating year — led by 18 individual sales of at least $1 million spread between Breckenridge, Silverthorne, Frisco and Keystone.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room: Blue River Apartments. The affordable housing complex in north Silverthorne sold for $9.25 million to a Denver-based firm, Tralee Capital Partners. Firm owner Michael Kelly has already kick-started renovations at the 20-year-old complex, beginning with LED lighting and indoor plumbing upgrades to help residents save on utilities. Oddly enough, it sold for $4.6 million higher than its assessed value in 2013 (more on assessments to come).
March also marks the first time this year when big, bad Breckenridge didn’t have a monopoly on multimillion-dollar sales. Apart from the Silverthorne transaction — the largest multi-family complex to change hands so far this year — two of the four largest sales in March were nowhere near Shock Hill or Highlands.
Coming in at No. 5 on the March transaction list is a $1.6 million home in Frisco’s Royal Mountain Ranch neighborhood. Like Breckenridge, the town is nearly built out — expect higher real estate prices as the inventory continues to diminish.
Frisco is still a hot market, but even the low-performing Keystone showed signs of life when a single-family home in the Alders subdivision went for $1.85 million.
And it’s a harbinger of what’s to come: On April 8, brokers closed on a $3.5 million single-family home in the Dercum Dash development, which bodes well for the thick of buying season this summer.
PRIMER ON ASSESSED VALUE
Mud season also brings the start of construction season in the High Country and local towns are already taking advantage of the weird weather: median beautification along Highway 9 in Breckenridge, the Step Up Main Street project in the heart of Frisco.
But where do those funds come from? Property taxes, nearly 70 percent of which are paid by residential homeowners. And where do those homeowners come from? About 67 percent live outside of the county, which informs the entire appraisal process in a resort town. (In contrast, homeowners account for 30 percent of property taxes in the Denver metro area.)
On May 1, the assessor’s office will mail reappraisal statements to all property owners in the county. The office tackles property appraisals every two years, so the latest round is based on data collected between July 2012 and June 2014.
Like the housing market itself, property values are on the rise. Each of the six real property categories — residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, vacant land and natural resources — saw increases since the last two-year reappraisal in 2013.
Residential properties in the Breckenridge and Frisco areas saw the largest value increase, jumping roughly 13.5 percent each since 2014. The Keystone area went up the least by 5.5 percent.
Breck again leads the pack in terms of market share: Thanks to an average value of $1.387 million for single-family properties — the rest of the county sits at $412,000 — the town accounts for 48 percent of Summit real estate values. And with higher property values come higher property taxes, which in turn lead to deeper municipal budgets.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” Summit County assessor Beverly Breakstone says. “It’s great for the county, it’s great other districts, it’s great for everyone who collects taxes, but it also may mean higher taxes for the taxpayers.”
Commercial properties also saw a value increase of 13.4 percent since 2014. Yet due to a funky piece of Colorado law known as the Gallagher Amendment, commercial owners pay steeper taxes than private homeowners — much steeper.
Here’s how it breaks down: In Breckenridge, the average value of a condo is roughly $400,000 (compared to $320,000 for the rest of the county). When calculating property taxes, Breakstone’s office takes the actual value ($400,000), multiplies it by the residential assessment ratio under Gallagher (7.96 percent), then multiplies the total by the mill levy for the tax area. A condo with a mill levy of 60.2 (the county average) is taxed at about $1,900.
All other properties are assessed the same way, except the assessment ratio is a static 29 percent. A $400,000 coffee shop or retail store with the average mill levy is liable for nearly $7,000 in property taxes.
“We now have this schism so that residential property owners pay about three times less than everyone else,” Breakstone says. “When we have assessed values going up, it hits your commercial property owners the hardest.”
When Jim Cox talks about his favorite gigs since retiring, he pauses for a moment, grins a bit mischievously and drops a figurative bombshell.
“I get paid for blowing stuff up and you can’t beat that,” he says with a chuckle.
For the past few years, the Florida transplant has blown stuff up in Keystone, Frisco and Dillon, sometimes once or twice a week during the peak of ski season and into the heart of July. The stuff he’s blowing up is meant to be blown up — they’re fireworks, after all, so no cause for alarm — but it’s far from the usual post-retirement gig.
