Gear Up, Gear Down

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Most people don't think they have the skills to jump cliffs. They're afraid of landing in the wrong position (especially on hard snow) and getting injured. I don't blame them. But if the conditions are right, cliffs can be a blast—as well as safe.

First, scout the area thoroughly. Even if there are already tracks going off the edge, ski around and probe the landing with your pole to uncover hidden rocks. (Tracks only mean someone else hucked their meat—and who knows if they came out unscathed?) Next, estimate the speed you'll need to make it to your landing zone. It's safer to carry momentum down the hill. If the landing is steep, visualize how to ski out of it and note where you'll make your turns to gain control.

Before you jump, don't second-guess your speed. Remember: Without speed, the landing will hurt. At the edge of the cliff, the most important thing is to hop to help control the flight (Fig. 1). Once you're in the air, bring your knees toward your chest, while keeping your hands up and eyes on the landing (Fig. 2). When you're about to touch down, extend your legs to absorb the impact (Fig. 3). Remember to start small and build up to bigger cliffs. Check out the slideshow below for images.