Snowboarders in South Korea will fly higher and perform more-complicated maneuvers than ever before, thanks in part to practice airbags. The cushy landings provided by the stuntman-style crash pads mitigate injury risk, allowing riders to master tricks they’d otherwise never dream of trying. “The amount of progression that occurred during the 20 years when we didn’t have airbags has been matched during the four years since we started using them,” says Jack Mitrani, a former competitive rider.
Still, one of the hardest moves we’re likely to see at the 2018 Winter Games was developed the old-school way, by repeatedly bashing out attempt after attempt on cold, unforgiving snow. The quadruple cork—four off-axis flips and five 360s—requires a purpose-built jump to give athletes enough hang time for all those rotations and has been landed by only five men, including American Chris Corning, who nailed it last spring during a practice run at Mammoth Mountain in California. “It’s never even been tried in a slopestyle competition,” says Corning. “But it might be what it takes to win.” Here, Corning breaks down why the quad cork is so challenging.
Step 1: As you ride up the 65-foot-long jump, you get on the toe-side edge of your board in an athletic stance, ready to spring off the lip with enough power to launch 25 feet into the air and 80 feet across the snow.
Step 2: As you launch, you initiate the first flip and rotation by throwing your head and right hand to the left.
Step 3: As you rotate, you grab the heel edge of the board with your front hand. You’ll be completing four rotations, and in order to know where you are in the trick, it’s important to count the sky and the ground four times each, so you know when it’s time to land.
Step 4: During the fourth rotation, you spot the landing, let go of your board, and stop twisting your head. Then you brace for impact.
Step 5: The landing is the hardest part. You’ve created a lot of G-force that you now need to halt, and you’re coming down from a height of 25 feet. You have to be strong to handle the compression, which is why I do lots of back squats, squat jumps, and core work. For a flawless touchdown, you want to drop into a deep squat, keeping your chest upright and your hands off the ground.
To learn more, visit teamusa.org. The Olympics begin live on Feb 8.