With the beginning of a new week comes another new installment of “Editor Trick Tip,” and this time we aim to master a trick that is a true building-block in freestyle skiing, the Switch 540. The Switch 5 is often the tool that helps skiers transition from being limited to only traditional straight take-off spins, to something a bit more challenging. In fact, top pro skier Andreas Hatveit frequently talks about how this move is one of his favorites as the rotation naturally allows for a health amount of experimenting when trying new grabs. However, the trick itself is not too terribly difficult once you develop some solid fundamentals of skiing and spinning from the switch position.
Before attempting this move I recommend developing a high-degree of comfort simply cruising around backwards on your skis. Take a few laps through the park, trading off between inspecting the lips and size of the jumps, as well as feeling out of the snow pack by laying down a couple of switch carves.
IMPORTANT: Prior to a take-off on a switch spin, most people turn their head while skiing backwards and look over the same shoulder as the direction they plan to spin. For example, when I spin my left-side Switch 5 here, I’m looking over my left shoulder. However, some people have a side they feel so much more comfortable when looking over, that they will turn their head to the opposite direction of the spin. This technique is called “decade” and is generally much harder as it makes it much more difficult to see the lip before jumping. Before attempting this trick, make sure you know what technique is most comfortable for you.
After you’ve warmed your legs up with a little switch riding and inspection, take the time to hit the jumps doing a couple straight airs and a 360 or two. Spinning anything above that is probably not necessary, as a Switch 5 feels very similar to a 360 if executed properly.
Step 1: So you’ve already taken all my advice, and done the warm-ups. You’ve hit the jump that you plan to throw the Switch 5 on, and have visualized the trick a million times in your head. However, before you drop in, figure out if you are going to do the trick in a line or by itself. In the corresponding video I took advantage of the Mammoth Mountain triple-set in South Park by setting up for the trick with a simple 180. This approach has its pros and cons, as sometimes it mellows you out for the proceeding harder trick, but also can cause a loss of focus when doing different tricks on each jump.
Step 2: Once you have the switch stance ready, you’re going to want to come in with a decent amount of speed and already be facing with your head looking over your shoulder before the upcoming take-off of the jump. I like to keep my eyes on the lip during the entire approach for as long as I can, until I’m ready to pop off the lip.
Step 3: When your skis begin to ride up the slope of the take-off it’s important to remind yourself not to set the spin too early. Switch spins are super important to wait for a strong pop before beginning any rotation. Starting a spin too soon can cause you to unnecessarily catch an edge that results in sending you onto your butt. Treat the take-off as if you’re planning a zero spin (a switch take off to a switch landing with no spin between) and ride off the jump until you see your tip take to the air.
Step 4: As your skis leave the lip begin to initiate your rotation by twisting your lead shoulder making sure to keep your body parts spinning at equal speed. This should allow you to get a nice 180 degree rotation started, and its here that you will be able to first spot your landing. It’s also the first point in the spin where you can really start reaching for whatever grab you wish to add to the trick.
Step 5: If you’ve successfully made it to this point in the trick then you’re doing great, as you would have hooked your edge by now if you spun too early. Now that you’re facing forward, it should feel a lot more like a normal 360 or 540. In fact, when you look over your shoulder on the take-off, it often feels like you’re only doing a 360 as your head is facing so forward already.
Step 6: Stay nice and composed in the air as you are continuing to rotate, and try to reach for that grab if you haven’t already. Prepare yourself to fall temporarily blind to the landing as you reach 360 degrees of spinning.
Step 7: Get your grab and start to hold it as long as you possibly can throughout the rotation keeping a nice stable body position.
Step 8: When you get to nearly 360 degrees of spinning you will be facing away from your landing. Don’t freak out, as the spin will come around. You should begin to drop the lead shoulder here, as a slight bit of cork in this trick will actually allow you to better control your movement to ensure an easy landing.
Step 9: You’ll eventually begin to see the landing coming around as you move out from the trick’s blind spot. Keep that shoulder slightly dropped, and notice your legs as they begin to come back in from under you.
Step 10: Finish out the spin while trying to keep your hands and arms low near their sides (unlike myself).
Step 11: Spot your landing, and ski it out as you’ve just added yet another trick to your arsenal.
Progression from here: The Switch 5 is a unique trick in the sense there is so much more potential to expand and develop the trick once you get the feel for it a couple times. Just learning new grabs for it could provide many sessions of fun progression, whether its with a nose grab, double Japan grab, or a high mute. However, Switch 5s are also really good steps to develop your switch corking technique. The skier can play with the cork by dropping the shoulder more, and gradually move to a distinct off-axis position. In fact, it’s not uncommon to develop a tendency where corking your switch spins actually feels more comfortable than not.