How to Stomp a Back Flip

Set your rotation with your toes. Mike Wilson shows you how.
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Set your rotation with your toes. Mike Wilson shows you how.

Go through the motions. Before you head to a 20-footer in the backcountry, practice back-flip rotations on a trampoline or diving board.

Start small. Try a back flip off a mellow jump with a steep takeoff and a soft landing. Jumps will help you rotate faster, while downward sloping cliffs will fight your rotation. If possible, send your buddy off the jump first so you can see what kind of speed you’ll need and what the landing will feel like.

Stay centered. When it’s your turn, ski toward the jump and stay in the front seat. If you’re sitting back, you’ll fling your head backward and over-rotate the flip. That’s bad. Instead, drive your toes forward and push them up over your head. This will give you more control over the flip and more loft.

Look ahead. Keep your head up and look forward until you can see your toes in front of you. Then, as you reach the highest point of your air, start looking for your landing. When I back-flip off cliffs, I like to rotate quickly off the takeoff, then stall a bit while I’m falling over my stomach. This way, I’m in a better position to correct errors. Plus, if you hit a rock coming off the takeoff, it can grab your feet and slow the rotation down. So if you rotate early, you’ll be ready.

Land it. Now you’re looking forward at the landing and dropping over your belly. When you’re ready to land, pull in your knees to finish the rotation, and straighten your back out to prepare for touchdown. Land with both poles and both skis hitting the snow at the same time, and keep your hands in front of you.

More tips from Mike: Don’t overthink it. The trick is easier if you just do it. Don’t learn a back flip on the biggest jump you’ve ever hit. And I’ve heard back flips are much easier if you have a mustache.

Squaw Valley–based pro freeskier Mike Wilson invented the Wilsonflip, a series of off-axis maneuvers involving a double flip and a spin and a half in each flip.