Learning the halfpipe will require a decent snowboard as well as skill, patience, and confidence. The halfpipe is not recommended for beginners but can be attempted by intermediate riders who are looking to progress with their skills. It will take some time to get it right, but by following these steps you’ll learn it in no time.
Preparing for the Halfpipe
Understand the parts of a halfpipe. A halfpipe is basically a U shaped structure containing a deck, entry ramp, flat, lip, verticals and transitions. It is important to learn these terms so because they will be referred to when learning how to ride the halfpipe.
The deck is the horizontal platform at the top and edges of the halfpipe.
The entry ramp is a sloped area from where you will start riding the halfpipe at the very top.
The flat is the center flat area of the halfpipe.
The lip is the top edge portion of the wall of the halfpipe.
The verticals are the areas right below the lip. They are straight up and down on the sides of the halfpipe.
The transitions are the area between the flat and the verticals where the flat begins to slope upwards.
Get the right snowboard. The best snowboard for use on the halfpipe will have a couple key characteristics that are different from snowboard for freestyle. Both the snowboard and snowboard boots for the halfpipe should be a bit stiffer than typical freestyle boards.
The tail should also be particularly stiff to create a bigger pop off the rim.
Snowboard boots should be stiffer to provide extra power and protection in the halfpipe.
Set up your bindings so they are a few centimeters back from where they usually are so that you have more nose than tail. This will help you get more power from your back foot when attempting jumps.
Lean your bindings forward by angling your ankle cups forward slightly. This will keep your knees bent and help you to better hold and edge while in the halfpipe.
Wax your board so you land your tricks cleaner.
Learn some common terms. There are some terms to learn with regards to snowboarding in the halfpipe. These include backside spin, frontside spin, frontside wall, backside wall, switch and grab.
A backside spin is when a snowboarder turns their back into a spin first. His shoulders will close his shoulders so that his/her backside is the first side of his/her body going forward off the jump in the first 90 degrees of rotation.
A frontside spin is when a snowboarder turns their chest into the spin first. In a frontside spin the snowboarder will open up their shoulders so that the frontside is the fist side of their body going forward off the jump in the first 90 degrees of rotation.
The frontside and backside wall will depend on which way the rider is going up a wall. When a snowboarder goes up a wall on their toe side then the wall they are currently ascending is the frontside wall. The backside wall will be the one that the rider goes up while on their heel side (backside).
Switch refers to riding backwards from the direction a snowboarder typically rides. This is also called fakie or switchfoot. For example, if a snowboarder usually rides with their left foot forward then riding switch will mean that their right foot is forward.
A grab is when a snowboarder grabs their board while in the air.
Know how to do a “falling leaf”. A “falling leaf” involves going back and forth like a pendulum while going down a hill. You should be able to do this on both your heel side and toe side. As an intermediate snowboarder, you should have already learned to do this.
If you are a beginning snowboarder you should practice this before attempting the halfpipe.
Practice carving your turns. You must be able to carve properly in order to try the halfpipe. Beginner snowboarders will make skidded turns that make a wide path through the snow. These turns where the tail is being dragged significantly slow down the snowboarder. Carving will cut a clear path from front to back without this lateral slide, making the rider faster and more powerful.
Carving a turn will create a “C” in the snow.
Practice carving by imagining you are on very narrow runs and cannot make wide turns. Halfpipes are very narrow so being able to cope with this narrowness will help you feel more comfortable.
Be able to ride switchfoot. You should be able to ride comfortably both with your regular foot in front as well as switchfoot, or with your other foot in front. Therefore, if you normally ride with your left foot in front, make sure you can also snowboard and keep your balance with your right foot in front.
In the halfpipe you will be changing your front foot from time to time so it is important to be able to snowboard both directions.
Learn to do an ollie. Ollies are basically jumps while on the flat or slight hill. These will teach you how to gain power for jumps in the halfpipe as well as help with maintaining balance while landing. Ollies should be performed when you are on the flat of your board rather than an edge so that you do not fall.
