Girls’ Guide to Getting Air

Main photo by Raynald Tanny,

Technique photos by Anna Barry

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve teetered on the edge of the terrain park, too terrified to go in and make a fool of myself among a bunch of 13-year-old rippers but too tempted to leave.

Why is it us girls have such an issue about embarrassing ourselves and getting hurt? If you’re confident cruising on the piste, taking it to the next level with on-piste pops and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it jumps is much easier than you think. Everyone has to be a beginner some time, so swallow your worries, stop your wobbles because we asked Fiona Duncan, head coach for New Zealand’s Snowgirls ( for a step-by-step guide to the best confidence-boosting beginner tricks.

Practise on the piste or in the beginner park, dig into Cooler’s bag of tricks and prepare to get some air.

Riding switch or fakie

‘This is a great way to get balanced on your board,’ says Duncan. ‘All you really need to do is switch to your new front foot, slightly move your hips towards this leg and put more pressure on the new front foot. You’re away! It may be a killer at first but practice makes perfect, and the benefits will rub off in the end.’

Box or small rail

‘Boxes and rails are total fun but you need to remember our mantra here at Snowpark NZ – “speed is your friend, look to the end”,’ laughs Duncan. ‘The other important thing to remember is to keep a flat base all the way along. Whether the rail or box is on an angle or flat, your board needs to be flat. Be sure to blunt edges so that you don’t take a slam too.’

Frontside 180

‘Using a similar size jump to the straight air, or even just as you are sliding on the piste, approach slightly on your heel edge with your arms slightly towards your back foot. This will aid your rotation,’ adds Duncan. ‘As you pop off the lip (or the ground if you are on piste), rotate your hips, swing your arms slightly in the direction of rotation, sucking up your legs so you land centred, then ride out switch.’


‘Pick your spot or a feature that you would like to ollie, or jump, over and approach it on a flat base,’ advises Duncan. ‘Using your board as a spring, load up the tail so you can “pop up” in the air, bringing both legs up, then down, together to land with a flat base.’

Straight air

‘Start with a small jump initially,’ says Duncan. ‘Check the jump out first, so you can be sure the landing is safe and you can estimate how much speed you’ll need. Watching someone of a similar height and weight to you is always a great indication of how fast to go.

‘Ride up to the table/roller/drop with good speed, keep low on your take off and make sure your base is flat to the snow. As your board begins to leave the ground suck your legs up, keeping a nice balanced position while in the air. Your hands should be right there to grab your board for a more advanced air. As you spot the landing just place your legs down and ride down the transition with good speed.’

Where to learn

Why not freeride all winter then hone your park skills next summer in New Zealand? Fiona coaches at Snowgirls in New Zealand, which runs camps, snowboarding and freestyle skiing sessions. Check out Also down under in NZ, Nikita runs sessions for girls who ride at any level. See

Closer to home, Girlie Camps runs week-long camps that cover park riding and tricks. Check out for details.

Check out the type of lessons resorts offer before you book your trip. An ever-increasing number of resorts now offer park-specific lessons – it may even pay to have a one-on-one private lesson to get you started.

The ultimate trick: fighting fear

Wish you had a bit more of the boys’ brash confidence and could nail those pre-kicker nerves? Try a bit of sports psychology in the form of visualisation.

Get into the habit of closing your eyes for 10 minutes a day and imagining yourself hitting and landing the perfect jump. When you imagine something, you create neural pathways in the brain so that when you are in that situation you naturally do it – it as if you have done it before. Your brain can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined.

Picture yourself as the star of a film and watch yourself skiing or riding the perfect jump or rail. Imagine the colours, sounds, smells and emotions and, as you see yourself pulling it off perfectly, “anchor” the feeling by clenching your right fist as hard as you can.

Next, re-play film, but this time feel yourself starring in it, instead of just watching. When you reach the peak pulling it off perfectly, clench that right fist again. If you practise this often enough before you reach the slopes, by clenching your fist you can recreate those same positive feelings, helping you to really ride at your best.


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