Building a Proper Kicker
Many people suggest that you can just use your board to pile snow up for your kicker. I guess that is ok if you are riding a crappy rock board. You will want to get yourself a good snow shovel. The collapsible kind are great. Now you are wondering – should I get a cheaper plastic shovel, a metal, or a composite one? Well – it depends on how much cash you have. A plastic shovel is going to be a lot cheaper, but will not last as long. Also, I have heard stories of people busting plastic shovels in deep snow. I’m not sure how this is possible unless they were using a Kmart special and digging through ice. A metal shovel is going to last you a lot longer, and you will have absolutely no worries about busting it in the snow. The drawback of this kind of shovels is that they are a bit heavy. A composite shovel will cost more, but is light weight, and durable. With all that said, I have a collapsible shovel with a metal handle and plastic scoop. This works great, and I have never had any problems with it. I think I picked it up at Shucks Auto Supply for like $12.00. The thing is a brute, and is designed to dig your car out of a snow bank.
Additional gear that you might want to consider is a shaping shovel and snow rake. These things will help you fine tune your kicker once the basic shape is built up. These are the kind of things that the pro’s at the X-Games use along with their Bobcats. Chances are you won’t need them.
Find yourself a nice steep slope away from the prying eyes of the ski patrol. You don’t want them hassling you and busting up the kicker you poured so much time and energy into. Make sure that you have a good amount of room running into where you will build your kicker, and lots of space at the bottom without any trees or bushes to grab you. A steep landing is a necessity – the last thing you want is for all of your big air energy transferring into your legs instead of speeding down the slope. Once you have found your prime location pack the snow down leading into where your kicker will be placed. This will help you gain speed and give you a better idea of how your kicker will treat you.
The Jump Itself:
Hopefully you will have a few of your buddies with you to help pile snow around. Make sure to not walk too much on the lead in. The last thing you want is all kinds of bumps right before you go sailing. With this being said, start piling up snow where you want your kicker. You will want to use your snowboards to form a wall to pack snow up against. If you have a lot of people you can do this on the sides as well as the face. Remember to make the kicker wider then you think you will need. It is inevitable that it will end up smaller once you hit it a couple of times. Make sure that your lead in is nice and long, and that the angle on the inclination and the landing is always be the same. If you don’t do this, you probably won’t land in the sweet spot, and have a good chance of overshooting the landing - and landing flat – ouch!
Make sure to smooth out the top and sides of the kicker with your snowboard. You should use your board in this case instead of a shovel, as most shovels have grooves in them which make it difficult to get your jump really smooth.
You might want to throw some rock salt on the top and sides of the kicker too. This will melt the snow slightly, which will then refreeze and form a thin layer of ice which will give some added stability to your kicker.
After all of this is done, go to the top of the hill and give it a trial run – Don’t hit it yet!
You want to board just to the side of the kicker and follow it down to the bottom. This is the final check to make sure that everything looks good. Keep an eye out for rocks, or branches that might have surfaced with you were moving the snow around.
Now, get back to the top and hit your kicker. Remember to scream, Bonsai!