Photos by Vince Shuley
March is certainly making a fierce return to winter. This is the month where skiers and snowboarders in Whistler start to check off their freeride goals for the season, whether it’s skiing a line that’s intimated them for years, launching further through the air than ever before or simply exploring a new zone, in bounds or out.
In other words, it’s time to send it.
Everyone has their comfort zone and risk tolerance, but if there’s a goal you’re hoping to accomplish it’s probably best attempted with the deep base and ample snowfall that March is bringing to Whistler. And I’ll state my release of liability right here: only attempt sending it if you have the skills and dexterity to safely stomp the landing, or be ready to take a tumble and arise from the whitewash of powder with hopefully nothing more than a bruised ego.
Probably the most important requirement when looking to send it is to be skiing with a solid group. This can be just a single friend who can help spot your landing and give you the all-clear when the run-out has no other people blasting through it. I’ve found the best groups size (not just for sending it, but for powder days in general) is between two and four. You all fit on one chair and there’s enough encouragement to hit the drop without the peer pressure of a full audience.
Unless you’re sending it on a line in view of the chair lift. Then expect an equal amount of encouragement and heckling from the alpine peanut gallery.
Technique for launching of a cliff is much like learning to jump in the terrain park. The latter is actually quite the effective training tool for timing the sudden spring from the ankles and knees (known as the “pop”).
Start by scoping an appropriately sized cliff with enough fresh snow on the landing. Going big and touching down in someone else’s bomb hole in the powder will likely get you a one way ticket to the yard sale. Make sure the landing is visible from the take off and have a friend inspect the landing for any hazards. Remember that if you take off imbalanced, you’ll likely land imbalanced or worse, crash and burn. Keep your hands forward in a low stance as you ski off the ledge and pop off where your skis leave the snow, lifting your feet and knees slightly towards your chest. Careful to not get too far forward, a little bit in the backseat and you can still ski away with a backslap but if you’re over the front, it’s tomahawk time.
Another lesson I’ve learned is when to start dialling it back on the powder day. Starting 15 feet then confidently landing 20 and 25 feet doesn’t necessarily mean you can scale it up and hit the 40-footers. Like anything with skiing and snowboarding, sending it takes years of experience to perfect.
Send it safely people.
This post originally appeared in the Whistler Question in March, 2016