How to Build Snowboard Ramps

How to Build Snowboard Ramps
With snowboarding comes dreams of hitting big air and launching ramps. Before you hit the ramps, they have to be built. Whether a seasoned pro or a beginner, you can build a snowboard ramp to hit the big air you dream of.


Difficulty: Moderate

Scout Your Zone for the Three Essentials

Things You’ll Need:
  • Metal Shovels
  • Snow saw
  • Clinometer
  • Plastic sled(s)
Step 1
Scout the terrain for the three essentials: the landing zone, the descent/take off spot and the run-in. Use the clinometer to determine the angle of the slope--it should be no more than 30 degrees.
Landing zones must have adequate distance on the run-out to safely stomp your landing, and the snow should be deep, soft and stable. The descent/take-off area should have snow that is packed and provide your board a slight kick when hitting the ramp.
Step 2
Use your shovels and saw to begin cutting blocks a few feet away from the sides of where the ramp will be constructed. Keep your block size approximately 2 feet by 2 feet square. Hard-packed snow is preferred.
Step 3
Stack the blocks to form the ramp. Blocks can be stacked either parallel or perpendicular to the slope as long as you stay consistent on all levels of the stack. Your ramp should be at least 10 to 20 feet in length with the down-slope end at least 4 to 6 feet high. The size of your ramp depends on your ability and how much air time you want. Beginners should keep the length around 10 feet and end height of 4 to 5 feet.
Step 4
Use softer snow to pack between the gaps on the blocks and form the ramp's surface by packing the snow into the seams between the blocks. Keep the side edges of the ramp sheer and defined, versus a mound. This allows the user to see the edges and ramp better in flat light conditions.
Step 5
Clean the run-in and landing areas of ice chunks or snow bumps. Use the sleds to move excess snow away from the ramp. The time it takes to remove the excess snow lets the ramp begin to settle and firm up. Ideally, a ramp should be allowed to settle overnight. If this is not possible, give the ramp at least an hour.
Step 6
Polish the ramp surface using the back of the shovel blade and slowly dragging it along the surface. Use the sleds to further the process by adding weight (in the form of extra snow or backpacks) in the sled and running it over the ramp numerous times until the snow on the ramp begins to take on an icier quality. Do not add water to the surface of the ramp: This can produce ridges, ripples and obstacles that could throw the rider off as they hit the take-off point.
Step 7
Test the ramp by going approximately one quarter of the way up the run-in. Descend slowly into the ramp. Make sure the snow does not compress when you enter the ramp. If the ramp compresses, get the shovels and sleds out and resume smoothing and packing down the snow. The ramp needs to be a solid, non-compressing mass.
Step 8
If the ramp does not compress, check the take-off spot for lips, ridges or any decline in the integrity of the edge. Once the ramp edge is solid and smooth, it is ready for used.

Tips & Warnings

Look for good "packy" snow at the ramp building area. Dry, powdery snow will not set-up or be good for snow crystal cohesion.
Use the clinometer to determine hill angle.
Assess for avalanche danger before building your ramp. Do not build in any area where there is danger of slides or avalanches.
Wear a helmet when using the ramp and riding.
Always check the ramp before use, especially if it has sat without use for a few days. Snow crystals change as weather and temperature change and can become loose, icy or dangerous.

Article Written By Eric Cedric

A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.

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