He’s had a hand in the Saturday-night fireworks in Keystone and the massive, almost Hollywood-caliber Fourth of July show in Frisco, put on by Western Enterprises, an Oklahoma outfit known for doing choreographed shows across the nation.
The fireworks job came together almost by accident. Shortly after moving to Summit County full time in the early 2000s, Jim began volunteering with the old Snake River Fire Department, now known as Lake Dillon Fire Protection. The owner of Western Enterprises donates proceeds from the Frisco show to the department — the funds help firefighter families in need — and by chance, Jim was asked to help prep for a show. One thing led to another, and soon enough he was helping place mortars and secure wiring and, eventually, get paid to, well, blow stuff up.
“Planning is already in, check’s in the mail and they’re getting ready to put on a very good show,” Cox says of this year’s Fourth of July production, a tantalizing teaser for one of the largest fireworks shows in the Rockies.
Then Cox gets back to listing the plethora of volunteer work he juggles across Summit County: the guest services department at Keystone, the U.S. Forest Service visitor center in Dillon, Lake Dillon Theatre Company set crew, the fire department (he’s on the board) and his longest-running passion, the Summit Historical Society.
The last one “can be more like the ‘hysterical society’ sometimes,” Cox says. “Sorry, a slip of the tongue.”
Along with Maggie, his wife of 42 years, Jim is a tireless volunteer. The two easily devote several hundred combined hours each month to their various endeavours, ranging from aid stations at the Turkey Day 5K in Frisco to Jim’s position as vice president of the historical society board.
And those are just the unpaid duties.
“The dirty little secret is I’m a deputy coroner for Summit County,” Cox says. It’s not technically a volunteer position, but never mind that. He and Maggie pull 24-hour on-call shifts once or twice a month for the gig, reminding him ever so slightly of his old career in IT.
“I think I should get a real job so I have some free time,” Cox says between sips of coffee on a gloomy April morning. “But it’s very nice to set my own schedule. Look at yesterday — I didn’t have anything on the calendar so it was a good time to do taxes. If it’s a powder day, I can head out skiing. It’s nice to have that.”
FLORIDA TO THE COVE
The Coxes met and were married in Florida. His roots there run deep: The Cox clan is a founding family of Pinellas County, today a tourist hot spot on the Gulf Coast across the bay from Tampa.
But Florida wasn’t where their hearts were.
“‘We learned the area, liked the area, slowly started putting down roots and decided this is where we wanted to be,” Jim says of his early visits to Summit County. “We just knew at the time we wanted out of Florida.”
For Maggie, whose matter-of-fact sense of humor almost perfectly complements her husband’s off-kilter jokes, Colorado summers were too good to pass up.
“We knew a long time before we were able to move that this is where we wanted to be,” she says. “We both just love it up here, and I’m still getting over those 37 Florida summers.”
The Coxes didn’t quite go against the retirement grain — they moved to Colorado almost two decades before making the final move to Summit — but volunteering has kept the two active in their occasionally cold and harsh adopted home. It’s what they want, even though the couple rarely “works” together.
“She goes her way with volunteering and I go mine, and then we get together over dinner and compare notes,” Cox says. “Living in Florida, near a retirement area, you saw a lot of people just sitting around. We used to joke about the retired folks. We’d call them ‘raisins’: They just get wrinkled from the sun, sitting on a bench feeding the birds. How is that the quality of life you want?”
Cox’s time with the historical society has been the best type of volunteer work, combining his passion for local history and heritage with a strong urge to get his hands dirty. His first project for the society was to rebuild a farm wagon — he dubs it a “1900s SUV” — that belonged to the Rice family, which homesteaded in the Summit Cove area where the Coxes have lived since moving to Summit.
“Having never built a wagon, a lot of things fit together that weren’t screwed or glued,” Cox remembers. “The thing was such a piece of junk — it was literally falling apart. There was a lot of head scratching on that one. It took all winter by the time it was done.”
