How To: Build a Big Backcountry Kicker

Photo: Scott Serfas, Red Bull Media House

Trends have come and gone, pros have risen and fallen into obscurity, and the face of snowboarding has changed dramatically over the years, but constant throughout it all is the big backcountry kicker style jump.

Building a big jump like this with your crew is a rite of passage, and the first step to taking your riding to new levels. Landing tricks often has as much to do with your shred skills as how good of a jump you’ve built, so we got a few backcountry snowboarders to break down their method to putting together a proper popper. And remember, how tall you make it is up to you.  A good jump will require about 70 solid blocks and ton of snow to fill the middle. Most jumps that are well over head height still look small on film—just to put it in perspective.

Finding the right spot

“For video and photo purposes, it’s nice to be jumping near or over some rocks or trees; it adds personality to the shot. Look for a steep hill that plateaus and then rolls into a very steep but soft landing. If you can see where you’re going to land from the lip of the jump, the landing isn’t steep enough.” —Geoff Brown

Session size and productivity

“Think about who will be hitting the jump and how much of a beating the landing can take. When filming, the average number of people is six: four jumpers, one filmer and one photographer. Media people tend to slack, so make sure you drill them hard.” —Rube Goldberg

Cutting blocks

“Dust off the loose snow next to where you’re building, then start cutting rectangles into the compacted snow. I cut by shovel-blade measurements: one wide, two long and one deep. Make a row of five or more blocks. Next, dig a channel beside the blocks so that you can get under them with your shovel. Once that’s done, simply pop them out one by one.” —Geoff Brown

Foundation and width

“It depends on the space you have to work with, but typically you should make your jump about two board widths wide. To start, set up a brace with your board at the back of the jump. Lay your blocks along the decided width, then move out to the sides and do the same. Exaggerate your width at the base because the end product is always a lot smaller than what you started with.” —Rube Goldberg

Making a solid takeoff

“Using your snowboard, pack the jump down starting at the lip and working toward the bottom. You can also get a pair of snowshoes and walk all over the jump with them. Using snow that has been worked-in will make the takeoff firm. So for your final layer, get fluffy snow, put it in a pile and walk on it like you’re crushing grapes to make wine. Put it onto your booter, wait 10 to 15 minutes, and you’ll have yourself a park jump takeoff.” —Matt Belzile

Making the in-run

“The in-run is as important as the jump. Hike up as far as you think you’ll need to get enough speed and do a few sideslips. Make sure you’re angled toward the spot you want to land in. Sideslip a few more times, then she’s ready for the speed test.” —Brendan Keenan