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Get Schooled: Go Low in Deep Snow

Features
By Bill Kerig
posted: 05/16/2005

Your next progression? Hucking—and landing switch—in the backcountry. So you scope the jump, take off, spin something big, and stomp the landing. Trouble is, a split second later you're cartwheeling backward.

Join the club. Everyone who tries to land switch in powder does the same thing. What's happening is natural, but the key to stomping the move and skiing away from it is to fight your natural reaction.

As you're up in the air, spot the landing over your shoulder. Then, at the last second, turn your head and shoulders back up the hill so you're perfectly square with the hill (and backward). Making sure your feet are more than shoulder-width apart and your hands are in front of your chest and way out to your sides, stomp your feet into the landing. Absorb the impact by letting your knees come up into your armpits. I call this the "eat the snow move, because in powder this is the face-shot moment. It feels like my head is almost between my knees.

But wait.The hard part's next: As you rebound from the initial impact, and the snow floats you back out, fight the impulse to look over your shoulder. Stay forward and compact through the rebound. Now, turn to look down the hill by peering past your waist. Drive the ski on the same side that you're looking past, and carve one big turn to scrub some speed. Stay low as long as you're in the powder and you'll minimize the dreaded tail-hook cartwheel.

Sage Cattabriga-Alosa

Age: 24 Height: 5 feet 10 inches Weight: 150 pounds Home Area: Alta, UT Accomplishments: Bust-out film star of the past three years; pioneer of backcountry gap jumps and big tricks Worst Learning Experience: "Trying to figure out how to land switch in powder really pummeled me. At first I thought I needed to have more speed to ski out of the landings backward, but this led to mega blowups. Then I was thinking steeper outruns—but that caused longer cartwheels. I was hammered by the time I finally figured out that it was all about staying low and not standing right up. Now I can ride away clean sometimes.

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