The wagon project was a doozy for the first-time society volunteer. Cox spent 200 to 300 hours rebuilding the old machine. But it hardly scared him off, and he’s now in the thick of another long, intimidating rehab: a Dillon schoolhouse dating to 1883.
“Right now it’s kind of a wreck,” Cox admits, although he says volunteers are making tremendous progress on the site. “It started out with getting the interior painted, and as usual that means you have to pull everything out. It was kind of a catchall for everything we wanted to put on display, so the idea is to make it look a bit more like a late-1800s schoolhouse.”
LIFE OF A LOCAL
By now, Coxes are true locals. They’ve met dozens of people through volunteering — enough that a single trip to the grocery store can take hours between chatting in the aisles and the parking lot and the checkout counter.
“I’ve made a lot of good, long-lasting friendships with people I wouldn’t meet otherwise, but the downside is you almost become too well known in the community,” Cox says. “I keep getting accused of having the inability to say no. But that’s the nice thing about the volunteer gigs — you do it on your own time, and all these organizations are very appreciative of what you do.”
Despite the near-endless volunteering schedule, Cox still makes time for play. He’s an avid skier and hiker, but every once in a while, the beach bum in him gets drawn back to the ocean. Since first strapping on a scuba tank as a teen, he’s dived at the Great Barrier Reef, the Truk Lagoon naval wrecks near New Guinea and, come mud season this year, the Outer Banks of North Carolina. He typically goes by himself — it’s easy enough to find other solo divers on these excursions, he says — but the Coxes enjoy traveling together, including short jaunts to their former Florida home.
“We go down for good seafood, good Greek food, then it’s time to head back home to Colorado,” Cox says without missing a beat. “When we left there, we’d been talking about moving somewhere else for a long time, and we decided if we don’t like it we can always go back to Florida. Twenty-eight years later and that still hasn’t happened.”
Eric Paslay definitely knows how to craft a hit song — Jake Owen, Rascal Flatts, Love and Theft and the Eli Young Band have all scored No. 1 singles thanks to Paslay’s songwriting prowess — but fans who have seen him on stage will testify there is so much more to the tall Texas redhead than his excellent songwriting chops. Paslay is a charismatic performer and a potent vocalist who knows how to connect with an audience.
As his debut album’s lead single, “Friday Night,” reached No. 1, Paslay has arrived as an artist in his own right. “Friday Night” serves as a preview to Paslay’s EMI Records Nashville debut album. The collection of songs covers an expanse of emotional territory, from the ballad “She Don’t Love You,” Paslay’s latest single, to his up-tempo, top-10 hit “Song about a Girl” and the poignant, uplifting “Deep As It Is Wide.” Working with producers Marshall Altman, Daniel Hill and Billy Lynn, Paslay has created a colorful sonic landscape.
“Life isn’t always the same heartbeat, so I don’t want to have an album of songs at the same tempo,” Paslay said of the musical and lyrical diversity displayed on his debut. “Every song has a shimmer of everyone’s life in it, from the memories of falling in love to living with someone for the rest of your life and knowing that there’s something at the end of the tunnel to live for. Some of it is not too deep, and some of it is.”
“When I write, I’d rather there be a little bit of hope in every song, even in the sad songs.”
Therein lies Paslay’s charm. He is a deep thinker and soulful philosopher capable of shooting a lyric straight into your heart and making you catch your breath, but he is also witty, playful and equally skilled at getting the party started. His engaging, enigmatic personality shines through in all his songs, from “Less than Whole,” a powerful treatise on forgiveness and redemption that he wrote with Big Kenny, to the sultry, sexy romp of the date song “Good with Wine.”
Paslay creates music that becomes part of the soundtrack of people’s lives, and in doing so, he has helped shaped the sound of today’s country radio. Owen’s “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” which Paslay wrote with Dylan Altman and Terry Sawchuk, was named ASCAP’s 2012 Country Song of the Year. The Eli Young Band’s “Even if It Breaks Your Heart,” written by Paslay and Will Hoge, was nominated for a 2013 Grammy for Best Country Song and CMA Song of the Year in 2012.
