If you love to shred like us, you probably already tried to build yourself a kicker with snow in order to jump on a rail or to practice your grabs. If that's the case, you know that building a snow kicker is actually not as easy as it sounds. At least if you want it to work!
The concept is easy to understand, sure. You basically need to gather enough snow to build a bump and use it to elevate in the air on your snowboard. Very easy to think about, but not as easy to do in real life. Building a kicker that works and stands the test of time requires knowledge, technique and a deep understanding of the elements that surrounds you.
If you want to avoid taking time to build a kicker only to destroy it on the first test ride, follow the steps below and your homemade snowboarding kicker will be just as good as the ones we see in snowboarding videos.
FIND A SLANTED SLOPE WITH A LOT OF SNOW AROUND IT
Before getting into the build, you will need to find a good terrain. First, look for a slope. You’ll agree that the goal of building a kicker is to ride it as fast as possible and to catch air in the same day you built it. This won’t be possible if you need to build a starter to get speed for your jump. So yeah, first thing you have to think about is findind a slanted spot so you can get speed naturally and can focus on building a kicker.
The fact that your riding zone is slanted will also make it easier for you to build your kicker as the angle of the slope adds to the amount of air you can catch and therefore will allow you to jump higher with a kicker that doesn’t need to be giant. Last but not least, a slanted slope will also provide a natural landing so you can land your tricks smoothly and avoid impact.
Another secret that’s very obvious, but not to forget is that you will need snow. A lot of it. So instead of carrying snow from far away and getting burnt out before even stepping on your board, try to find a place with snow around.
EVALUATE YOUR LANDING ZONE
Remember that you are not in a regular ski station and that the slope you just found might very well not be as perfect as you think.
As you’re about to jump all day and absorb impact in the landing, you want to be sure that the place where you plan to land is free from any potential danger. Tree stomps, rocks hiding under the snow, etc. The best way to not get hurt because some unexpected obstacle was lying under the layers of snow is to check your landing zone before even starting the build of the kicker.
Look for rocks, twigs and other solid objects and remove them from there. If there’s stuff under the snow that you can't remove, you’ll unfortunately have to find a new spot for your jump. Once you have the slope a safe landing, all the settings are in place for your kicker to be as good as you want it to be.
GATHER MORE SNOW THAN WHAT YOU THINK IS NECESSARY
If you already built a DIY snowboarding kicker in your life, you know that in order to make a 1 meter high jump ramp, you’ll probably need a pile of snow that’s at least 2 meters high. It takes a while for snow to harden and to become compact enough to support a human without collapsing, so the more you have, the better chances you have to maintain a decent size jump.
The next step of the process is to shape the kicker and to make it compact with snowboards and shovels and trust us, if you don’t have a massive pile of snow on hand, your jump won’t be as good as it should be because it will get substancially smaller every time you tap it with your shovel and ultimately, every time you ride on it with your snowboard. That one is a no brainer, take a bit more time to make your snow pile bigger than what you think you actually need.
SHAPE YOUR SNOW PILE
That’s the moment of truth! When your huge pile of snow slowly turns into a nice and clean-cut kicker. First, use your shovels to tap on the kicker as hard as you can. This will eliminate the irregularities in the pile and expose weaknesses.
Do that until your pile seems to a bit more compact, then use your snowboard to shape the jump by holding the binding with your hands and going back and forth on the kicker, making it smooth and more and more compact.
Now that your snow pile actually looks like some kind of kicker, time for the details. Place your snowboards on the sides of the jump so it stays in place and your base gets support while you finish the build. If you like your jump to pitch you really high, you'll want a sharper lip. A moderate lip is better for rotational jumps (360s and 540s). A radical lip or sharply sloped upward at the end is better for corks and flips.
The ultimate rule of the snowboard kicker builder should be this one. Give time to your kicker. Let it harden up before you ride on it. If you ride on your jump before it has firmed up, it will crumble beneath you. The time it takes for your jump to solidify will depend on the moisture content of the snow. It might set up in only a few minutes, or in cold, dry areas, it might take all night.
That being said, there are several ways to speed the process: Occasionally sprinkle on calcium chloride (salt) as you build the ramp. This will help melt the snow so it holds together more solidly. Add just a little as you build: you don't want your pile to melt. Add more at the end to create a hard surface for your jump.
You can also make snow ball or bricks with your hands and use them to solidify the lateral walls of your kicker.