We're sitting in a packed bar at the Breckenridge Brewing Company on a recent afternoon watching ski porn over pints of Avalanche Ale. On the screen, top winter athletes carve pristine lines across acres of fresh pow, catching air off 40-foot cliffs in true fusion style. Every few minutes the bar erupts with a chorus of disbelieving epithets. With sick new tricks being invented everyday, looking sexy on the slope has never been easier. But how do you pull off big hucks without biting it in front of your adoring fans? Not to worry, we've enlisted the advice of some of winter's hottest athletes, as well as visual cues from TGR's new flick, High Life, to help you up your ski-cool quotient. Here's a crash course:
Wear Your Helmet: 180 Safety Grab from Marc-Andre Belliveau
Don't let the name fool you: This half-spin with a below-the-boot grab can mess you up. Ask Marc-Andre Belliveau, a wily 23-year-old French Canadian who regularly pulls this grab 720-style while shooting 15-foot gaps. "If your balance is off, the slope is going to look real nice," he says with a laugh. "Nice and close." (Watch the video)
Before You Try: Since you land backwards, learning to ski "fakie" (backwards) is essential. Belliveau suggests finding a flat slope, doing a half-spin, making a few fakie turns, and then spinning back. "You should be looking around your shoulder, not over it," he says.
Approach: "You don't need a ton of air for this trick, so find a small bump or mogul to start out," Belliveau advises. As you come up the jump, keep your skis straight and don't dig in either edge. Get into a half-tucked position, bent slightly at the knees and waist.
Takeoff: Welcome to Popping 101: As you hit the lip of the jump, hop straight into the air like you're not wearing skis. Doing so gives you enough air to pull the spin, and gets your legs moving toward your upper body. Don't worry about winding up before leaving the jump. "Think about popping first," says Belliveau. "Once you're in the air, think about the spin."
Airborne: Now that you've got air, start to spin by twisting your head and shoulders in the direction you want to turn. Meanwhile, tuck your legs underneath you, keeping balanced over your skis, and make the grab with the hand you're turning toward (so if you're spinning clockwise, grab behind your right boot with your right hand). "Beginners mess up when they bring their skis to one side making the grab. Keep compact and centered," Belliveau warns.
Landing: Leaning too far uphill will put you on your face, too far downhill on your back. Find the right balance by keeping your eyes on the landing spot until you're about three-quarters of the way around the 180, then look directly uphill just before you hit. Land and ski fakie, slowing your speed down gradually until you can turn around.
In a Bar, You'd Get Slapped: 360 Tail-Grab from Kent Kreitler
U.S. Extreme Skiing champ Kent Kreitler has done hundreds of 360 Tail-Grabs in his 33 years on Earth. With few exceptions, he sticks them like a fly in honey. Warm up, find a steep slope and amedium-sized kicker, and listen to what this veteran of seven TGR films has to say. (Watch the video)
Before You Try: It's important that you get the right amount of air, otherwise you'll end up either over-rotated or digging your tips into the groundboth resulting in face-first yard sales. Do a few straight airs first to gauge the height and distance you'll need to do the trick. "Your mind will register how long you were in the air, and automatically help to set up the rotation when you throw the trick," Kreitler says.
Approach: Head downslope in a neutral position, hitting the jump head-on, skis flat, like you would on any kicker. Arms should be out to the side slightly for balance. "More than anything, stay focused on the point of takeoff," says Krietler.
Takeoff: It's all about the "pop." Take it from Kreitler: "If I'm going slower than I should be, I'll pop harder. If I'm going too fast, I'll pop less." For a spin to the left, let your right hand trail your body, and when hitting the lip, push your right shoulder toward your heart. "Don't wind up like you're going for a triple lutz; this is a casual jump," he says.
Airborne: Tuck your legs underneath your butt, so that the back ends of your skis are near your hands. "Now they're right theregrab 'em!" Kreitler enthuses. You can cross your skis or leave them straight. Turn your head in the direction of the spin, looking over your shoulder, until you're facing down the mountain again. Spy your landing spot underneath your left armpit.
Landing: Keep your eyes pinned to your landing spot, and flatten out those boards for touchdown. Give at the knees and hips as you make contact with the ground. Now do it 200 more times, pick up some sponsors, and sign a movie contract of your own.
