Backcountry Ski Tricks 101 – How to Execute Stylish Freestyle Grabs

BCA ambassador Colter Hinchliffe tweaking out a Critical grab.


In this Backcountry Ski Tricks 101 blog series, BCA ambassadors Miles Clark and Stu Edgerly give some advice on how to learn a few new skills that you can take to the backcountry: 360’s, grabs, and dropping pillow lines. Lock these down at the resort first (and/or on a trampoline) and only attempt them in the backcountry once you’re fully confident you won’t get injured.  And don’t forget to keep improving your backcountry safety skills by taking avalanche courses.


How-To Nail Your Grabs

Executing clean and stylistic freestyle grabs are vital to dominating your routine. To the untrained eye, grabs often go unnoticed; however, freestyle skiers know that a solid grab connection is imperative to laying down a controlled move. By no means do you have to be a grabology nerd to add in these technical moves, but you do need to familiarize yourself with a few grab basics.

  1. Visualize. Before you take off to the jumps to try your grab, make sure you have a clear image in mind of what grab you’re going to use. Think about the small details, like bending your knees, shifting your body weight, and making a firm mitt to ski connection.
  2. Practice. Practice the grab while you’re laying on your back in the snow. Yes, you may feel like a bug wearing skis as you do this, but introducing your body to the twists and turns of your grab goes a long way in feeling comfortable when it’s time to hit the jumps.
  3. Air It. When you feel like you’re ready to add some air into the equation, try the grab alone a few times. Before you add in any ski crosses or twists, just try doing the grab itself. Getting the grab down first will help you to not feel so tangled up when trying out a new move.

Now for those stylish freestyle grabs… Below is a list of grabs ranging from beginner to expert. As you progress in your grab knowledge you will notice that grabs often build off each other, as they tend to borrow different movements and hand placements. As you begin to master grab after grab you’ll find yourself gaining confidence to go bigger and throw cleaner, which are two major factors in dominating your freestyle routine.

Safety Grab
If you’re a beginner at using freestyle grabs, try the Safety. The Safety is an easier grab, where you grab the right ski under the boot with your right hand.

BCA Athlete Tatum Monod demonstrating a Safety grab.

Mute Grab
A Mute grab is also a beginner grab. To execute a Mute, you should grab the outside edge of the left ski near the binding with your right hand while your skis are crossed.

Mute grab by a_burger, Newschoolers.

Tail Grab
The name of this grab really gives it away. A Tail grab is where you grab anywhere near the tail of your ski on the outside edge. You don’t actually have to grab the tail of the ski for it to be considered a Tail grab. You just have to grab with in a few inches of the end of your ski.

Tail grab photo: Antix Academy.

Japan Grab
Rounding out the beginner grabs is the Japan. To do the Japan grab, put your right hand under the right knee, grabbing the left ski on the inside edge under the boot.

BCA ambassador Colter Hinchcliffe showing off a Japan grab at Aspen Highlands.

Blunt Grab
The Blunt grab is also known as a true Tail grab. This grab is when you grab the very end of the tail of your ski. Many believe this is the steeziest grab you can do.

Angeli VanLaanen throws a flare-up free Blunt grab, photo: Dew Tour.

Critical Grab
To do the Critical grab, reach for the inside edge of the left ski with the right hand. Your hand should be somewhere in front of your binding.

Sweet Critical grab photo: Newschoolers.

Nose Grab
When the Nose grab executed properly, it can look super clean. To do the Nose grab, grab the front tip of your ski with the hand preferably on the same side, keeping your legs straight. This grab looks like you’re reaching down to pick up something on the floor.

Nose grab photo: Ben Girardi for Sass Global Argentina.

Truck Driver Grab
Make it a double! The Truck Driver is essentially the Nose grab, just add in the other hand for a double grab.

Truck Driver grab photo: Newschoolers.

Bow Arrow Grab
In another offshoot of the Nose grab, the Bow Arrow is an expert move that uses the Truck Driver grab. To do the Bow Arrow, do the Truck Driver except pull one leg into your chest and leave the other one straight.

Bow Arrow grab photo: riders.co.

Stalefish Grab
The Stalefish is an expert grab where you grab the tail of your left ski with your right hand as your legs are turned sideways.

Stail Fish grab photo: riders.co.