Saturday, April 11, 2015

Summit County's pond-skiming, bikini-wearing spring scene is in full swing

#Summit County, Colorado.

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.
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.
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.
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.
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.