During the summer months, aerial skiers head to the ‘Holy Grail’ of training, the water ramp. Water ramps come in all shapes and sizes but essentially are a specially constructed ramp with a steep in-run and kicker covered in plastic ski matting built alongside a pool full of water to land in. Some are stand-alone wooden or scaffold structures, one has even been constructed on a pontoon that floats on a lake in British Columbia, Canada. There have been several water ramps in Britain over the years, including one into a hotel swimming pool, one at a waterski park near Reading, another at the NEC and the most recent at Sheffield Ski Village. Unfortunately none of them remain, which means our skiers have to travel abroad for summer training.
The most comprehensive facilities are often built into the side of hills, featuring a selection of ramps which vary in size and shape, with additional facilities for trampolining, diving and fitness. Aerialists, mogul skiers, snowboarders and slope-style skiers are able to hone their skills from the humblest of simple jumps to double, triple and even quadruple somersaults with multiple twists. The best world-class water ramp training centres are found in Mettmenstetten, SUI, Park City, USA and Lac Beauport, CAN. There are impressive plans for a new facility under construction in Minsk, BLR and new world-class facilities exist in China. For your convenience, we’ve put together a global reference to all the existing facilities, with all the information in one place in our Ultimate Water Ramp Guide.
The end of the kicker on the largest water ramps is up to 8 metres above the water. Skiers approach the jump at up to 70kph, launching themselves high in the air to complete their jumps. Landing on water from a height of 11 or 12 metres produces quite an impact, so the landing pool often has an aeration system or bubble machine which breaks the surface of the water, allowing a softer landing. On the water ramp, aerialists can learn new manoeuvres, practise established ones and perform hundreds of repetitions of each jump, perfecting take-offs, somersaults, twists and landings without risk of serious injury. Aerialists are usually required by their coaches to perform a large number of each type of jump to a high standard on a water ramp, to ‘qualify’ the manoeuvre before attempting it on snow. The real beauty of the water ramp is that if it all goes wrong and you land on your head, your ego will probably be more bruised than your body.
Essential equipment for water ramping includes a helmet, a wet or dry suit, an impact vest and a pair of old ski boots that you don’t mind being filled with water. Skis take quite a beating when landing on water, so a plentiful supply is recommended. Some skiers cut sections out of the tip and tail of their skis to reduce ski breakages caused by the impact.