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SKI TECHNOLOGY JARGON BUSTER

Buying new skis is really exciting, but wading through swathes of technical jargon isn’t! If you’re able to visit a store, our expert staff can give you the straightforward help and advice that you need; if you’re browsing online, here is a breakdown of some of the most common technical terms that you’re likely to encounter.


A.A.S.I.: American Association of Snowboard Instructors, a non-profit that promotes snowboarding through instruction and creates certification standards for instructors.

ABSTEM: Wedging out the tail of the downhill ski.

A.C.L: Acronym of Anterior Cruciate Ligament, the tearing of which produces skiers' worst knee injury.

ACRO: Acrobatic skiing, linking jumps, flips and spins.

ACTIVE EDGE: The section of the ski’s edge that is in contact with the snow.

AIR (as in CATCHING AIR): Jumping off the snow.

AIRPLANE TURN: Turning the skis in mid-air, to engage a new set of edges upon landing a jump.

AERIAL TRAMWAY: Also called a cable car, aerial tram, or just tram; this type of lift is larger than a gondola and relies on a three-rope design in which two cables support the car and the other provides propulsion.

ALL-MOUNTAIN: A versatile ski that performs well in a variety of conditions, including groomers, powder, bumps, and trees. Also known as a mid-fat ski and one-ski quiver.

ALPENGLOW: The rosy hue of mountains glowing at sunrise or sunset.

ALPINE SKIING: Sometimes called downhill skiing. Essentially, the resort-based, sit and ride up, stand and slide down paradigm.

ALPINE TOURING: Abbreviated to AT, alpine touring is a form of skiing in which athletes are able to travel uphill using skins attached to the bottom of their skis and bindings that allow their heels to lift. Also known as randonnée.

APRÉS SKI: French for 'after ski,' this phrases describes the food, drink, and other social activities that occur after a day on the slopes. It is preferred by some to slope-side activities!

ARÊTE: Thin, knife-like ridges that typically form when glaciers erode parallel valleys.

AUDIO HELMET: A protective helmet that includes speakers in the earpiece and a connection, either wired or wireless, to a music source.

AVALANCHE: A large mass of snow, ice, and other materials that suddenly slides down a mountain. Similar to a snowslide.

AVALANCHE AIRBAG: Backpack that incorporates an airbag that can be deployed during an avalanche, increasing the odds the victim will float at or near the surface of the slide.

AVALANCHE BEACON: Informal name for an avalanche transceiver, a safety device that transmits a signal rescuers use to hone in on someone buried by an avalanche.

AVALANCHE CONTROL: Activities designed to monitor and reduce the risk of avalanches through active measures (e.g. explosives), permanent structures (e.g. snow fences), and social interventions (e.g. educational efforts).

AVALANCHE DOG: Specially trained canines that assist human rescuers in locating and digging out avalanche victims. Also known as a mountain rescue dog.

AVALANCHE PROBE: A rod that's used to poke through avalanche debris in order to find a buried victim.

AVIE (AVI, AVY): Avalanche.

BACK BOWL: Large, open basin that is located on the other side of a resort's main ridgeline.

BACKCOUNTRY: Unmarked or unpatrolled area beyond any slopes that have been groomed by a piste basher. Skiers and snowboarders often seek powder in the backcountry, but experience, avalanche knowledge and proper equipment are imperative when off-piste.

BACKSCRATCHER: An aerial trick in which a skier drops the tips and lifts the backs of their skis, sometimes to the point of touching their back.

BACKSIDE: Portion of a ski resort that lies on the other side of a ridge or mountain from the main base area.

B.A.F.L.: Acronym for Big Air, Flat Landing, which may result in compression fractures of the vertebrae.

BAIL or BAILING: To take a tumble on your skis or snowboard, falling over, a slam or a wipe-out.

BALACLAVA: A snug garment which is worn over the head and neck, with holes cut for the eyes, nose and mouth.

BALANCE: The fundamental skill of skiing, also known as a sequence of linked recoveries.

BANKED SLALOM: Snowboarding race in which an athlete bombs down a steep winding course with banked turns and gates. A precursor to boardercross, which involves multiple snowboarders riding simultaneously.

BASE: Average depth of snow on the mountain; also the bottom of the mountain where the lodge is located.

BASEPLATE: The bottom portion of a binding that attaches to a ski or snowboard. Also called binding plate.

BASKET: A round, generally flat, disc attached to the bottom of ski poles that prevents them from sinking too deeply into the snow. Powder baskets are especially large for deep days.

BEGINNER TRAIl: A trail that is typically wide, groomed, and not too steep. A very easy beginning trail where novices learn is also called a bunny slope or bunny hill.

BERM: A mound of snow, either natural or manmade, that can be used for turns or tricks.

BIATHLON: Olympic sport that combines cross-country skiing and target shooting in a timed event.

BIFF: A near-fall in which the skier or snowboarder briefly makes contact with the snow but recovers.

