The Building Blocks of a Bowtie | Mountain Sledder
Mountain School
Isaac Kesterke
January 19th, 2024

The Building Blocks of a Bowtie

There are four advanced maneuvers that are essential to dominating technical trees and steep terrain.  They are:

  • Hop Overs
  • Elevators
  • Bowties
  • Downhill Hop Overs

While bowties are often categorized as a party trick and deemed not useful in conquering mountains, I believe otherwise. Successfully learning how to bring a sled around and recover from looping out will develop muscle memory that provides a huge control advantage while riding steep, aggressive terrain. The finesse and control you develop while learning this maneuver will help take your riding to the next level.

But before you begin to learn bowties I highly recommend being comfortable attempting wheelie turns on steeper slopes. The throttle control and balance you learn from wheelie turns will set you up to successfully learn bowties.

There are only two steps needed to progress from pulling wheelie turns to executing a bowtie. Number one is doing it wrong-foot forward instead of from a neutral riding position. Number two is initiating the turn from a sidehill rather than directly uphill.

1. Approach

The most important part of the approach is controlling your momentum and picking the right location for the maneuver.

Make your approach with the wrong-foot forward on the uphill running board. Start with your foot three-quarters of the way back on the running board. If you anticipate needing more ski lift, hop to the very rear of the running board. Snow conditions and slope angle will dictate your foot position.

Keep your knees and elbows slightly bent, and a finger on the brake.

2. Initiate

Carve the corner, transitioning your momentum from going across the hill to straight up. This will require an increase in throttle and proper bracing for the change in direction. You should also start bringing your weight back to help lift the front end up. Make eye contact with your pivot location—you decide where that should be, don’t let the sled decide for you!

3. Pivot

Carving the corner starts the pivot rotation and shifting your weight back creates the ski lift necessary. Planting your foot in the snow can help control the pivot and keep it tight. As you transition through the pivot you will need to shift your weight from over the running board to over the seat to maintain balance.

4. Stall

At this point, your uphill momentum should stop completely and you will briefly stall out as you wait for gravity to start pulling you back downhill.

The depth and firmness of the snow will dictate what input to give at this point. Deep snow requires throttle to allow the track to cut its way through the snowpack. Harder snow may require brake to prevent pivoting too far. Your head and shoulders should be turned downhill and in the direction you want to go. This will help the sled fall onto its side panel instead of straight backward onto you.

5. Control

Now, control the sled as gravity pulls it down—don’t let the sled jerk you around. Try to imagine that you are sitting down in the snowpack, pulling the sled down with you.

Spot your landing and your exit route and look where you want to go. You should counter-steer the handlebars at this point to keep your ski tips from diving in on impact.

6. Brace

As the front of the sled returns back to the snowpack, remember to brace for the sudden stop. Maintain a firm grip on the bars to keep the sled from rolling downhill.

After impact, the sled will be much easier to recover if the sled is pulled too far into the hill rather than not far enough. If you’ve pulled too far into the hill you can use your outside leg to push the sled back into a balanced sidehill position. Your weight should be forward and your chest near the handlebars. Give it some throttle to help bring the back end down and into a level sidehill position.

7. Carry On

The second you recover from the bowtie you should be looking ahead and route planning the rest of your line. Knowing where you are going and recognizing the obstacles in your way will help you understand the proper input and momentum required to successfully continue on.

Keep in mind that the bowtie is an advanced technical maneuver, and it may take many days or months of practice to learn! One of the most common mistakes is not carrying enough momentum into the approach.

If you hit a wall working on these, I recommend recording a video of yourself trying one. Then study the footage and try to figure out the earliest spot you make a mistake. Slowly correct your mistakes, starting from the approach and working your way through a successful execution of the bowtie.

– Caleb

For more riding tips or to book a riding clinic, check out Caleb’s educational material on Instagram @proven_progression or at