For those of you who plan on hitting the park this winter or want to impress with your lingo at après, here’s what you need to know
If it’s your first time in a park you should always have a cruise through before hitting anything. This will help you familiarise yourself with the set-up as some elements may be hidden from the downhill view. Dry slope and indoor parks will generally follow the formats of snow parks on the mountain, however, they will generally be much smaller. So, let’s get started...
TABLETOPS are generally one of the easiest jumps you will come across in the park. These jumps will allow you to start off slow, landing on top of the table at first, before safely progressing to going faster, higher and eventually reaching the sweet spot on the other side of the table. These kinds of jumps can also be ideal for practising presses and butters, using the flat section on top as a butter pad.
Next in line we have KICKERS, which are the next step up from the tabletop with a visible wedge and flat section before the landing. With these kinds of jumps you need to be ready to commit with speed, because you really don’t want to under or overshoot the landing. Generally, it’s good to watch where the experienced skiers and snowboarders are dropping from, in order to get your speed right. Then it’s time to get sendy, with a 360 or a classic backflip.
Then there are HIP JUMPS. With these the takeoff will generally be a little more vertical, so don’t lean back or you’ll be trying your first backflip much sooner than intended. They will usually have just one landing or an option of two landings, so aim for the landing left or right. Don’t go straight ahead unless you’re part of the Candide Thovex bloodline… then you’ll just be able to get straight and gap the whole thing, no problem. Hips are great for getting vertical airtime to tweak a grab.
HALFPIPES (otherwise known as the stunt ditch) can sometimes be rather intimidating as the down sloping trough towers above you. However, it can be a good starting point for a range of abilities. Beginners can gently cruise from left to right surfing up the walls, intermediates can use a little more height to practice small 180s popping off the walls, then the more advanced skiers and snowboarders can begin to jump above the deck (the flat sections that run parallel with the pipe).
Similar to the halfpipe we have the QUARTER-PIPES, a vertical wall that can be used just like a halfpipe, however you will only get one hit at a time. You may find these with a straight in-run or a sidewards approach like a singular wall of a halfpipe. Closely related to the quarter-pipes are the WALL-RIDES, which are exactly what they say on the tin: a wall that you ride and slide. These are the features that you see the top dogs doing hand-plants on in the magazines, the classic OG stunt.
First are BOXES, the ideal features to improve your balance before stepping up to the rails. Beginner boxes will tend to be very wide, flat and close to the ground. Then after that they become interesting rainbows, ups and downs, and develop into skinnier, taller and more challenging shapes. If you want really make progress, this is where you find your feet. Boxes are ideal for practising sliding, with the square structure of the box doing the other 50% of your balancing.
Moving on we have the RAILS. This is the next challenge up from boxes and requires you to control 100% of your balance. The basic rails will generally be wide, tubular and close to the ground. As a result they are more forgiving while you find your feet. Just like boxes, more advanced shapes are skinnier and taller with kinks and elbows for progression. One of the most common advanced rails in the park would be a DFD (down flat down), inspired by handrails in the streets.
Last but not least we have the JIBS, otherwise known as tap or bonk features. In most cases, these will be set up with a jump, with a barrel, buoy or branch, generally anything that would make a juicy sound as you smash it with your snow whips.
It’s important to realise that it’s easy to hurt yourself in the park if you’re not careful. Always go with people who have experience and can give you guidance on your technique. Speed checking is also very important so make sure you drop in and stop just before the feature or pass it to anticipate how fast you will be going. Over or under-shooting features can lead to broken bones, so its a good idea to wear a back protector and know your limits Be careful out there and send safely!
Find out more about getting into freestyle here.