How to Jump on a Snowboard

Have you been dying to get airborne, but need a little lift? Snowboard Expert Jason Robinson shares how to get a jump on your aerials for this coming winter.

Elias Elhardt jumps off a mountain peak.

Whether jumping in the kiddie park or off the top of a mountain, the fundamentals remain the same. Rider Elias Elhardt. Photo by Darcy Bacha

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For a species of land mammals, lacking the necessary hardware for flight, humans sure spend a lot of time in the air. Due mostly to the effects of the agricultural revolution, people, no longer focused on working the ground for sustenance, began looking up to the skies for the first time. Early aeronautical pioneers developed ingenious methods for accessing this newly discovered vertical plane, the most notable being the plane. When our basic biological needs for food, water, and shelter are all met and catching fish or game is no longer required for survival, it’s only natural that we are drawn to catching air!

While time in the sky may be at the top of your itinerary this season there are a handful of critical components in assuring we experience a safe and comfortable flight. I’m going to break down how to jump into five steps: the approach, pop, actual airtime, the landing, and ride away. In time, these five will hopefully blend into one fluid act and quick on-the-fly decision-making skills will work with your body's muscle memory to allow for seamless transitions between the air and snow. For now, we will be looking at it in these simple stages.

Keep in mind that if you’ve been catching air on other boards or toys in the past, jumping on a snowboard will come very naturally once you’ve got the riding basics down. Whether it’s from time on a skateboard, mountain bike, trampoline, or otherwise, know that the more air awareness and familiarity with jumping that you have the sooner you'll be cleared for take-off. For example, I grew up skating, and as a kid, I spent countless hours pushing around, ollieing onto, off of, and over anything I could. I’d been skating for a couple of years before getting my first snowboard. Now that I had a board that was attached to my feet and a much softer riding surface, the mountain looked to me like one giant, much more forgiving and easier to ride, skatepark. No matter if you’re a base jumper or just figuring out how to use a jump rope here’s the lowdown on lifting off.

The Basics

To catch much air on a snowboard, at least intentionally, you are going to want to get some of the basics down first. Starting, stopping, the ability to ride flat-based, and to link turns are sort of the base foundation you’re going to want before really focusing much on jumping. I’m not saying that you’re not going to be able to hit a jump without these skills, but having them sure will help your chances of making it back to your feet and home in one piece. A helpful way to get started is simply hopping around on the flat ground, in the grass, on the carpet, or on a patch of snow. Get used to the feeling of balancing on your tail, jumping, and popping.

1. The Approach

Jake Kuzyk rides on a blue-sky day.

Cool. Calm. Collected. Jake Kuzyk puts the “mental” in fundamentals. Photo by Antosh Cimoszko for K2 Snow

Once we have these abilities needed to safely approach a jump, we are going to just take a pause and visualize. Simply picturing how this jump is going to work out is an important first step to the approach. This is where we make our initial risk assessment. With time this can be done on the fly whenever you're riding and spot a hit, but for now, we will literally stop and just pause, out of the way and well above your potential ramp.

Identify potential hazards and ask yourself, “Can I imagine how this will work? How much speed would I take? Is it worth it?”

You should feel comfortable and the answers to these questions should be pretty clear before committing to any send, big or small. Whether a tabletop in the park or a bump off the side of the run, if you can imagine yourself jumping it, or better yet you see someone jump it and know you have the skills to execute, then it might be the right time to go for it.

When you drop in, headed for any sort of jump, you are going to want to feel comfortable and be riding in control. Keep your legs bent and fairly loose to absorb bumps or imperfections on the snow surface. While at the same time, keep them slightly activated and waiting to be engaged if needed. You’ll be relaxed but strong and ready, if that makes sense.

Approach the jump with confidence, adjusting speed if it seems necessary. As you get closer, you can utilize your edges for any last-second adjustments in the angle of trajectory. (For the tutorial, we will be approaching this jump to do a straight air or ollie, the most basic aerial maneuver on a snowboard.) Now when your nose is a board length or two from the end of the lip, we want to be relatively flat-based, trying not to be too much on edge. When performing spins or flip variations, more technical edgework may be required. For a straight air on a traditional jump, however, we will just use our board control skills to put ourselves nearly flat-based, ready, and in time to leave the lip flat when we get there.

2. The Pop

In the final moment of leaving the take-off of a jump, we will pop. Popping off the lip will help the air feel more controlled, increase height, and set us up for a nice clean landing. This step takes some practice to fine-tune, but, as we improve, we develop the tools to better gauge how much speed to take into a jump to keep the momentum going. It all happens pretty fast, but if you consciously think about it and start jumping, you learn quickly how much or how little pop you will need to make the sweet spot.

