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Deciphering Ski Slang: The Terms You Need To Know

Downhill skiing and riding are two of the most satisfying ways to recreate in the winter. The freedom you experience while sliding down a beautiful ski run is unmatched. Over the decades, both sports have morphed into a kind of culture, complete with its own language.

In this article, we’ll dive into the most popular ski slang terms out there. We won’t cover every single possibility because there are hundreds. We will cover enough to address all major concepts that beginner skiers or riders should know.

Buckle up, jerry; your crash course in ski slang starts now.

Ski Slang A-Z

Below, we’ll run through terms skiers and snowboarders use, give a definition, and provide a little context when needed.

A-B

  • All-mountain ski: Skis wider than racing skis and thinner than powder skis. They are generalists, handling most conditions well but seldom perfectly.
  • Après: French for “after,” après has morphed into a general term for what one does after skiing. This usually involves getting food and adult drinks (for those of legal age) somewhere near or next to the ski slopes. 
  • Avvy/Avalanche: An avalanche is a large volume of snow that breaks off a slope and runs down the side of a mountain. They are exceptionally dangerous.
  • Backcountry Skiing: Anything outside the resort boundaries that can be skied is considered backcountry skiing. The delineation breaks down further with concepts like frontcountry and sidecountry. 
  • Backcountry Gate: A way to access backcountry terrain from a ski resort.
  • Bail: Generalized term for giving up. If you approach steep terrain and decide to ski around, you've bailed on it. 
  • Base: Either the bottom of your skis/board or the base area of a ski mountain.
  • Blasting: An avalanche control technique used by ski patrol to reduce avalanche danger. 
  • Black Diamond: A slope classification meaning expert terrain. There are single black diamonds, double black diamonds, and double black diamond EX runs. 
  • Blower Powder: Very light, fluffy snow. If you find blower powder, you are having a good day. It’s sometimes called champagne powder, though Steamboat Ski Resort has trademarked the phrase.
  • Bluebird: A sunny day with blue skies and no clouds.
  • Blue Run: Another slope classification; this one signifies an intermediate run. 
  • Bomber/Bombing: Flying down a ski slope at very fast speeds. 
  • Bowl: A terrain feature similar to a large basin. In a bowl, ski runs will generally funnel down to one area. 
  • Brain Bucket: Helmet. 
  • Bulletproof: A bulletproof surface is so hard that the snow will look exactly the same after you’ve skied over it. Avoid, if possible, or rely on your edges.
  • Bunny Hill/Bunny Slopes: A designated area for beginners to practice their skills. 
  • Bump Skiing: Mogul skiing. Skiing down a field of snow mounds that have been shaped and compressed by skiers over time.

C-D

  • Camber: An artificial bend in the shape of a ski. The bend occurs underneath the center of the ski.
  • Carve: The act of performing a turn by relying on the thin metal edges of your skis. This is an advanced skill.
  • Cat Track: The route snowcats use to navigate on and off ski slopes. Sometimes cat tracks can act as cut-throughs between runs. 
  • Catching An Edge: An unintentional result of ski movement where your ski edges impact the snow and throw off your control. 
  • Cement/Concrete: Very wet, heavy snow.
  • Core Shot: A deep gouge in your ski base all the way down to the wood core. Core shots come from hitting roots, downed trees, or rocks. If the gouge is deep enough, it could be a death knell for your equipment; see a ski tech to assess the damage.
  • Corduroy/Cord: This is the pattern left behind by a snowcat, a piece of equipment that grooms ski slopes. It makes a funky noise when you ski on it, but the surface is supportive and fun. 
  • Chatter: The noise twin tips or rockered skis (see rocker below) make when traveling at speeds. 
  • Chop: Refers to old powder that crisscrossing ski lines have chopped up into clumps and pockets. 
  • Chunder: The worst type of skiing. It can present in numerous ways, but it’s always a highly uneven snow surface with possible chunks of hardpack snow that makes it nigh impossible to maintain rhythm and turn shape.
  • Chute/Couloir: A steep, narrow terrain feature usually lined by rocky walls or dense trees. The steeper the couloir, the higher the chances for avalanches. This is expert terrain.
  • Corn: Soft, accommodating snow that is still firm enough to provide support. The snow surface looks like you're skiing on a bed of corn kernels.
  • Crust: A frozen layer of snow. If the crusty snow layer is thin enough, enough pressure can break through to softer snow beneath. 
  • DIN: A measurement of how firmly your bindings hold onto your feet. It’s based on a numeric scale and should only be adjusted by professionals.
  • Dump/Dumping: A large accumulation of snow.
  • Dust on Crust: A minor covering of snow atop hard/icy conditions. While it may look soft, your skis will impact the crust beneath it. 