He also co-wrote Love and Theft’s No. 1 hit “Angel Eyes,” as well as Rascal Flatt’s new single “Rewind,” and has penned tunes for many other artists, among them Amy Grant, Donny and Marie Osmond and Lady Antebellum. His distinctive voice has also earned him some pretty substantial fans. Dionne Warwick and Kenny Rogers have sought him out to record duets, and Grant recruited Paslay to join her and Sheryl Crow when she covered Paslay’s “Deep As It Is Wide” on her latest album.
It all started for Paslay when he began playing guitar and writing songs at age 15.
“I wrote a poem for a girl,” he said with a grin. “I never gave it to her, and then I discovered that most songs are poems, so I just put a melody and chords to the poem and there was my first song. By the time I was 16, I’d already made a CD on my home computer of about 10 or 11 songs that I played out around Texas. Those records will come back and haunt me someday, but I know there are little jewels in there. I’m glad that I wasn’t too afraid to put it out there, just to start creating music and sharing it with people.”
Born in Abilene, Texas, and raised in Waco and Temple, Paslay has always loved music, but his original intent was to become a pediatric endocrinologist.
“I have diabetes, and I thought I could help kids with diabetes because I could relate to them and talk to them,” he said, but music has always been in his blood. “My granddad was a musician. He and his brothers had a band called Arnold Schiller and the Moonlight Serenaders. My grandfather was Arnold, and they played at dance halls. I was 2½ when he died. The first time I played the Grand Ole Opry, I closed my eyes and thought of him.”
When Paslay moved to Nashville to pursue a music career, his first stop was Middle Tennessee State University, where he majored in music business. He became president of the school’s student chapter of Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI). He recruited top Music Row writers to speak at the university. He also volunteered for anything just to get his foot farther in the door and did everything from helping out at a charity golf tournament to changing light bulbs in the NSAI office, a feat made easier because of his 6-foot-4 height.
“I’d just go help anywhere I could because I thought if you have a job to do and you do it well, then if they let you be creative and make a record, at least they know you’re going to do it well,” Paslay said. “They’ll know you are going to put all your mind, strength and skill into doing whatever job they give you.”
An internship at publishing company Cal IV Entertainment proved to be a valuable step for the budding songwriter. He learned about not only the publishing business but also the craft of songwriting, eventually landing his own deal with Cal IV in 2006. His songwriting and impressive voice began garnering attention from labels, and he signed with EMI Records Nashville.
SING IT BACK
Though he is appreciative of his cuts by other artists, Paslay said the reason he began writing songs is that he wanted to sing them for people.
“I turn it on when I get on stage. I love to entertain,” said Paslay, who has opened for Dierks Bentley, Clint Black, Eric Church, Blake Shelton and Little Big Town, among others. “The songs on this record are the ones that really connect when I play them live.
“When I write, I’d rather there be a little bit of hope in every song, even in the sad songs. There is still hope in there. With all the negativity everywhere these days, I’d like the positive to come out. A song can give you a little boost in confidence or make you fall in love deeper or dream higher.
“I’m not writing and singing this stuff to be cool. I was never the cool kid. I was the kid standing in the back of the room watching.”
These days, Paslay has moved from the back of the room to center stage.
“It’s like someone flipped a switch on and people know what I do now,” he said with a smile, “but the coolest thing is there’s always that moment that you dream of when you have a hit song and you can stop singing and the audience keeps singing it. With ‘Friday Night,’ that’s started to happen. I’ll sing ‘I want to be your …’ and I’ll point to the crowd and they’ll go ‘Friday Night!’
“That’s one of those moments that every kid dreams about — singing a song and the crowd knows it so well that they sing it back to you. You get to sing it together. I’m glad I’m getting to experience that as a performer. To have a hit that radio has played so much that people are singing back to you, it’s pretty cool.”
Those of us hoping for one last spring powder day this winter may be out of luck. But for terrain park lovers it’s still peak season, even if it is winding down this week.
With conditions on the rest of the mountain fading into late spring, the terrain parks take on that end-of-the-season party vibe. Resorts like Breckenridge, Keystone and Copper will embrace it this week with spring rail jams, pond skimming competitions and barbecues to celebrate the season coming to a close.
