Going faster, going bigger, and throwing tricks are a great and dangerous way to add a little spice to your regular runs downslope. You want to go faster, you just have to turn less. You want to go bigger? Same deal. If you really want to shake things up and impress your audience on the chairlift, though, learn to land a 360. You gotta spin to win. Here’s how you do it.
To get used to the inertia you have to overcome when you spin your body and your skis axially, you might want to try it on a trampoline first. In fact, you definitely will want to, if you’ve got access to a trampoline. Tape some cardboard to the bottom of your skis or board so that you don’t cut the fabric of the trampoline when you’re bouncing. For the same reason, leave the poles behind. If you don’t have a trampoline, you can typically find one at a local gymnasium, but you’ll likely have to take a training course first.
Find the right air
First of all, you should probably wait for a powder day just so when you crash you’re not getting hurt. Scout a jump and a landing that are big and soft enough respectively to pull of a full 360. Depending on how fast you’re planning on going (probably not that fast), you’ll want an air in the neighborhood of waist height, and a steep landing that, hopefully, hasn’t been bombed out by other people (or by you trying a bunch of 360s and beefing).
Make sure and scout the jump before you hit it to make sure that the landing is clean, the jump in-run is well packed, and there’s not nefarious trees or stumps out of view from above the jump. Hike up, don’t take the chair again, otherwise your fresh landing is going to get poached.
Hit the air once without trying to spin so you get a feel for how you it throws you and what the landing is like. On your second or third run in, lower your hands and cock your torso in the opposite direction of the way you want to spin.
As you come into the jump, edge your skis in the same way that you would if you were making a turn in the direction you want to spin. As your bindings hit the end of the jump, extend your knees and throw your arms and torso in the direction you want to spin.
Look over your shoulder in the direction your spinning, and keep looking. The most difficult part of completing a 360 is committing to it — keeping your head and body twisted until you can see the landing. When you see the landing, let your body unwind, and slow your spin by letting your legs spin (in the same way that figure skaters slow their spin) and keep your hands up. As you land, plant both of your poles ahead of your boots to complete a “4-point landing.”
Former freestyle ski competitor and skiing instructor at Snowbowl in Missoula, MT, Alex Ramsey, also suggests the following:
Picking a point of reference is the most important part. When you start your spin, you need to choose something downhill – a mogul, a tree, a fence – something so that when your head whips around to the front again, you know where to look, and when to stop the spin. The other most important thing (yes, there are two), is to really commit and complete the rotation. A lot of beginners chicken out halfway and that’s an easy way to crash.
First, you should apply the below principles to performing a 180. This is an advantage that doesn’t translate directly (but a little indirectly) to skiing. Scout the jump as you would above, and give it a run through or two without spinning.
When you’re ready to try a full 360, start your in-run to the jump, but don’t cock your body initially. Wait until just before you reach the base of the jump to begin twisting your body in the opposite direction of the way you want to spin. You don’t want to accidentally veer one way or the other – this is something unique to snowboarding that can be, initially, hard to resist for former skiers.
As you reach the crest of the jump, pop your knees straight while simultaneously throwing your upper body in the direction you want to spin. Because your feet are locked equidistant apart, you’ll have to move your arms in or out from your body to speed or slow your spin respectively. Keep your head looking in the direction of the spin, and the rest of your body (and board), should follow suit.