Today’s reader question:
Any tips for building my own powder jump?
Sure! I usually build a few of them each season with my housemates and they’re always a fun time, especially if you want to learn some new tricks without getting hurt.
First let’s cover the basics for everyone.
What is a powder jump?
Exactly like it sounds, it’s a jump you build into a nice powder landing.
Like so (thanks to my former housemate Matt for the pictures):
Why would I want to build a powder jump?
Not only are powder jumps a TON of fun, but because you land into a nice, soft powder landing, it makes them ideal for learning new tricks without getting injured.
For example, most people learn their first backflips on powder jumps.
What’s great about them is you can also build them as big or as small as you want. So you could build a 40 foot jump or a small 10-15 foot jump. It’s totally up to you!
When can I build a powder jump?
When there’s powder. How much powder depends on you, but in Whistler we usually wait for a nice dump of snow, usually at least 20 cm before we think about building a powder jump.
Warning: Some powder jump locations may require hiking 5-10 minutes outside the ski resort. Make sure you check the avalanche risk in that area before thinking about going off resort on big powder days.
DO NOT go building powder jumps out of bounds when the avalanche risk is high in the area you want to build a jump.
How do I build a powder jump?
Firstly, let’s start with what you need to bring with you.
Step 1: Supplies
Besides your snowboard gear, you’ll want the following:
- Friends (preferably at least 2-3 friends so you can build the jump quickly)
- Shovel (at least 1, but more shovels is always a good thing)
- Backpack (you’ll want to bring some water, snacks and any extra goggles and gloves that you own)
This is assuming you’re building your powder jump inside the ski resort boundaries. If you want to build a powder jump outside the ski resort then make sure you bring avalanche gear and know how to navigate the backcountry.
Step 2: Location
While pro snowboarders may build powder jumps in the backcountry, you don’t actually have to leave the ski resort to build a powder jump. Most bigger ski hills have a few nice slopes suitable for building your powder jump.
There’s 2 things you want to look for when picking a location:
- Long run-in slope (so you can get enough speed to get some airtime)
- Steep-ish downhill slope after the take-off (this will be your landing)
You want your landing area to be on a nice, steep downhill slope because it reduces the impact of your landings.
You can search for a location yourself, but the easiest way to find a nice location is to ask the locals. Ask the people working at the local snowboard shop and they’ll be able to tell you the best spots to build a jump.
It’s pretty common for most bigger resorts to have a few standard places where people like to build powder jumps and those locations are common knowledge for any of the locals.
Step 3: Digging/Building the jump take-off ramp
Now that you have your location, you’re going to start digging.
Pick the spot that will be your jump’s take-off ramp and start digging around/next to it.
Your goal: Use the shovel(s) to dig blocks of snow and pile it up into the shape of a jump ramp. You’ll then compact the snow into the shape of a jump.
Here’s what the process looks like:
1 – Digging blocks of snow:
2 – Piling snow blocks to build the jump ramp:
3 – Piling and compacting the snow over the take-off ramp location:
4 – Shaping and compacting the jump take-off:
When you have enough snow piled up where you want to build your take-off ramp, you’ll need to start compacting down the snow and start shaping the snow into your launch ramp.
Snow compacting tips:
You can stack your snowboard(s) vertically against the backside of the take-off ramp to help hold the snow in while you’re compacting the jump into a nicely packed take-off.
Make a nice, smooth surface across the top of the take-off ramp and make sure you get the snow packed down firmly so your jump doesn’t fall apart when you ride over it.
Step 4: Building the jump run-in
Now you’ll want to clear out the powder in the run-in of the jump. This way you’ll have a nice even run-in surface that makes it easy to stay stable as you ride towards the jump.
This is actually pretty simple to do, all it requires is a little hiking.
First, grab your snowboard and hike up above the jump to the point where you think you’ll be able to get enough speed to air into the landing area of the jump. Next, you’re going to sideslip your way down to the jump.
This pushes the snow out of the way and gives you a nice smooth run-in. You’ll want to do this a few times to get that run-in nicely packed down.
If you want you can also have someone hike next to the run-in with a shovel to pack down the snow and make the run-in even smoother.
You’re done! Enjoy your nice, sexy powder jump and go try some new tricks!