BIG AIR: An aerial in which the skier or snowboarder is airborne for a considerable length of time. Also the name of a competition in ESPN's X Games.

BIG-MOUNTAIN: The style of skiing or snowboarding usually seen in ski movies, featuring fast, big turns on ungroomed snow, on long, steep vertical descents and, usually, cliff drops.

BINDING: The device that connects boots to the ski or snowboard. Ski bindings are designed to release boots in at least some falls; not so with snowboard bindings.

BLACK ICE: Thin, translucent glaze of ice that forms on a road. May pose driving hazards because it is difficult to detect.

BLOWER: Super light, low-density snow that blows around and works well of achieving face shots. See also Champagne Powder

BLUEBIRD: Sunny, cloudless conditions. Also called a bluebird day.

BOARDERCROSS: Snowboarding competition in which four to six athletes simultaneously race down a course with jumps, berms, rollers, drops, and banked turns.

BOILERPLATE (BULLETPROOF): Hard, dense snow and ice that requires serious edging and may underlie fresh powder. Usually caused by thaw-freeze cycle or rain falling on slopes. See also bulletproof and hardpack.

BOMB: 1) To travel fast and straight down a slope, somewhat recklessly. See also schussing and straightlining. 2) To set off high explosives as part of avalanche control.

BOMB HOLE: Impression in the snow produced by landing big air.

BONK: To bounce off an object.

BONO: Skiing full-speed into a tree.

BONY: Early or late season conditions featuring a slew of wood and rock landmines under your skis

BOWL: A steep, wide run, usually higher on both sides, in a bowl-like shape. It is frequently above treeline and devoid of obstacles;

BRAIN BUCKET: Nickname for a protective helmet. Also known as a nutcase.

BRO: Short for brother, an affectionate term for a fellow skier or snowboarder.

BUMPS: Synonym for moguls, the mounds of snow formed by repeated turns of skiers/snowboarders (or built artificially).

BUNNY SLOPE: Also called a bunny hill, this is an easy trail at a ski resort with a gradual decline, typically located at the base, where newbies and kids can learn to ski and snowboard.

BUTT-DRAGGER: A novice snowboarder who has fallen and is sliding down the slope on their behind, scraping powder away to the chagrin of skiers.

BUTTERING: A trick involving smearing the skis along the snow in a fashion similar to buttering a piece of bread. This is achieved by applying pressure to either the tip or tail of the ski while lifting the opposite end off the snow.

BUTTON LIFT: Widely considered to be the snowboarding community's worst nightmare, a button lift consists of a round disc at the end of an extending pole attached to a moving wire. Skiers sit on the round disc, with their legs either side of the pole, and are dragged to the top of the slopes. These lifts are a simple and efficient way to get people back up the pistes.

CAMBER: The slightly convex or arched shape of a ski or snowboard, when viewed from the side. Helps distribute riders weight along the length of ski or board. The natural longitudinal curve of an unweighted ski's base gives it rebound out of turns.

CANT: Measure of a boot's lateral angle in relation to a ski or snowboard. Adjustments inward or outward are used to modify edging.

CANTING: Process of adjusting the angle at which the boot meets a ski and binding in order to create a neutral stance.

CAP/PARTIAL CAP/HYBRID CAP: In cap construction, the skis' protective top sheet stretches all the way to their edges and there are no sidewalls. Cap skis tend to be more forgiving than those with sidewalls, and easier to turn. Some skis have a partial cap construction, where the top sheet curves part way towards the edges, and then there's a small sidewall below to add grip. Hybrid cap skis may have sidewalls under the bindings for grip, and cap construction at tip and tails. 

CARVAHOLIC: A skier or snowboarder addicted to the sensation of carving.

CARVING: Performing wide turns on the ski or snowboard edges, leaving behind a clean arc in the snow, which prevents you from losing speed. It is opposed to skidding, side-slipping, smearing.

CASCADE CONCRETE: Similar to Sierra Cement, this dense, heavy snow is found in the maritime climate of the Pacific Northwest.

CAT SKIING: Using a snowcat to access skiing or snowboarding. Sometimes the cat will travel within a resort's boundaries, but usually, cats are used to access untracked powder in the backcountry (at a price!).

CAT TRACKS: Relatively flat and narrow trails that traverse ski areas and are used by snowcats, skiers, and snowboarders to get around the mountain. In summer, these are often dirt roads. Also known as catwalks.

CATCHING AN EDGE: When the edge of a ski or snowboard accident digs into the snow, usually resulting in a fall or a near fall.

CHAMPAGNE POWDER: Very smooth, deep, dry snow that is perfect for skiing. So light, it cannot be made into snowballs!

CHATTER: Sound and vibration produced by a ski or snowboard turning and having trouble maintaining an edge on hardpack, boilerplate, or bulletproof snow.

CHECKING: Briefly setting an edge to reduce speed.

