Why should you want to be able to ollie? Well, if you’re starting to look at some freestyle snowboarding the answer is obvious. The ollie forms the foundation for almost every trick that you’re going to do. It might not be the case now, but the ollie will become second nature to you. You need it.
But what about the snowboarder who doesn’t venture into the terrain park? Well – you should want it too. Forget kickers and forget rails – just look at the mountain for a second. So many natural features, whether you’re on the piste or off the piste. So you didn’t buy a freestyle board, you’ve got a longer, all-mountain or freeride board…
It doesn’t matter.
The ollie is something that every snowboarder should be able to do. Even if your board will only ever travel in one direction (that wasn’t supposed to be “down”) – the ollie will unlock a new world of “getting air” – that you can enjoy without even looking at the snowboard park. Got it?
The technique: how to ollie on your snowboard
This article isn’t going to cover the technique of “how to ollie”. A quick google search will reveal many descriptions and some of them are good, so I don’t need to repeat them here. For example, the video below does a decent job of showing the technique.
Note: I think the Intro to Jumping video from Snowboard Addiction’s Freestyle Program (read the review) is better – because it covers the transition from “coasting”, to “popping”, to “ollieing” – but you have to pay for that. Although I strongly recommend that you do buy that program, for the purpose of the ollie, this video will suffice:
Putting the ollie into practice
The process of learning how to ollie, rather than the technique itself, is what this article is about. Putting it into practice.
I have friends who picked up the ollie without thinking about it – in some cases it helped that they could already ollie on a skateboard. Other friends kind-of get it, but they don’t get much height. It’s all about the practice – making the ollie motion second-nature so that you gradually build more height without having to think about it!
Here are some practical steps to developing your ollie:
1. Ollie every time you strap in. If you’ve just strapped in on flat ground, try an ollie. Think about the technique then pop an ollie or two. Get a friend to watch – what’s your form like? Simple repetition will improve your ability to ollie.
2. Ollie every time you set off. When you’re just starting to ollie, it’s important to get comfortable ollieing from a flat base. This means some ‘setup’ on a flat base – riding for a short period without being on an edge. It might not feel natural at first, so practice it.
Sometimes on the mountain, you’ll set off down a steep slope and it might not be a good idea to coast straight down the fall-line on a flat base, getting ready to practice your ollies. But – there are plenty of times when you will cruise away on a gentle slope. Do an ollie, every time. Do a few in a row, if there’s time. It’s more repetition and you need to be comfortable setting up on a flat base.
3. Look for bumps and rollers. Once you’re starting to get the feel and technique of ollieing, it’s time to get a bit more air. Look for bumps on the piste – piles of snow, small moguls, natural features – whatever. Even a really small mound will help to give you more air.
Be active with this – your aim should be to hunt them out. Make “spotting” something to pop off become second nature.
Again, this is more repetition, but one of the important practice-points here is to improve your timing: you need to pop at the right time – at the “lip” of whatever you’re jumping off. Timing your ollie well is what will give you more height, or “pop”, out of jumps.
Rollers can be good for this because the drop away will give you a good feeling of getting air. But beware, if the roller is very gradual you might find it harder to time your pop – resulting in a weak ollie. This isn’t unusual because with a roller, there’s less of a natural lip, sometimes no lip at all – by definition it’s a “roller”. A level platform or lip helps with getting height.
Side hits? Natural features at the side of the piste/trail can be great for jibbing around and getting some air. To begin with, you may find it hard to get some good, straight ollies on these features. That’s because these side hits often have you taking off on an edge rather than a flat base, making a straight ollie more difficult.
4. Try to ollie, switch. Can you ride switch? Maybe not, but even if you don’t intend to, trying to ollie switch will help your regular ollie. If you can/intend to ride switch, being able to ollie when riding this way will make things more fun.
Just like the first two points above, you can try this standing still after strapping in and at a gentle pace when you glide away. Putting a little bit of time into switch ollies is fun, challenging and will make the timing/feel of your regular ollies that much better.
5. Try to nollie. Similar to switch-ollies, learning how to nollie will also help your ollies. The technique is fundamentally the same, but in practice it’s harder to time, and get height with a nollie. Don’t leave it until later, try some nollies now – they’re a great trick and your ollies will improve.
6. Take your ollie technique to flat-land 180s. Is learning to do some 180s the next item on your list? Snowboarding around the piste and on small jumps – you can get some satisfying results from 180s without really ollieing that much. You concentrate on jumping, getting the rotation right and landing the trick.
The flat ground is a good place to spend some more time enhancing your 180s – loading up the tail of your snowboard and ollieing before you start to rotate.
Initially, you may find it hard to time an ollie with the rotation of a 180. Keep at it. Practicing your ollieing here will improve both your overall ollie-ability and get your more air with your 180s – which will help out later when you start to add grabs. The target is to feel the same ollie motion as you go into a 180…