How To Master the Backflip On Skis – Ultimate Beginners Guide
If you want to learn a trick that’s sure to turn heads, then a backflip is the one for you. It’s probably one of the most unnatural tricks, no one’s particularly used to being upside down, but it’s they quickly begin to feel natural after a few successful attempts.
To successfully backflip on skis you’re going to want to ditch the skis at first. Try out a backflip on a trampoline or off a diving board, and then give skis and soft snow a go. A good backflip is about popping off the jump and then starting your rotation by leaning back, tucking the legs, and spotting your landing.
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Many seasoned ‘back flippers’ claim that they’re easier to do than 360s, but everyone is different and some find spinning suits them better. Even Olympic freestyle gold medalist Eileen Gu has said that she won’t go inverted because it scares her too much, whilst others are sending double backflips in the backcountry.
Am I Ready?
Before throwing yourself in the air upside down, make sure you’re ready. First of all, you must consider your skiing ability. It’s an advanced trick for advanced skiers who are capable of landing in variable snow and aren’t intimidated by medium to large jumps.
Perfecting your ‘pop’ is also a must. Your pop refers to the perfectly timed motion of extending your legs as you exit a jump to gain time in the air. If you’re simply using your speed to launch off the lip of a jump then you’re not using the correct technique and won’t be able to execute a successful backflip. You’re at serious risk of injury if you attempt a backflip without these simple prerequisites.
Key Takeaway: Performing a backflip is a surreal feeling and you don’t want to experience this feeling for the first time with skis on your feet and solid snow below you.
The best way to start is on a trampoline with a certified gymnastics instructor. This is a technique used by pro skiers all over the world to help them attempt and become familiar with a new trick before taking it onto the mountain.
Until you’ve managed to consistently perform a backflip on a trampoline, landing on your feet every time, there’s no use strapping skis to your feet and going inverted.
If a trampoline even feels a little intimidating, then try it out on a diving board in a swimming pool. There’s no risk involved if you don’t land on your feet there, apart from a potentially uncomfortable body slam.
Next up, an airbag! Not the easiest bit of equipment to get your hands on but many ski resorts will have one temporarily or permanently installed. The giant airbag is approached by a snowy slope and purpose-built jump so you can try out your backflip with skis.
An airbag gives you a unique opportunity to practice your run-in, and get to know the pop and speed needed to execute a backflip, all with skis on your feet. They’re not necessarily the safest option but they can be great for establishing confidence.
How To Do A Backflip
Plan. Part of the planning process will be speed-checking your jump by going down the run-in and simply jumping straight off the jump. Many factors like snow type, wind, and jump shape can affect the speed of the run-in, which in turn affects your jump. This is a great time to also practice your pop.
Visualize. You’ll have noticed that pro skiers will stand at the top of the run-in before performing the trick and stare at the jump whilst slightly moving their bodies to mimic the coming trick. This is called visualizing and plays a large role in the success of a trick.
Look at the jump and play out the entire trick in your head with a successful landing. Simply, if you can’t picture yourself landing a trick, you probably won’t.
Approach with a good amount of speed, perform the popping motion, and then you’re ready to start rotating. After you pop straight up, lead with your body and chest, and begin slightly leaning backward.
Don’t rush this sequence, the pop needs to be fully completed before you begin leaning back otherwise you’re at risk of making the common mistake of being too close to the jump which results in your ski tips crashing into the jump at the end of your rotation.
It’s at this point that you can bring your knees to your chest to create a tuck position. This tuck actually determines the rotation speed of your backflip, knees to the chest will speed up the motion, and straightening your legs out will slow down the flip.
The tuck position can be adjusted mid-air depending on your landing to ensure you don’t over or under-rotate. The more attempts at a backflip that you do the more you’ll be able to recognize how you should adjust your tuck and spin speed depending on the landing.
Spotting your landing. This step should be carried out from the moment you begin your rotation. The rotation will not happen unless you are looking where you’re going, then as soon as your landing comes into view don’t take your eyes off of it, and your body should do the rest.
Tip: Keep your legs strong and land with your weight equally on both skis and you’ve done it!
This may seem like a lot to think about but the more times you perform a backflip the more thinking time you seem to get. Your mind gets used to processing the information and you almost feel like you’re in slow motion. Many say that backflips become a natural trick very quickly.
1. Start off-piste
For your first time trying out a backflip, do it in the side-country. Softer snow allows for more room for error and a softer landing when you’re unsuccessful. Only move onto park jumps when you’re 100% comfortable backflipping off-piste.
2. Building a jump
You’re first attempting your backflips in soft snow, so you’ll need to build the perfect kicker. For first-timers, a step-up feature can be the best option. This is a jump where the landing is equal to or higher than the lip which makes for a shorter fall phase so less speed is gained and fewer hard slams on unsuccessful attempts.
Aside from this, any backflip-appropriate kicker needs a long steep approach, and a good amount of lip to send you up in the air.
3. Bring a buddy
For safety reasons, never backflip alone. And for learning reasons having friends who can backflip with you will be beneficial. It’s super helpful to watch a backflip in person to fully understand the trick, and also having someone watch your attempts and provide advice will assist with learning.
4. Go Faster Than You Think
Always take more speed than you think, a backflip is a big trick and with more speed comes more thinking time.
5. Check Your Medical Insurance
As with any trick, there’s risk involved and the last thing you want when you’re injured is an expensive medical bill. Many ski-specific insurances don’t include park skiing, or off-piste skiing, so read the small print and make sure you’ve got the appropriate insurance before you try going upside down.
6. Keep Dins Low
The release setting on your binding is commonly recommended to be low when you’re trying out certain tricks so that they can pop off if things get sketchy. Speak to a ski technician for dins advice.
Commitment is key when it comes to any trick on skis. Most of the failed backflips I’ve seen have come from people bailing out mid-trick, which, when you’re upside down, isn’t ideal. If you can’t visualize yourself doing the backflip, you’re not quite ready yet.
Who's The Best At Backflips?
Backflips have become a normal trick amongst pro skiers and regularly feature in competitions like Freeride World Tour and X Games. But certain people are making this unnatural feeling trick look like a walk in the park.
Old school skier CR Johnson is known for his drawn-out stylish-looking backflips which he incorporates a mute grab (grabbling opposite ski to hand) into.
Hedvig Wessel has been the front-runner of the women’s Freeride World Tour for the past few seasons and has achieved this accolade with her flawless skiing technique and consistent sending backflips off of variable terrain.
And if one backflip isn’t enough for you, try two. Max Palm became the first person to perform a double backflip at the 2022 Men’s Freeride World Tour. It should be expected to see more of these attempts from other competitors in the coming seasons.
What Are The Best Skis For A Backflip?
The type of ski that you’re riding can make a big difference when it comes to big tricks like backflips. Look for a freeride ski, especially when backflipping in soft snow, about 100mm underfoot, and not too long. The stiffness of the ski doesn’t matter so much as it would with other tricks like buttering.
For men, the Atomic Bent Chetler 100’s a great choice, and the Faction Candide 2.0W is for female riders.
Ready To Fly?
Key Takeaway: Not only will backflip turn heads, but they’ll challenge your skills and your fears. Practice makes perfect with backflips and the scary feeling of being upside down will become more natural with every try.
Prepare yourself well by trying out backflipping on a trampoline or a diving board and focusing on the correct technique. Pop, tuck, spot you’re landing, and you’re there!