Grrrl! Power: Backside 360 with Victoria Jealouse
Burton-team rider Jealouse switched from skiing to boarding in 1989, and has been mixing estrogen-adrenaline cocktails ever since. Having won both national and international competitions, she now spends her time hucking on film and showing fellow XX riders how to go big. (Watch the video)
Before You Start: "A lot of girls get pushed into doing tricks in the same way as guys. Guys can get slammed and bounce back, but we need to warm up more," she says. The fix? Take a few runs doing loop-de-loops, spinning from your toe toward your heel. Once you get used to the rotation, find either a lip on the side of the trail that leads to a level surface, or a small mogul. "Learn to do a 180 first, getting about a foot of air. Learn small and you'll be able to go big," Jealouse says.
Approach: As with any jump, stay low. Keep the board flat and turn your shoulders slightly toward the jump, preparing to start the spin toward your board's tail on takeoff.
Takeoff: To maximize your air, you want to pop off the tail of the board. Put more weight on your back foot, then, just as you take off, lean onto your toe edge, keeping your shoulders square to the jump. "Get the board out in front of you as you get in the air, don't keep it underneath your body," Jealouse says.
Up In The Air: Once you come off the lip, start turning your shoulders toward the tail of the board. Most guys will want to keep their upper bodies pretty square over the board, since they'll probably come into the spin with a little more force, but people with smaller frames can leverage their bodyweight more effectively by bringing the front shoulder down. "Bringing the shoulder down will cause [most guys] to go into a corkscrew, but for girls it should provide just enough rotation to get around," she says. Be sure to turn your head back and keep looking down. Spice it up by grabbing the board with your front hand in between your bindings.
Landing: "Spinning backside is easier to learn than frontside. Your body is going to unwind naturally and your landing spot is going to be obvious," she says. Once your body has come around, spot where you're going land. Hit the snow with a flat board, back foot first then blow a kiss to your admirers.
Flip Mode: Travis Rice and his Rodeo 540
Travis Rice is casual, whether the 21-year-old rider for DC Shoes and Grenade Gloves is partying in Tokyo, freeriding Niseko, or tearing up the home turf in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It's an attitude that helps him pull off some hair-raising stunts, like this mid-air somersault in which you're briefly inverted, then land riding switch (snowboarding's version of "fakie"). "You just have to have confidence," Rice says. (Watch the video)
Before You Start: This trick is no rail slide in the park. "Baby steps," says Rice. "Don't try a rodeo until you can spin 540s comfortably and ride switch as well as you ride regular." Try finding access to a trampoline so you can practice away from the jeers of people on the chairlift and the ticket-clipping eyes of the Ski Patrol, who don't take kindly to groms blowing inverted tricks. Pick a powder day for on-snow time, as the landings will be more forgiving (sorry, East Coasters, break out the pads).
Approach: "Speed is the hugest part of this trick," Rice says. You need some serious air to pull it off, so find a good-sized jump and hit it a few times to gauge how much air you'll need, probably in the six- to eight-foot range.
Takeoff: Crouch down and turn your shoulders toward the tail of the board, but keep the board straight and flat, getting ready to unwind for the frontside trick. "Think about your upper and lower body as being separate," Rice says. "Start the trick with your upper body."
Airborne: Throw the trick by leading with your front shoulder. After popping off the lip, bring the shoulder up toward your back. Kick your back leg away from the mountain, sending your body into a flat spin. Now calm down, Keri Strug: While this flip can be done totally inverted, try to keep your body horizontal in the air, like you're break-dancing. "Your lower body should follow your front shoulder around like a rubber band," Rice says.
Landing: So there you are, nearly upside-down, spinning and flipping through the air. "Don't panic, it's a weird feeling," Rice says. "Just see the landing and think about getting that back foot down." The advantage of a frontside rodeo is that it allows you to see your landing clearly, which lets you adjust your spin mid-air. If it looks like you're going to over-rotate, extend your body to slow down the spin. If you need to spin more, tighten up. Once you land, check your speed by making a few turns riding switch, then spin back and leisurely carve down the mountain like it was nothing.