E-J

  • Edge: The metal edges of skis or boards.
  • Faceshot: Positive term meant to illustrate powder so deep that when you turn, the snow sprays into your face. 
  • Fall Line: The route a ball would take down a slope if you let it roll on its own. The full term is called gravitational fall line. Some expert slopes have multiple fall lines.
  • Flex: A numeric rating system used to determine how stiff or forgiving a ski boot will end up being.
  • Flat Light: Little to no contrast in lighting. Flat light takes away your depth; slow down to avoid nasty surprises, and use low-light lenses.
  • Freeze/Thaw Cycle: The spring snow cycle of refreezing at night only to soften up during the day.
  • French Fries: Keeping your skis parallel to each other.
  • Freshies/Fresh Tracks/First Tracks: Refers to skiing through an area of powder that no one has skied yet.
  • Gaper Gap: This is a gap between an improperly fitting helmet and your goggles. It suggests the user does not know what they are doing.
  • Glades: Skiing through the trees.
  • Green Run: A slope classification signifying a beginner run.
  • Groomers: Groomed terrain at a ski resort. 
  • Hard Pack: Very firm snow.
  • Hero Snow: Fluffy snow in all directions. If you fall, it’s like falling into a soft snow blanket. Hero snow is very rare.
  • Huck: To send yourself off of a cliff, jump, tree, roof, or quite literally anything with a vertical component attached to it. Freestyle skiers love hucking stuff.
  • In-bounds: Skiing within ski resort boundaries. 
  • Inversion: Very gratifying weather phenomenon where the bottom of the ski resort is cloud-covered, but the upper parts are above them. 
  • Jerry/Gaper: A person with big skiing or riding dreams but has put minimal effort toward getting there. Synonymous with someone who is clueless.
  • Jump-Turn: A useful technique in tight areas like couloirs where you don’t have enough width to make a normal turn. 

K-P

  • Kicker: A jump, usually wedge-shaped and found on the side of ski runs. 
  • Line/Ski Line: The route you pick down a slope is your line.
  • Liftie: A ski lift operator.
  • Moguls: See bumps. 
  • Nordic/Nordic Skiing: Refers to cross-country skiing or a nordic center where you can rent/buy supplies like snowshoes, microspikes, or cross-country skis.
  • On-Piste: French for skiing on a groomed or managed slope. Widely used.
  • Off-Piste: Any bit of terrain that is not groomed. Off-piste can refer to terrain inside or outside a resort.
  • Park/Terrain Park: Skiing in a specially created area with manufactured obstacles designed for tricks and getting air.
  • Park Rat: Term for someone who skis or rides almost exclusively in the terrain park.
  • Planks: Slang for skis.
  • Pomma Lift/T-Bar: An old-school ski lift where you either hold onto a rope, sit on a disk or sit on a seat that looks like an upside-down T. In all cases, your skis stay on the ground. 
  • Pow/Powder: Fresh snow. 
  • Powderhound: Someone who devotes a lot of time and energy to chasing fresh snow.
  • Powder Stash: An area of untracked powder that hasn’t been skied since the last storm.
  • Parallel Skiing: This is the act of skiing and turning, with both skis staying parallel to each other.
  • Pizza: Slang for a wedge-type ski technique. True ski progression begins when you convert a pizza to french fries or parallel skiing.

