How to Land a Jump

If you've wanted to learn how to jump but didn't know where to start, check out this guide from Ski expert Garret Gimbel on how to confidently land a jump.

A skier flipping high through the air with the sun rising over the snowy mountains in the background

Photo by Jorg Angeli

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So you just finished watching a highlight reel from the X-Games where Simon Dumont threw down a double-cork 1440, and you thought to yourself, “man I gotta learn how to do that.” The problem is when you go out to your local mountain and see the jumps in person, you feel intimidated and don’t know where to start. Well, you’ve come to the right place, and luckily the fundamentals of freestyle are actually very approachable. Today we are just going to be talking about the basics of jumping, but these tips build the basis of all of freestyle – and the crazy thing is that most people don’t do them correctly!

But first, let’s talk about what skill level you should be at before you start attempting to jump. Ideally, you will be skiing groomed, blue runs and getting your skis parallel through your turns. This is important because if you try to go off a jump in a wedge… Well, let’s just say it won’t go so well!

A back view of a skier executing a jump with a snowy mountain range in the background

Photo by Maarten Duineveld

POP

So let’s talk POP. Popping is probably the single most important thing to do when going off a jump because it allows us to control our trajectory through the air so we land balanced and in the correct spot on the landing. So imagine you are standing under a basketball hoop and you are trying to touch the rim. You would flex your ankles, knees, and hips proportionally and then project yourself into the air while reaching up with your arms. On the landing, you would bend your knees again to absorb the landing. Well, it is the same for a POP, but with 2 modifications.

On Snow, Skis Off

The first major difference between a POP and a normal jump is that we don’t want to get our upper body and arms involved at all. Everything in skiing should start from the bottom up, so think about letting your projection come from your legs and core mostly, and keeping your hands out in front of you.

The second difference is that you should not be moving straight up in the air, but actually slightly forward as well. To practice this, find a nice flat area on the mountain and take your skis off. Draw a line in the snow with your pole and then put your toes on that line. When you pop, see if you can land with your heels on the line. Try not to rock forward before you pop so you are standing on your toes – you want to be balanced on the balls of your feet and simply project yourself forward. If you feel your weight on your heels, toes, or one foot more than the other then you are likely not balanced when you POP. Additionally, make sure you are keeping your skis parallel the whole time from the approach to the landing. Once you feel comfortable with this, it’s time to put your skis on.

On Snow, Skis On

Before we go any further, let’s talk about timing the POP. Similarly to when we lined our toes up to the line in the snow, we should try to time the POP for when our toe bindings are at the lip of the jump. Now, before you go to the terrain park, it is a good idea to practice popping with your skis on. Pick a target in the snow as you are skiing along, and try to time the POP with that target, keeping in mind taking off and landing on the balls of your feet. It is common for people to land on their heels and this is often because they are popping either straight up or slightly back because they get scared. So don’t move on until you feel like you are consistently popping up and forward, and landing on the balls of your feet.

Remember to start small, whether it is a jump you found on the mountain or a man-made jump in the terrain park. If you go too big too fast, your technique will go out the window and you won’t be able to progress.

When you get to the terrain park make sure you stop and watch other people first so you learn the speed of the snow for the day. We are going to break down a jump into 4 separate, but connected parts. These parts are the approach, takeoff, maneuver, and landing.

The approach is all about your speed and angle of attack. You can do a pre-ride through the park going around the jumps to help get an idea of the speed needed, or like I mentioned above, you can watch other skiers and see how fast they enter the jump. Make sure you go into the jump straight-on and with your skis parallel – you don’t want to be carving or turning into the jump.

Next is the takeoff, which has to do with the POP. Remember every jump is different and will require a different amount of POP depending on your speed, the size of the jump, and how much airtime you want.

The maneuver has to do with what you do while in the air. For now, we will just be doing a straight air which is exactly what it sounds like. You are going straight over a jump and trying to remain balanced while spotting your landing.

Lastly, you have the landing which is when we will flex our legs again to absorb the impact while attempting to stay balanced on the balls of our feet. After you have done a couple of laps and are feeling pretty good with the POP timing and technique, give yourself a pat on the back because you just learned how to jump!

A skier flipping through the air off a jump on a ski slope

Photo by Jorg Angeli

Progressing

Like I said before, the POP is truly the foundation of all freestyle applications, from tricks, grabs and spins to boxes and rails. From here, I want to give you a few tips to help you troubleshoot as you progress into bigger jumps and more challenging maneuvers. It can be really helpful to follow a friend that has already hit a bigger jump to make sure you have the correct speed – the last thing you want is to come up short or overshoot a 30 footer.

If you are struggling with one part of a jump in particular revisit the 4 parts from above to help you correct the issue. Each part of the jump (approach, takeoff, maneuver, landing) is affected by the feature that precedes it. So if you are landing in the backseat (on your heels), it may be because you leaned back in the air. If you feel unbalanced in the air, it may be because your takeoff and POP were off. And the last thing to always keep in mind is that everything in freestyle comes from the legs and core. If you are struggling to create power either in your POP or in your maneuver, or feel off balance in the air, it is likely because you are using too much of your upper body.

Closing Thoughts

Jumps can be very intimidating at first, especially since there are so many unknowns when attempting them for the first time. However, building a solid foundation first can eliminate many of the surprises and allow you to feel in control the whole time. At this point you probably still can’t do a double-cork 1440, but that’s okay since there are probably 50 people in the whole world who can! The best thing about freestyle skiing is that you have so much freedom to be creative and make skiing whatever you want it to be. Learning how to alpine ski can be very rigid and structured, so this is your chance to break free of that a little and just have fun!

If you have any questions on finding the right gear for jumping or for turning the mountain into your freestyle playground, reach out to me or one of my fellow Ski experts here on Curated for free advice and recommendations. Once you’ve mastered jumping, stay tuned for more articles on switch skiing, old-school tricks, grabs, spins, and rails!

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Written By
Garrett Gimbel
Garrett Gimbel
Ski Expert
I grew up skiing on the icy slopes of Vermont but only recently moved to the cool champaign powder of Colorado. I have been an outdoor education guide for three years and an outdoor retail associate for one year. I studied Wildlife Biology at Univeristy of Vermont where I was also an outing club lea...
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