Shred Sessions

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, December 1995

Shred Sessions
By Eric Blehm

Lesson 1: The Dynamic Slide Turn
"The DST," says Kevin Delaney, "is snowboarding's most basic building block. You'll use it a lot as a beginner, but it will also come in handy later, on the steeps and in the trees and moguls." Delaney, shown here and in the sequences that follow, should know plenty about the demands on both beginners and experts alike: A two-time world champion, his Delaney Adult Snowboarding Camps in Vail and Aspen have helped more than a thousand grown-ups find their snow legs over the last three seasons. Which is why we've asked him to demonstrate and explain some crux moves to get the rookie rider started, as well as a couple of flourishes to spice things up once you get the basics down--advice that should help you beyond the bunny hill toward some solid blue cruising terrain.

The DST is a controlled slide that lies somewhere between the survival method of sideslipping and the artfully carved turn. The key to this move is an up-and-down rhythm that's integral to setting and releasing your board's edge--think of it as using your legs like shock absorbers. The DST begins with you standing tall, knees slightly bent. Keep your body comfortably aligned with the board, so your weight can pressure the inside edge. As you initiate the turn, shift slightly forward to unweight the back end of the board, allowing it to slide through the fall line and come around to the opposite edge. As you move through the turn, lower your body by bending at the knees and ankles only, keeping your upper body straight and your weight evenly distributed between your feet. Continue to lower yourself to keep the board's edge biting the snow, the bend in your knees allowing you to absorb minor terrain changes without altering your course. Finally, as you complete the turn with eyes toward the next one, gradually extend your legs to the starting position, thus releasing the pressure on the edge.

Lesson 2: The Traverse
On skis, of course, you can skate without detaching from your equipment, but if you lose momentum on the flats on a snowboard, you're stuck. Thus the importance of learning to traverse. "It's really the key to being in charge of the mountain," says Delaney. "It tends to show who's really getting it."

The first thing you need is a balanced body position: Your knees should be bent, back straight, arms out at your sides, and shoulders squared. Apply equal pressure on the front and back foot to keep the board tracking straight across the slope, gently weighting the toe-side edge by pressing down with the balls of your feet or the heel-side edge by leaning slightly back against your boots, depending on the direction you're headed. Traversing requires you to build up enough speed to carry you through the flats; if you must stop quickly, point the nose of your board uphill by rotating your body in that direction. When you find yourself crossing a steeper slope, use a little more edge pressure to keep the board sliding across the slope and not down it.

Lesson 3: Carving
Making your first honest-to-God carved turn is primarily a matter of letting the board's sidecut and flex do the work for you, balancing on a single edge, as you do when traversing, while moving down the fall line. This means that you must fight the overwhelming instinct to push the tail of your board into a slide--rather hard to do, Delaney admits, the first time you attempt to move onto your downhill edge. "You have to use the lower half of your body as a single unit," says Delaney, "and avoid the urge to swish your feet back and forth like you're making slide turns. There should be no upper-body rotation, no pushing and pulling of the feet."

Choose a wide-open green trail when first learning to carve, and begin in the middle with your board headed downhill. When you start to gain momentum, point your board downhill at a 45-degree angle to the fall line. With your weight equally distributed over your feet and your knees bent, balance on your uphill edge and continue across and down the slope--but don't let yourself slide. (Notice that the track Delaney leaves here is much narrower than that he left doing the DST.) As you initiate the turn, decrease the edge angle and then move your hips and knees over to the downhill edge of the board. Your body should remain stable--arms at your sides, back straight, knees bent, eyes downhill--and the base of your board should ride flat on the snow for no more than an instant. Then, without moving your upper body, roll up onto the opposite edge. Throughout the rest of the turn, try to balance completely on the edge, progressively decreasing or increasing pressure depending on the desired radius of the turn.

Lesson 4: Riding the Steeps
The prerequisite to moving on to steeper terrain is the ability to perform quick, short-radius DSTs with complete control. "The DSTs have developed an up-and-down motion in your riding," Delaney explains, "down to set the edge for turning and speed control, and up to release when you need to move quickly from one edge to the other. Now, to make the type of tight turns needed in the steeps, you've just got to pick up the pace."

The place to practice is a smoothly groomed blue run. As Delaney points out, "Practicing the steeps in the steeps doesn't leave much room for error." First, check your speed with an aggressive slide turn. Once you've reached a manageable velocity, shift your weight--evenly distributed over your feet--downhill. Next, quickly extend your legs to release the uphill edge and begin coming around to the opposite edge. Now you're ready to lower your center of gravity again to control your speed and dictate the board's direction. When the newly set edge is firmly gripping into the snow, you're ready to repeat the process and turn back to the other side. Use these quick alternating turns all the way down the hill. With repetition, your control will increase and your desire to slow down--and the frequency of your turns--will decrease.

Lesson 5: Jumping
"Everybody loves the thrill of catching air," says Delaney. "But never will it catch you--which is why I fix all of my focus on the takeoff. A poor launch guarantees a failed jump." For your first attempt, seek out a gentle slope with a roller or small bump that's immediately followed by a similarly gentle downward slope. Ride over it once--without pushing off--to get some sense of the terrain. When you come back around to make the jump, approach the launching point head-on, with your body slightly crouched and your board either flat or slightly on the toe-side edge (a heel-side jump is less stable and will often throw you onto your rear). At the lip, extend your legs to push off, keeping your eyes forward and arms at your sides for balance. Once you've left the ground, concentrate on keeping your weight centered over the board, pulling your legs up and focusing your eyes on the landing site. At the apex of the jump, you must fight the gravitational force on your legs, making sure to hold them in the tucked position until just before touchdown. Finally, as you approach the ground, center your weight between your feet, to help you land with the board flat, and extend your legs to meet the snow, making sure to leave enough bend in your knees to absorb the shock.

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