Q-R

  • Quad: A 4-person chair lift.
  • Quiver: This term is used when you own a ski or board. For people with multiple skis or boards, a quiver is the sum total of your offerings. If you want one ski to cover most conditions, all mountain skis are considered one-quiver solutions.
  • Rad: Slang for awesome.
  • Refill: Sometimes it snows for long enough that tracks you made during a ski run are covered up by the time you ski the run again. In this case, nature gave you a free refill.
  • Rocker: A bend in a skis profile at the tip or tail of the ski. Rocker is great for powder skiing, skiing switch, and the terrain park.
  • Roller: A feature across a ski slope indicating a change of pitch. The terrain above a roller is less steep; the run then “rolls over” into a steeper section. DO NOT STOP UNDER A ROLLER; people above won’t be able to see you.
  • Run: Official name for a specific ski slope at a resort.

S-T

  • Send: A term with a few meanings. When someone says send-it, it can be an indication of all-clear for a jump or ski line. A person who is “sendy” will take every opportunity to go fast or hit crazy jumps/tricks. 
  • Sick: Term of admiration for a trick or ski line that is particularly flawless or inspirational.
  • Side-country/Slack-country: A subset of backcountry but more forgiving. Sidecountry runs exist outside of ski resort boundaries but can be accessed from within them. 
  • Ski Bum: General term to indicate someone who has made skiing/riding their life. 
  • Ski Switch: Being able to ski backward.
  • Skin: A ski attachment that allows for uphill movement.
  • Slopeside: Establishments next to ski runs or, more generally, within a few dozen yards of a ski slope.
  • Slush: A heavy, wet type associated with the spring season that occurs after melting. There’s a good chance your ski boots will get wet; think about using a boot dryer.
  • Snorkel: Snow so deep you need a snorkel to breathe. This term is often misused by people who caught a bit of powder and turned it into a Godzilla sighting.
  • Straightlining: Going straight down a ski slope without turning, usually at breakneck speed. If you see someone straighlining, get out of the way.
  • Stomp: Emphatically landing a trick, a very positive term. Example: “She absolutely stomped that landing.”
  • Tail: The back end of a ski or board.
  • Tip: The front end of a ski or board.
  • Tomahawk. A type of fall where your body looks like it's performing a series of cartwheels down the slope. It’s similar to how a tomahawk turns as it's being thrown.
  • Touring: Also known as backcountry skiing. Ski touring can be as short as skinning uphill and skiing down once or as involved as ski mountaineering.
  • Tracked Out: A somewhat negative term referring to an area that had powder but has now been skied through so much that hardly any remains. 
  • Traverse: Moving across the width of a slope as opposed to skiing down the fall line.
  • Tree Well: An area of shallow snow around the base of a tree. If you fall in, it can act like a suction cup and pull you down.

U-Z

  • Untracked: Untouched snow, i.e., not been skied by anyone.
  • Whiteout: Fresh powder and low visibility. It looks like you're skiing in a snow globe, and your depth perception is impacted.
  • Wipeout: When you fall on skis.
  • Yard Sale: A type of fall where various pieces of equipment are ripped from you and sent hurtling in different directions. Cleaning up after a yard sale takes time and effort.

Conclusion

Ski slang has seeped into most aspects of ski culture. It’s not strictly necessary for skiing progression, but its wide use makes it relevant. Next time you're on the hill, try a few out!

I’m happiest on long backpacking trips into little-known pockets of wilderness, skiing down backcountry mountains, and on all-fours, scrambling the rocky spines of alpine ridges. When I'm not adventuring in the outdoors, I'm most likely writing about them.

*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.

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