At first, we are going to be popping a small to moderate amount off of the lip and when the board’s nose leaves the end of the takeoff, there should be a sudden but smooth transition that occurs. Start to unweight your front foot while transferring that weight to the back leg. It should feel a bit like you are lifting your front foot and almost starting to stand on only the back foot. As the tail leaves the lip, all that energy is released with one final snap driven by the back leg and POP!

3. Airtime

Jake Kuzyk grabs his board while in the air.

The CSA or Canadian Space Agency is the NASA for Canadians—Jake Kuzyk in orbit. Photo by Antosh Cimoszko for K2 Snow

We are now officially airborne! This is it, this is what we’re here for! I’ve found that time can really wind down up there, and if done right, it feels like you’re moving in slow-motion. Hopefully, the preparations set you up well and everything went off without a hitch. If you nailed it and left the lip in control and with good pop, it is time to just hang out and enjoy the ride for a bit. Your fate has pretty much been sealed at this point, and without some serious cat-like reflexes, there’s not much you can do now if you’ve been set on a collision course. But you know what they say, “you can’t get hurt in the air,” so if things aren’t quite going your way just try and stay composed and go down with some class.

If you followed my tips so far there is a good chance you are just gonna be chilling up there weightless, enjoying the view, and having the time of your life. Keep the mind calm and body in a slightly tucked position. Bring your knees up a little towards your chest and keep both your arms out to your sides for balance, or you may find that grabbing your board may bring added stability. Play with it. Sadly, like all good things, our airtime must come to an end too and it’s probably time to start thinking a bit about the impending comedown.

4. The Landing

By the time you’ve reached your vertical limits, you should have your landing spotted out pretty well. Of course with certain moves, this can get much more technical but for a straight-air, we should have had a pretty unobstructed view of the landing the whole time. That doesn’t mean to fixate on the landing the entire time in the air—please enjoy the flight—but while in the air, you will get a good idea of where you are headed.

As you get closer to touching back down, your body will almost unconsciously prepare the landing gear for you. Of course, no two landings will go exactly the same but the general idea remains. As you get closer to the ground, your legs, that were hopefully pretty well tucked up until this point, will begin gently extending. Start straightening your legs from the bent position they were in mid-air, getting ready to absorb any compression upon landing.

It's probably best to try and just land pretty flat for now. Position the base of the board roughly parallel with the landing, both front to back and side to side. The nose should be pointing straight down the hill. Focus on landing with both feet at about the same time and landing with your weight balanced between your heels and toes. Try to make sure you are not too heavy on either edge, similar to how we want to be taking off on a jump for a straight-air. The tip and tail of the board should land at just about the same time. This is a good starting point and will give you stability, but with practice you will notice that you can start using the board as a tool to help absorb more of the landing impact.

Feather your board down as you land, starting with the tail, work your way forward, your backfoot, then the front foot, and finally the nose of the board comes in contact with the snow and all lay in sequence. This provides a gentle touchdown landing. This is the way you would hope to land any decent-sized air into fresh powder, but for smaller airs on groomed surfaces, it is not as important and just working on landing “bolts” will be good practice for building strong fundamentals.

5. The Ride Away

Yo Amagai jumps on a snowy, cloudy day and tucks his knees into his chest.

Yo! I’m a guy that loves a good straight air and Yo Amagai gives us a textbook example right here. Photo by Colin Wiseman for K2 Snow

Now that you’ve stomped it, you're over 90% of the way there, but not out in the clear just yet. Remain in a power stance until you feel that you have completely transitioned from landing to having “ridden away.” Keep on the lookout for any obstacles or hazards you may be barreling towards and assertively take the steps needed to avoid hitting any of them.

When back under control and cruising down the slope again, I like to imagine the scene another time or two while it’s still fresh in the mind—my own personal instant replay, if you will. After a clean ride out, you are feeling juiced and now is your time if you wanted to claim!

Let out a hoot, throw the arms up, and ride over to your homies for the high fives and to check if they got the clip. That’s it! You did it! Don’t fixate on it for too long though, the next hill could be right in front of you.

Having this basic foundation to build upon will begin to open up your local mountain to a whole new world of possibilities. Having the ability to combine your existing board control on-slope with a little air awareness and basic jumping skills really unlocks a new level of fun on a snowboard. Introducing controlled airs into riding top-to-bottom runs is one of my greatest joys in life, and if the snow is soft enough, there really isn’t a more low-impact way of getting this high.

If you have any questions or want free, personalized advice and recommendations, reach out to a Snowboard Expert here on Curated. Have fun!

Snowboard Expert Jason Robinson
Jason Robinson
Snowboard Expert
Jason here! How can I help?
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I've spent over thirty years on snow and a decade as a professional rider. Snowboard career highlights include standout video parts with Absinthe Films, 2016 Big Mountain Rider of the Year and two Snowboarder Mag covers. I pretty much grew up on the slopes in Whitefish, Montana and snowboarding has...

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