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Riding pipe is no mean feat. It's one of the most technical features you can ride on a snowboard and needless to say, the hard icy base isn't exactly forgiving. So don't be put off if it takes a while to master. But once you've got the hang of it, it's an insanely stylish way to ride, and while it has a reputation for attracting the jocks of the snowboarding world, it actually offers tonnes of room for creativity. Check out Danny Davis' Peace Pipe for proof!. Now that's a creative way to ride a snowboard...
The trick with pipe is to start small. Don't expect to be throwing airs on your first go. It takes time to build up the confidence and get a feel for the pipe before you can begin even thinking about 10ft airs. So here's a beginners guide to dropping in, slashing the lip and throwing tricks that will get your pipe-riding career off to a banging start.
[part title="Dropping In"]
OK, so this isn't exactly a pipe trick but we've got to get you started somewhere. Dropping in is the first thing you needs to master in the pipe (obviously). A good, confident drop in will give you enough to hit the lip and throw your trick!
1) Before you drop in, you want to run your board parallel to the coping (lip) of the pipe. You shouldn't drop straight in at 90-degree angle to the piste. You want to zig-zag down, so make sure you head down the wall at a 45 degree angle.
2) When you're ready, drop in by popping off your tail. Suck your legs in and adjust your shoulders to meet the angle of the drop in as you ride down the wall.
3) As you ride through the transition, flex your knees to pump yourself up the vert. Keep your knees bent and shoulders parallel to your stance, kinda like riding a skateboard up a skate ramp. Otherwise you risk collapsing over your front leg as you rise up the vert.
4) Once you hit the top, twist your head and shoulders to face back down the vert. You can give it a little pop to help the board round. Ride down the other side and head for the next wall.
Remember, it's a 'less is more' approach. You'll look way more stylish if you nail six to eight hits down a pipe, rather than trying for 20!
Make sure you practice both heelside and toeside. It's likely you'll prefer one over the other, but if you want to progress properly, you'll have to master both.
[part title="Slashing The Pipe"]
Now you've got dropping in dialled, it's time to slash the shit out of that pipe. Sometimes there's nothing more stylish that a good icy slash off the lip. Shaun White is an expert proponent of the slash. We couldn't find a video to demonstrate, but it's pretty self explanatory. Heelside slashing is easier, so let's start with that. For a more detailed rundown, check out our full guide here.
1) Drop in from your heelside wall with enough speed to make it off the lip of the pipe. A soft pipe after the sun's warmed it up a bit makes a perfect slash. More speed, the further your slash will go.
2) When you're halfway up the wall, lean back and start to skid your back foot out. As you reach the lip, kick your back foot out hard and put your back hand on the lip. The more board you get over the lip, the better!
3) When you're ready to drop back into the pipe, dig your heel edge in to get your board back under your feet. Ride over to the other wall, ready for your next hit.
[part title="Frontside Air"]
OK, this may seem pretty simple but it's hard to muster up the courage to get your lip over the top of the pipe first time around. Here's how to make it work:
1) Start off by dropping in from your heelside wall, coming down across the bottom with a strong toe edge.
2) When you get to the lip, point the board a bit further down toward the end of the pipe. Wait as long as possible before you pop - otherwise you'll land too low in the transition.
3) As you leave the pipe, reach down with your back hand and grab in front of your front foot. Kick the back leg out and keep looking down.
4) Touch down with your tail in the transition. Make sure you come back into the pipe as high as you can. Shift your weight to your nose. Get a strong heel edge in preparation for the next wall.
If you can, don't let your edge slip when you're coming along the bottom and up the wall. Keep your eyes on the lip, not the bottom when you're in the air! Otherwise you run the risk of landing flat and low in the transition.
[part title="Backside Air"]
Once you've got frontside airs nailed, give yourself a big pat on the back. Now it's time to move on to the backside air. This is a bit trickier, as you've got to tweak out that back leg. If you're looking for some pro inspiration, check out this classic from Ingemar Backman. But don't worry, we're not expecting you to go that high. At least, not just yet..
1) Drop in from your toeside wall. Make sure your knees are bent, shoulders parallel to your stance and you've got enough speed to get out the lip of the pipe.
2) Once you're safely through the transition, look at the part of the wall you're going to hit. Look up and try and ride through the lip and out of the pipe. As before, wait as long as possible before you pop.
3) Once you're in the air, throw your back hand forward and grab your board either by your front foot or in between your feet. Throw that back foot out and tweak it!
4) Spot your landing. Touch down with your tail in the transition. Again come into the pipe as high as you can. Get back onto that toe edge, ready for the next wall.
[part title="Air to Fakie"]
Once you're feeling a bit more confident, you can start trying to nail air-to-fakies. They're pretty hard if you're just getting to grips with the pipe, so make sure you've got frontside/backside airs dialled first.
1) Approach the lip straighter than you would in a frontside air. However, don't go so straight that you don't travel down the pipe at all.
2) Pop off the top, suck in your knees and go for a grab, like a tailgrab or a melon.
3) Instead of coming down nose first, you're gonna ride switch back down. So once you start to come back down, look down past your tail and work out when you need to extend those legs to meet the wall.
4) Pump out of the transition and be stoked - you did a nice air-to-fakie!
[part title="Alley Oop"]
Next up: alley-oops! It's a variation of the frontside/backside air, where you go up the frontside wall and spin backside. So you're essentially turning 180-degrees to go the 'wrong' way on the pipe wall. It's a good one to nail early on as they don't reduce your speed too much and they look super stylish. For more comprehensive breakdown, check out this post.
1) Drop in from your heelside wall. Approach frontside wall with enough speed to leave the lip of the pipe.
2) As you go up the wall, focus on the lip. Instead of turning your shoulders and upper body down the pipe (as you would in a frontside air), you're going to be turning the other way i.e. uphill.
3) As the tip of your nose goes over the lip, turn your head to look into the pipe. Twist your shoulders and upper body will follow.
4) Lift your board off the wall and spin 180 degrees. Here's when you reach for your grab - indys work well with an alley-oop.
5) Once the board has spun 180, point your nose back down the pipe, let go off the grab and land back on the wall.
[part title="Frontside 360"]
If you've already mastered frontside 180s off a kicker, then chances are you'll be fine getting a frontside 360 in the pipe dialled. They have a similar feel and you'll be used to landing and riding away in switch.
1) Drop in on your backside wall and approach the toeside vert as though you were going to do a frontside air.
2) Pop off the top of the lip. Instead of keeping your shoulders aligned with your board, twist your head and rotate your shoulders a little more to initiate the 360 spin.
3) Once you're looking straight down the pipe, spot your landing and keep turning your shoulders so you land the transition straight. Try and get you toe edge back as soon as you land back on the wall and get ready for the next transition.
[part title="Cab 360"]
Once you've stomped at frontside 360, you'll be riding switch and can transition straight into a cab 360. It's pretty much the same but in reverse. Luckily, you land back in the pipe facing forward so no blind landings this time.
1) Drop in switch from your toeside wall, heading for your backside wall.
2) Prewind your shoulders by turning them slightly up the pipe as you ride through the transition. Suck in your knees and pop off the top.
3) As you pop off the lip, unwind your body to create the 360 rotation. You can include a grab here - tail, like James does here works well.
4) Spot your landing, find your edge and ride away, feeling chuffed that you've stomped an sick cab 3!
Remember, don't spin too early or you'll lose all your pop!