To do an ollie you should first lean backwards while lifting up your front foot.
After your front side is slightly in the air you will push off when your back foot. This will pop you into the air by releasing the flex of the board that you created while lifting your front foot.
Pull up your back foot to make the board level once again. Your knees should be pulled up towards your chest.
Bend your knees while landing to cushion the fall. You should land with your front foot first and your weight slightly forward.
Protect yourself. Wear a helmet while learning how to use the halfpipe. The halfpipe can be quite difficult to learn and you will fall many times while practicing. Keep yourself safe by wearing a helmet.
You can also find additional body armor if you are particularly worried about injuring yourself. Use your judgment with regard to protecting your health and body.
Learn the rules. There are certain considerations regarding etiquette in the halfpipe. You should wait your turn and never cut off another snowboarder who is riding through the halfpipe. Be nice to other people and don’t tease others who may be struggling.
Starting On the Halfpipe
Warm up a bit before trying the halfpipe. Take a run or two at least before trying the halfpipe. You want to be limber and warmed up before attempting the halfpipe.
Hike up to the top of the pipe. While you can usually take the lift, it is better to hike because this will strengthen you and your legs. You will need strength and power to ride the halfpipe so hiking will help you get in shape.
Start at the very top. This protects you from injury because you can seriously injure yourself if you drop in from a wall improperly. Most halfpipes will have an entry ramp at the top, which makes it easier to get into the pipe safely.
Traverse the halfpipe the first time you try it. Traversing means that you will go back and forth down the halfpipe while keeping your shoulders facing uphill. Face the direction that you are going, using your arms to keep your balance. This is very similar to the way you first learned how to snowboard. Stay on your heel edge and go right and left up the walls while swinging your arms in unison like a pendulum of a clock. While in the flat you should let your board remain straight and flat.
Don’t try to get air the first times you try the halfpipe. Simply try to move right and left while keeping balance and stability.
Make sure to maintain your balance and stability by keeping your knees bent while landing.
This will be similar to the falling leaf exercise except you will be going up the sides of the halfpipe.
Go down the halfpipe at an angle. Going straight across will make you lose speed but to gain height in the halfpipe you will need a bit of extra speed. You can also get extra speed on the flat by pumping your legs. This means you bend them then straighten them into the wall. Extra speed means extra height. Speed is everything in the halfpipe so make sure you keep your speed up while snowboarding the halfpipe.
Be patient and stay relaxed. The halfpipe is quite difficult so you must be patient with yourself and stay relaxed. Being relaxed and loose is one of the most important aspects of riding correctly in the halfpipe. Be patient and don’t get upset if you can’t get above the lip at first.
Start out by going only slightly up the walls of the halfpipe. Don’t expect to get above the lip on the first day.
While it is good to push yourself you also do not want to cause injury.Know your limits.
Begin to try slide turns. Once you are feeling comfortable traversing the halfpipe you can try making slide turns. Slide turns mean that you will be going up the wall on one edge and coming down on the other edge. Go higher and higher when you are feeling more comfortable.
For example you will be turning from heel edge to toe edge, keeping your same foot in front.
Allow yourself to get a little air. Once you are starting to feel comfortable you will likely begin to get a little air off the lip of the halfpipe. Let this air come naturally when it happens and keep working on making a turn in the air to land with the same foot forward. Allow your body to move downhill naturally while in the jump.
A common mistake made by beginners is to land straight below where they take off on their downhill edge and readjust to angle their board slightly downhill on their uphill edge, creating a double turn. You rather want to allow your momentum to carry you forward while in the air, landing downhill from where you took off. This will create a rounded line for your path through the halfpipe.
When you are in the air bring your knees to your chest for optimum balance and landing ability.
Land properly. Keep your knees bent in the landing and pay close attention to where you land. You do not want to land on the deck or the flat, where you can easily injure yourself. You should land instead as high in the transition as possible to maintain speed into the next wall of the halfpipe. You want to land with your body weight on your front foot to help carry you properly into the next side.
