Snowboarding: How To Reliably Stick a 180

One of the prerequisites of being able to stick 180s is the ability to ride "switch" proficiently.  Switch-stance just means riding facing the opposite direction of your normal stance.  If you ride regular-foot, your normal stance faces to the right and your switch faces to the left.  If you ride goofy-foot, your normal is to the left and switch is to the right.  It can feel very awkward to begin riding switch, but without acquiring the skill, you will struggle to balance or ride away from a 180 or (don't get ahead of yourself yet!) a 540.

I spent my first 20 days of riding just trying to get good riding regular stance, riding switch, handling small jumps and handling small terrain.  At first riding switch feels very, very strange.  It's difficult to convince yourself that it's worthwhile because it really does feel like a step backwards.  You just started to feel like you've mastered the carve and now it's back to square-one.  You'll fall, catch your edge, feel out of control and basically it'll seem like it's your second day riding again.  Don't sweat it just yet.  It may be frustrating but one day it will certainly click.

One good way to learn switch is to just work it in a little bit every time you ride, that is to say, carve down the run and every once in a while, frontside the board into your switch stance and try to reverse all of your weight.  Now your back foot is the rudder, more of your weight is on that foot and you're looking over your other shoulder.  Try turning toe and heelside just a bit to see how it feels.  Once you get uncomfortable, just frontside back over to your normal stance and you'll be good to go.  If you're wondering what frontsiding is, it's simply saying rotate the board while looking downhill.  Backside is to do it where you're looking uphill.

These little bits start to add up.  Over time, you'll get more and more comfortable with your switch stance to the point of where you don't even notice you're riding in it.  Once you have that revelation, you know you should be able to handle 180s. 

The real trick to landing a 180 is making sure you can land it imperfectly if you haven't rotated the exact amount.  Try a small jump first while riding slowly.  When you approach the top of the kicker, wind your body backwards just a little bit so you can twist after you jump.  You want to time it carefully so that you don't start twisting before the board has left the kicker or it'll trip you up.  It's really not too terribly hard to do, it's just intimidating at first.  Getting the rotation right is the first part.  It's really just a matter of feel.  You can practice just doing jumping 180s on a slight incline.  You don't need a kicker for these.  When landing in practice or on your kicker, you want to make sure that your weight is leaned uphill just a bit, your legs are bent at the knee so you can not only absorb the shock, but also so that when you touch down if the board isn't totally dead on, you can handle the edge and not catch it. 

Mental preparation is key as you want to be able to think switch as you're landing.  Try only doing frontside 180s to start with.  That way you can stay looking downhill the whole time.  On landing the most important thing is to keep loose, keep those knees bent and keep that edge up.  If you over-spin or under-spin you're going to have to smooth out the hit and that means instant edge control when you touch down.

I have to recommend practicing on a slight incline at low speeds before trying on a kicker.  You'll know when you're ready once you can ride at a comfortable speed, jumping 180s with no terrain of any sort.  It's very disorienting at first when you touch down because everything feels backwards.  If you want a good indication of when you're ready, try doing 10 practice (no kicker) FS 180s back and forth in a row.  If you can do that without tripping, you're ready to take it to a jump.

Keep practicing, learn your switch stance like the back of your hand and you should have no problems.