How to air a roller

Make like Bode Miller by mastering this super-easy trick

Clearly this is one for the speed freaks out there. If you’ve ever watched Hermann Maier or Bode Miller sail through the air off a roller and think…YEESSSSSS… then you could find some useful tips here. Of course, racers do their utmost to avoid gaining extra altitude off of rollers, because the air is slower than the snow, but we are here to show you how to do the opposite – to soar like an albatross!

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Safety first: rollers are piste features, which means you will be getting rad in the public domain. You must be responsible for the safety of the others here. You must, for example, be sure you can see what is beyond the obstacle you intend on going over, i.e. that it is clear. It is helpful to have a friend spot for you here. We repeat, be sure the landing is CLEAR.

The best time to do this is obviously a quieter time of day, even first run in the morning when the pistes are fast and empty.

Choose your roller

Choose a piste with good visibility all the way down, and look for your take-off. You aren’t looking for anything significant, like a hump from a snow-making gun. You want a gradual roll, with a clean exit (no immediate obstacles or turns). It’s amazing what a little speed can do. The most imperceptible change in contour of a piste is enough to provide lift at the right velocity.

  With any jump, take a few tries. Don’t go all out your first hit. Despite the rather un-racer-like jump technique here (i.e. getting so much air), it is best to adopt a racing technique for all other aspects of this trick. Racers are masters of control at speed after all.

  Approach the roll with speed a Giant Slalom racer would carry for your first try. Second time around, approach with Super G speed. Then when you’re ready, Downhill speed! (or ‘Ludicrous Speed’ a la Spaceballs… that epic 80s movie).

1. Approach

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As you approach the roller, in a race-ready squat position, knees supple and bent, you will begin to feel the slight compression as you rise up the roll. This is the time to start extending your legs. Being such a long take-off, it is more of an extension than the ‘pop’ you would use on more abrupt jumps.

2. Cresting the roller

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You should now be cresting the top of the roller and see the other side. You must keep your eyes looking far out ahead, exactly where you intend to land. Things are getting exciting but you are still racing! At speeds like this it helps to be thinking several steps ahead once you are comfortable. Your skis will gradually leave the snow, roll with it…

3. Lift off

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Once your skis are clear of the snow, bring your legs up into a tuck. This will help your balance and speed. Get those arms low for balance and adopt the cliché racing pose.

4. Soar like an albatross

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You’re flying. Enjoy it for a millisecond. It’s time to start preparing for landing.

5. Prepare for the landing

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You’ve picked your landing spot and are still in the tuck for stability. When you’re ready, lower the landing gear: extend your legs, ready to absorb the landing. Still looking way out in front of you, never below.

6. Absorb it

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Absorb like you would jump off a wall. Keep your arms out as far as you need them. I kept them out forward in this example to counteract a bit of backseat weight distribution (I was on centre-mounted park skis, so backseat was safer than too much weight at the front!). Feet shoulder with apart. Strong legs. Flash of adrenaline. Now keep going! WOOOOO!

Roller tips

1. If you want to jazz things up, then try taking off on one carve and landing on your opposite edges to carve back the other way, as if the roller lies between two gates. This feels awesome.

2. Avoid the short, steep rollers. Flatter landings at speed are not good.

3. Purchase a skin suit and some proper skis and enter the local Downhill race.

Photos by James Geen

Fall-Line Skiing Magazine
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