Introduce yourself to the halfpipe |

Introduce yourself to the halfpipe

Kelly Coffey
Photo Illustration by Matt IndenKelly Coffey makes a turn in the halfpipe on Vail Mountain.

To the uninitiated, the halfpipe can inject more panic than an icy double-black diamond bump run. The walls can seem big and steep. However, taking a few steps to get comfortable with the halfpipe will have you charging those walls like an X-Games medalist.

The first thing you should do is get away from the terrain park. Find a sidewall on a non-busy run. Treat this sidewall as if it were one of the halfpipe walls. Go up the wall, and just as you stall, pop and turn in the air and ski back down. The focus here is to rotate your whole body as one, not upper and lower body separately.

After you’ve dialed in this type of turn (using sidewalls on both sides of trails), head to the top of the halfpipe. Remember that the halfpipe is not extreme terrain. It’s built on a blue slope, and you can make the run as tame or extreme as you want. The more time you spend in the halfpipe, the more comfortable you will become.

Your first run down can simply be short turns down the middle … maybe even experimenting with the lowest sections of the walls. Without ever leaving the snow, you can play with the walls by making turns higher and higher up the transitions (the rounded section that connects the flat bottom from the vertical wall).

When you’re ready to add the jumps to your turns, keep those sensations you honed in on the sidewalls. Wait to pop until your speed stalls going up the wall and be patient with your rotation in the air. Remember that the higher you get up the wall, the less pop you need to make the turn.

It’s better to hone in good habits while going slow, than to develop bad habits while going fast. So don’t be afraid to check you speed between hits on the halfpipe walls to stay within your comfort zone. Be patient. As you dial in these good habits, you’ll be looking to go higher up the wall with confidence.

Next week: clearing the gaps before rails.

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.

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Difficulty >> entry-level

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