Rail skiing is my favorite aspect of park skiing. Rails might be scary at first, but once you get past the fear of sliding a rail and you start getting comfortable, you can really start progressing without necessarily having to "send it" like you do on jumps.
So once you've started to get a couple tricks down, like 270s out, switch-ups and even 270 on, here are 5 tricks that will take your rail game one step further.
Once you’ve learned front switch-ups, k-feds are the next step. You want to set your switch up harder than you would if you were to come out switch. You want to land your switch up on your toes, and do your k-fed in one motion. Once you land on your toes, you just need to turn your body with your head leading the way to spot your landing. Landing on your toes will help cause you won’t have to pop your 270 out, you’ll just have to spin it around. As opposed to landing on your tails, where you’d have to pop your 270 out, and will be harder to do the trick as one motion. You also want to keep your arms close to your body, and even twist your shoulders around to help you to get that blind 270 out.
The k-fed can get some hate here on Newschoolers, and while the majority of people prefer the lip on blind 2, I like the k-fed. It's one of the first harder rail tricks that I wanted to learn when I was younger, and once you do a few, you'll have them on lock pretty quick. It's often the first switch up 270 out combination you'll learn, and it's a good trick to have once you want to learn double switch-ups.
Back 450 out
People usually learn front 450s out first, so after learning that you’ll want to learn back 450s out. What’s fun about that trick is you can really go gradually about it. You can scrape it at first, and then set it harder and harder every time until you fully get your 450 around. The best rail to learn it on is a flat or a mellow up rail with a nice long downhill landing. This trick is all in how hard you set your spin out. You wanna look at the end of the rail, put pressure on your front ski with your forefoot to grip the rail, and use your front arm to set your spin. Doing a back 270 out vs a back 450 out is a bit like doing a 360 vs a 540 off a jump. You just need to set your rotation harder, and then spot your landing once you're getting around the last 90 degrees. A good back 450 out is a trick that will always look and feel good.
Switch lip / switch tails on
Learning switch lip or switch tails on will really help you once you'll want to start doing lines without reverting in between rails. Although switch tails might be scarier to learn at first, I don't think either one is harder than the other. The key is to learn how to ski switch properly first. In order to see the rail clearly coming up to it switch, you need to turn your upper body and open your shoulders as much as you can and bring your front arm over your butt. You want to have your skis staggered, that way you'll have much better visibility. This tutorial explains that very well, and really helped me to learn proper switch riding.
For switch lips, you want to be patient, and lift your toes up when you pop, so the noses of your skis will go up and clear the rail. If you have the right position with your shoulders open and your skis staggered, your skis won't scrape on the lip, and risk getting caught on the rail. Here you can see that while my pop is ok, my shoulders aren't really open, which means I could've had better vision, and not risk getting caught in the rail.
Learning to slide rails unnatural (with your opposite foot forward) will really help you to unlock a bunch of new tricks. Some tricks will be much easier once you get comfortable sliding rails unnatural. For example, after doing an unnatural front switch up, you are now sliding the rail with your natural foot forward, which will be easier to set up a back or a front 450 out. By contrast, if you do a natural switch up, then you have to set your spin out with your unnatural foot. As most skiers slide right foot forward and spin left, if you take a superfed (front switch up back 450 out) for example, they are generally easier if you start unnatural, cause you'll be spinning the back 450 your natural way, instead of spinning it unnatural.
It’s also a good idea to learn how to slide the whole rail unnatural, and not go straight to learning unnatural switch-ups early on the rail. That way you won’t be as scared once you’ll want to do unnatural switch-ups on a bigger rail, for example a down-flat-down. And once you start hitting street rails, if like me you’re not very good at lip ons, well you can always slide the rail unnatural.
270 on pretzel 270 out
You'll have to be quite comfortable with 270s on, and have done some 270s on to switch to try this trick. The hardest part of this trick is that you have to spin your 270 out the opposite way than your 270 on, which is why it's called a pretzel.
Once you spin your 270 on, you have to look at the end of the rail, while applying pressure on the rail with the toes of your front foot, to really grip on the rail. Looking at the end of the rail will help you to apply pressure and grip properly. Once you reach the end of the rail, you want to use that pressure you're applying with your front foot to push down on the rail, pop and spin the opposite way out. When you pop, you want to lift your toes up of both of your feet, so that the noses of your skis go up and don't get caught in the rail. You can use your upper body and twist your shoulders to get your spin around, and your legs will follow.
When you first learn this trick, you can always keep your body facing uphill the whole time you're on the rail, instead of looking at the end of the rail. You'll just have to use more of your upper body to get your 270 out around. But I feel like it looks better if you look at the end of the rail, and eventually it will take less effort to do the 270 out.
This might be one of the harder tricks to learn, but it's a really satisfying one. Once you start doing them more and more, you'll really get the hang of the pretzel, and it's not too hard to have them on lock, kind of like the k-fed. If like most people you land unnatural on the rail after your 270 on, learning unnatural back 2s can help you to get the pretzel 270 out around, but it's not necessary.