The most important aspect in landing is confidence. You must be aggressive to land properly with your weight on your front foot. Be confident and let the transitions carry you up and down each wall.
Learning Tricks in the Halfpipe
Start with an air to fakie. An air to fakie means that you do not turn in the air to land your jump with the same foot in front. This a bit like when you did you traverse, except you are getting air off the lip of the halfpipe. This trick is harder than it looks so start with very small jumps when just beginning.
Approach the lip straighter than if you would when turning to land with the same foot in front (the frontside air, like when you were doing slide turns).
Turn your head back past your tail before you land to figure out when you need to extend your legs to make contact with the wall.
Practice grabbing either the tail of the board or between your feet on the front edge while you are in the air. This is called a grab and requires some height before it can be completed easily. Do not grab between your rear foot and the tail on the front edge of the board (tindy).
Try an alley oop. An alley oop basically refers to any spin (180 degrees or larger) in which the direction of spin is back up the halfpipe. Try a backside alley oop at first. This will be when you are going up the wall on your toe edge and turn uphill 180 degrees before landing with your same front foot forward.
The backside alley oop is similar to when you do a normal air except you are turning your body in the opposite direction.
Rotate your head and shoulders to initiate the spin and try to land downhill as normal rather than uphill or right below the jump.
Grabbing the board will help you turn easier, but do not grab tindy (between your rear foot and the tail of the board).
Release the board and make sure it is flat again when approaching the lip on the descent.
Attempt a frontside 360. This will be easiest from your toe edge and is not much more of a spin than your normal frontside turn from your toe edge to heel edge. As you approach the wall on your toeside and leave the lip, rotate your head and lead shoulder extra far. This will initiate the frontside 360. As you turn your head and shoulders make sure you are looking directly down the pipe so that you can land nice and straight into the transition.
Try to land very slightly on your toeside edge if possible.
You will land with your opposite foot forward (switchfoot or fakie).
Try a cab 360. A cab 360 is basically a switch frontside 360-degree turn where you land facing forward. As you are coming up the transition pre-wind your shoulders slightly up the pipe and then unload that rotation as you leave the lip, rotating your shoulders in the opposite direction, frontside. Try not to spin too early or else you will lose your pop off the lip. Hold your edge all the way up the wall and then only spin once you are in the air.
You can add a grab into your cab 360 for extra flair if you are comfortable. For example you can grab the tail of your board.
The benefit of this trick is that you land facing forward so it is great for getting your regular foot back in front after another trick.
Work on your frontside 540. This is basically the same as a frontside 360 but with an extra half-turn. Turn into the jump with your shoulders moving downhill (frontside) and do one and a half turns, landing with the same foot forward.
You will need more pop off the lip with extra air and a bit more snap with your shoulders and core compared to the frontside 360.
Try a backside 540. Backside 540s are much more difficult than frontside 540s because they are completed from your heel edge, which is harder to pop off of than your toe edge. As you are going up the wall on your heel edge, pop off your heel edge with your shoulders snapping you around backside and complete one and a half turns.
You will land back with the same foot forward.
Go into the jump with a good amount of speed for extra pop and a little straighter than for a frontside 540 so that your board can flatten out and give you more of an area to pop off.
This jump is much more difficult than the frontside 540 so make sure you are comfortable with all the other jumps before attempting.
The backside 540 is actually a bit easier than the backside 360 because with the backside 360 you land switch, meaning you will be ready for a backside switch hit on the next jump. Backside switch hits are quite difficult to accomplish so it is better to try the backside 540 than a 360 first.
Don’t let other riders annoy you if they tease you or are rude. You are just a beginner, and you’ll get better as you go.
Always stay patient and relaxed and approach the pipe with confidence. This will give you the best results when learning.
Snowboarding is an inherently dangerous activity that can result in serious injury or death. We recommend that you seek proper training and equipment before attempting this activity.
How to Snowboard
How to Perform a Carve on a Snowboard
How to Go Snowboarding
How to 50 50 on a Snowboard
How to Be a Snowboarder Girl
How to Ollie on a Snowboard
Sources and Citations
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