During this installment we’re going to be learning how to perform a blindside switchup on a trap box (an up-flat-down box). Rather then requiring a whole lot of technical Tom Wallisch-like skill, the blindside switch-up is pretty straight-forward.
The skier simply skis into the feature, turns 90 degrees before landing on the box, grinds up the feature, spins 180 degrees, and lands in a grind down the box with the opposite foot now leading. When done properly the move appears very fluid, almost as if you’re just barely touching your feet down.
Prerequisites: Before trying this move it’s best to be very comfortable with grinding boxes in both your natural and unnatural stance. In my case, I typically chose to grind left foot forward, but naturally spin to my left. Rather then opting to spin unnatural, I prefer to begin my blindside switch-up with my unnatural grind position so I can keep my normal spin direction. Once you have a good grasp of your natural and unnatural grinds, make sure you can also comfortably grind a trap box as the balance is different then a more typical flat box. The skier must compensate for the ever-changing angle of the feature by leaning back or forwards depending on the inclining slope.
Assuming you’ve already gotten to that point, it’s probably best, but not totally necessary to have the blindside switch-up on a flat box. While the actually switch-up part of the move is quite different on a flat box, learning to feel comfortable temporarily blinding yourself mid-change is helpful when taking the move to a more challenging feature that holds a 4-5 foot drop off such as the trap box.
Step 1: So you’re ready to give it a shot on the trap box – first, make sure you know the right speed to clear the flat portion of the trap box. You don’t want to come up short and slam down hard onto the flat – make sure you take a bit of speed. On the flipside, taking too much speed will cause you to clear the whole box and crash land in the flats. The best way to dial the speed is to just slide it going forwards the whole way in one direction, and to make adjustments.
Step 2: Now that your speed is dialed in, approach the rail with a nice, forward ski stance. Pop off the lip and prepare your skis for the upwards slant of the box. Tilt your skis upward so the bases match the transition of the feature. Keep your balance nice and centered so you don’t slip out.
Step 3: Land on the box in your grinding position, but spin slightly more then 90 degrees to set up your momentum to initiate the spin. Later on you will be able to do this without spinning the extra amount, but it’s easier to learn with a head start.
Step 4: Slide the duration of the up slant, and be prepared to pop off and air a few inches when you near the flat portion.
Step 5: Feel the natural kick the box gives you and pull your knees into your chest the slightest bit. You only need a couple inches of air as the rotation happens so quick its barely noticeable.
Step 6: When you feel your skis gain the slightest bit of clearance, begin to rotate the 180. Grab one last look at your body positioning as your spin will create a temporary blind spot to the box, hence the trick’s name. Don’t worry, if you trust your balance and ski positioning this will be a quick blip on your way towards stomping the new move.
Step 7: At this point you will just about be wrapping up the 180 rotation before (hopefully) placing your skis onto the down slant to finish out the trick. Try to keep your body nice and compact with your arms as low as possible to help with balancing. When the box comes into view again, quickly try to line your skis up with the declining angle of the box.
Step 8: Land softly on the slippery surface and ready yourself to slide the rest of the box.
Step 9: Balance the remaining length of the box as if you are sliding on any other down box. Look towards the end of the rail and decide if you have the chance to do a spin out, which is often pretty easy considering the rotational momentum achieved during the switch-up. For now, we’ll just stick to the basics and land forward.
Step 10: Touch down with your balance nice and forward and ride away casually as you’ve stomped yet another move.
Progression from here: Besides the obvious choice of spinning off the box that I mentioned in Step 9, there are several other ways to progress with the blindside switch-up.
Keeping on the trap box, skiers can try blindside switch-ups the opposite way they normally do the trick, especially given the fact it already requires at least one unnatural grind regardless of the direction. For instance, my unnatural move would begin by grinding with my left foot (natural) on the up slant, spinning the 180 to my right, and landing with my right foot (unnatural) leading on the down slant.
For more of a challenge, skiers can up the difficulty level by adding an extra 180 to the switchup to complete a full 360. While this allows you to keep the same grinding position throughout the move, the 360 is much more difficult to spin given the short time in the air, and often causes the skier to lose sight of the down slant during the trick.