It’s also a great time to muster up some confidence and go for that trick you’ve been thinking about all year.
“I think springtime is go time,” Summit County Freeride Team coach Steve Mullin said. “It’s a great time to work on park skills no matter how basic they are. The snow is slower and mushy and the landings are soft. It builds confidence.”
Whether you’re an X Games-caliber athlete or a first-timer working on the basics, now is the time for nearly consequence-free air.
For those in the pro ranks, spring is the time to kick back and play with the stress of competition season over. If you should catch sight of a skier or snowboarder with an energy drink sponsor on his or her helmet, stop and take a look. There’s a good chance something cool is about to happen, and it’ll probably be in a YouTube edit later in the day.
For those of us who won’t be invited to the Dew Tour next winter, it’s still a good time to play. With that in mind, we spoke to Mullin about some pointers to help build the confidence to get out there and throw down — even if it’s just on a beginner jump.
IT STARTS WITH THE BASICS
Pros don’t just start throwing 1080s and triple corks — it’s all about progression. Pro snowboarder and 2014 Dew Tour halfpipe winner Taylor Gold, for example, will take apart a complex trick and rebuild it piece by piece during a practice session. A 180 becomes a 360 and eventually a 1080 or more with a grab.
“You’ve got to master skills before you move on to something more difficult,” Mullin said. “Working slowly develops confidence.”
It starts with getting the feel for any jump. Before even thinking about that 180 or 360, you have to know how a jump feels, how far you’re going to go, how much to pop. Even pros will straight-air a jump line a few times to get dialed in.
POINT AND SHOOT
One of the keys is properly setting up to hit any feature.
“Balance and speed are the two most common mistakes when getting into a jump,” Mullin said. “When you’re in the air, it all stems from a good, balanced pop.”
Skiers and boarders are often timid and undershoot a jump on a first attempt, which results in “knuckling” — or landing in the flat portion before the downslope.
“A lot of times it’s a late wedge” or a speed check, Mullin said. “The late wedge is a killer.”
It may be counterintuitive, but overshooting a jump is usually the safer option — assuming the downslope is long enough.
Hesitating with a late wedge will also throw a skier off balance and into a back-seat position.
“People who are timid lean back,” Mullin explained. “It’s a defensive move.”
The combination of the two will likely lead to falling backward on the landing, or butt-checking.
The best way to counter that is to remember to lean forward somewhat going into the jump, and also to keep skis or board straight without speed checking. You’re far more likely to fall backward than forward.
“You’ve got to have a game plan,” Mullin said. He suggested watching someone else go first or scouting the jump.
Watch where others start from, how much they pop and where they land. Also consider their body weight and momentum compared to yours. Will you need to go faster or pop more?
“It’s all a guessing game, but it’s a calculated guess,” Mullin said.
Before you can ride a rail, it’s good to start on a wide box feature. As with jumps, balance is key.
The tendency again is to lean back when jumping onto a feature.
“We’re talking 95 to 99 percent tend to lean back,” Mullin said. The result is often that your feet slide out from under you like a cartoon character on a banana peel.
You almost can’t lean forward enough. Watch people in the terrain park; it’s unlikely to see anyone fall forward.
The other common mistake is to look at your skis or the terrain immediately in front of you.
“Aim at the end. You’ve got to have your eyes at the end of a feature,” Mullin said. This is equally important on a jump; you want to eye where you’re going.
One tip to help stance — whether straight on a jump or sideways on a feature — is to point your lead arm toward the end.
It’s also important to stay flat on top of your feet.
“You’ve got to have flat boards,” Mullin said.
CONFIDENCE IS KEY
Lastly, it’s all about confidence. No trick can succeed without a belief that you can do it.
“If you’re standing there for too long and starting to overthink it, skip it. You can always come back,” Mullin said.
It’s best to build confidence on small features and gradually step up to larger ones. The same can be said with the complexity of a trick. Get dialed in on the basics first; it’ll help in the long run.
“A confident skier is going to learn faster,” Mullin said.