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Bridging the gap: clearing the space in front of a rail

Kelly Coffey
Matt IndenKelly Coffey demonstrates how to bridge the gap between jump and rail.
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Like a moat around a castle, many of the most fun rails have significant gaps between the ramp and the rail. Those scary looking gaps stop many novice jibbers from attempting anything but the most basic of rails. Here’s the truth: clearing the gap is more of a mental hurdle than anything else. If you’re comfortable on basic rails, you already have the skills necessary to tackle rails with minor gaps between the take-off and the rail.

Follow these steps to clear the gap without the rail clearing your sinuses:

Go back to the gapless rails you’re already comfortable on. Hit those faster than you normally do. The bigger rails require more speed, and this drill will get you comfortable with that speed.

Then find a rail with an entry gap just slightly bigger than what you normally hit. Inspect it before you hit it: look at the take-off, the gap, and the relation of the ramp to the rail. Watch as others hit it, keeping an eye on the speed they use.

Next, approach the rail at the speed you estimate you need. Go off the ramp, but don’t land on the rail. Simply jump off the ramp at an angle and land off to the side. While you’re in the air, check out where on the rail you would land if you were actually going for it. This task alone will give you more confidence than anything else.

After all this, you should be ready to go for that rail with the bigger gap. Keep enough speed on your approach (too much is usually better than too little). When you pop off the ramp keep your core over your feet. When you’re going over a gap that you’re not comfortable with, you often have a tendency to get your feet out in front of you to make sure your skis clear the gap. This move, however, puts your weight behind your skis and may cause your skis to shoot out from under you (remember the results on your first-ever rail slide attempts).

Also, remember this key difference between the small rails and this one with a gap: with extra speed and space you will be spending more time in the air before you land on the rail. Keep your rotation slower and fluid, but still make sure you commit to the full 90-degree rotation.

When you can tackle moderate gaps with ease, you gain access to bigger and more advanced rails. Get over the gap and a wide world of rails will open up to you.

Next week: the flat-down rail.

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 vailtrail.com.

Difficulty >> intermediate

Prerequisites >> sliding basic flat rails


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