Backup to the rails: Learn how to approach rails switch |

Backup to the rails: Learn how to approach rails switch

Kelly Coffey
Matt Inden/The Vail TrailKelly Coffey demonstrates how to back up to the rails.

To make rails more interesting, or to link rails together in a fluid way, develop the skill of coming at the rails switch. It will turn the same old rails into something new.

Warm up by popping a few switch-180s on the flats or some mild rollers. You want to make sure that you can ski switch without a lead-change (one ski out farther than another), because when you do pop, you want both feet in the same alignment (just as you would when jumping forward). The switch-180s will give you the feeling for the movement needed to pop onto the rail switch.

Find a funbox to experiment on. If you don’t have access to one, a mellow rail is the next best thing. First get comfortable with the approach by coming at the rail switch, then hockey stopping just before the rail. You can also take off the ramp at an angle and land switch off to the side of the rail. These pre-runs will show you how fast you need to go.

Now you’re ready to try the real thing. Come at the rail straight (but backwards). Though you can slow down by wedging, make sure your skis get parallel – and remain parallel – for the last few yards of the approach.

Most importantly, be patient with your pop. The tendency with approaching switch is to pop too early and rush the 90-degree spin. You’ll be much happier with the outcome if you wait a fraction of a second longer than you think you should.

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When you do pop, make sure you land on the rail with a little more weight on your front foot. To get there, you must pop and rotate with your core moving in the direction of travel (down the rail).

If you find yourself sliding off the side of the rail before reaching the end, you may have to adjust your approach slightly in order to slide the whole rail straight. The only way to figure this out is through trial-and-error since everyone will be a little bit different.

Pull off a fluid run by coming off one rail switch and heading straight for the next for a switch-on. If only the world were a series of rails, one after another.

Next week: 180s.

Kelly Coffey is a freestyle trainer and instructor for the Vail Ski and Snowboard School. He is PSIA-advanced-freestyle-accredited and level-III certified. He appeared in Warren Miller’s film Impact. He also does freestyle tips segments for PlumTV.

View past freestyle tips articles on

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