Riding Tip: Jumping 101 with Chris Brown
I get a lot of people asking me about jumping – how I started, what’s the biggest jump I’ve hit on my sled, and how to do it. I started the same way most of you did, only it was 18 years ago. I found some smaller jumps with safe landings and started to work my way up. The biggest jump I’ve hit was 247’ and the biggest gap I’ve cleared was 150’ over a moving train.
You have to protect your body. I wear EVS shin and knee guards, a Tekvest and my trusty 509 Carbon helmet. Kneepads are crucial when jumping. At some point you will base your knees against the chassis, and I guarantee you’ll be glad you had them on. The Tekvest really gives your ribs and internal organs some extra protection and should always be worn. Choose a quality good-fitting helmet and make sure the strap is done up properly. I’ve seen guys lose their helmets on a hard landing or crash from not having the strap tight enough.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT JUMP
Start by finding a small jump with a smooth take-off and a steep landing. The face of the jump should be a smooth transition. If it is abrupt it will collapse the suspension when you hit it and you might not fly straight. The steeper the landing, the better. You don’t want to land flat as it can break your back (trust me). Start with a tabletap jump where you will be fine if you come up short, but try not to overshoot it either. Always look at the landing to make sure it is clear of obstacles (and your buddies). Use a spotter if you can’t see the landing. Start small, have fun and work your way up.
As you are approaching the face of the jump you want your body to be neutral. That means equal weight on each foot and centered on the sled. Your knees and arms should be bent and ready to absorb anything. You should be looking ahead of your sled. The distance you look ahead depends on how fast you are going, but you should always be looking out ahead of your skis. Make sure you’re not sitting on the seat, as this will hurt when it comes to landing time. If you’ve found a nice tabletop jump, then you can start by hitting it slow, and incrementally increase your speed as you feel comfortable flying further each time.
It’s all about timing. When my skis are leaving the face of the jump, I let off the throttle. This makes the sled fly parallel to the landing. If you let off the throttle before the skis hit the jump, your nose will drop quickly in the air. On the flipside, if you stay on the throttle too long, your nose will come up. You want to be smooth on the take-off and let off the throttle in that precise moment when you start to leave the face.
IN THE AIR
If your nose drops because you let off the gas too soon, hit the throttle and it should come back up (depending on how severe your nose dive is!). If you stay on the throttle too long and you skis come up, tap the brake and lean forward a bit. Once you master the art of flight, you may not ever have to use the brake or throttle in the air – you will just fly level. Again, make sure you are always looking ahead. When I’m in the air, I am spotting my landing. You want your sled to fly at the same angle as the slope so that your skis and track touch down at the same time. If it’s windy out, wait for another day. Wind can really throw you and your sled around in the air.
Spot your landing and right before you hit the ground hit your throttle a bit to get your track spinning – this will lessen the impact. Brace yourself and have a firm grip on the bars. Continue looking ahead, you might get whiplash if you are looking down when your skis hit the snow. Use your legs and arms to absorb some of the impact, but your shocks should take most of it. Try not to land heavy on the track, it can be rough and you might get sent over the bars (scorpion!). At the same time, try not to land too heavy on the skis, as you may endo. Little adjustments to the brake or throttle can help adjust your sled’s attitude if necessary. If your landing is steep enough and you land equally on the skis and track you won’t really feel the impact at all.
Try to ride through the landing. The more you drive through the jump and landing by keeping your momentum going, the smoother it will be. Don’t forget to keep looking ahead!
Please try this with good judgment and at your own risk. The feeling of flying through the air can be super rewarding, but it can also go wrong quickly when mistakes are made. Progress at your own pace. Don’t ever feel pressured to hit a jump that you’re not comfortable with. Your gut instinct is always right!
For more with Chris Brown, visit Ride Whistler