CHINESE DOWNHILL (GESCHMOZZLE): An event in which racers begin simultaneously, such as skier-cross and boardercross.

CHOCOLATE CHIPS: Rocks that poke out of the snow and threaten to trip up a skier or snowboarder. Not to be confused with death cookies!

CHONDOLA: A ski resort lift that features a mix of chairlifts and gondola cars.

CHOWDER: Powder that's been chopped up by the tracks of skiers and snowboarders.

CHRISTIE: As opposed to carving the turn, the skier skids with their skis parallel.

CHUTE: A steep, narrow run, often lying in between rocky or otherwise impassable terrain.

CIRQUE: A bowl-like feature, often said to resemble an amphitheatre, caused by glacial erosion.

CLAMPS: Bindings.

CLIFF: Any drop of more than three feets.

CLIFF-HUCKING: A move performed by only experienced skiers and overlay ambitious beginners in which the skier jumps off a cliff.

CM: Acronym for Center of Mass, awareness of which is necessary for balance.

COLD-SMOKE: The plume of low, light-density snow that trails behind a skier or snowboarder. Similar to blower powder.

COLD-INDUCED RHINORRHEA: A condition that may afflict skiers and snowboarders in which the nasal cavity gets filled with a significant amount of mucus, leading to snotsicles.

CORDUROY: Freshly groomed trail with shallow, parallel grooves created by grooming machines. So named for its resemblance to the fabric.

CORE: Usually made from wood or foam, the core is the primary structure that lies at the heart of a ski.

CORE SHOT: Damage to the base of a ski or snowboard that's severe enough to have exposed its core.

CORN: A type of spring snow that forms into small, light pellets.

CORNICE: A mass of overhanging ice or snow, typically found on a ridgetop or edge of a cirque. Both a launching pad for hucking jumps and a potentially deadly avalanche risk if the formation collapses underfoot.

COULIE (COULOIR): A narrow chute with rock walls on both sides.

COUNTER-ROTATION: A skiing technique in which one's upper body is pointing a different direction than the lower body. Hip rotation, for example, allows the upper body to remain pointed down the fall line as the legs make short-radius turns.

CREVASSE: Deep, narrow fissure in ice or a glacier. A potentially deadly hazard for mountain travellers.

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING: Nordic sport and form of travel in which skiers move across the landscape under their own propulsion and use bindings that allow their heels to rise above relatively narrow skis.

CRUD: Wet, heavy, clumpy, cut-up, mashed-potato-like snow, in which turning is difficult. After enough people ski and snowboard through powder, it turns to crud.

CRUISING: Traveling downhill, making big turns. In some cases, refers to a speedy descent but in other contexts suggests an easy, low-effort run.

CRUST: A Frozen layer of snow/ice that may be a solid layer underneath powder (like dust on crust). Also applies to a thinner, breakable layer above softer snow that can turn into crud due to skier and snowboarder traffic.

CRYOSPHERE: Portion of the Earth where water is in its solid form, including ice, snow cover, glaciers, frozen ground, and permafrost.

 

DAFFY: An aerial stunt in which a skier thrusts one ski forward and the other ski back while they are airbourne.

DAMP: The ability of a ski to dampen or absorb vibrations. This is usually done via some sort of structure mounted on the topsheet. The challenge for manufacturers is to do this without making the skis so 'damp' that they lose their springy rebound at the exit of each turn.

DEATH COOKIES: Small frozen chunks of snow on a piste, usually caused by snowmaking and grooming operations.

DEEPS: Deep powder conditions, requiring a powder cord or leash on your skis.

DETACHABLE CHAIRLIFT: A chairlift that detaches from the wire rope in the loading and unloading stations, allowing it to move faster up the hill and deliver greater capacity than a fixed-grip chairlift. More commonly known as a high-speed chairlift.

D.I.N. SETTINGS: Measures on bindings that indicates the torque required to release the skier's boot during a fall. At higher settings, more force is required to release the boot.

DIRT BAG: Someone who lives to ski or ride, and avoids doing anything that isn't skiing or riding, often including work! Also known as a ski bum.

DISCO STICKS: Short slalom and twin-tips skis, capable of very short radius turns.

DOWNHILL: Synonym for alpine skiing, the side of the sport in which skiers travel down mountains using bindings that fix their heels to the skis. Also the fastest of the four alpine skiing racing disciplines.

DRAG: A force that acts in the opposite direction to your velocity, causing you to slow down.

DROPPING IN: Beginning a run in a terrain park or launching off a cliff or cornice to enter new terrain.

DUCKING A ROPE: Illegally going under a rope marking closed terrain at a resort.

DUMP: Used as both a noun and adjective to describe a major snowfall, which is usually followed by some amazing runs.

DUNE: Like the sand version, snow dunes are wind-deposited masses that may take on strange shapes. See also pillow and sastrugi.

DUROMETER: The international standard for the hardness of rubber, plastic, and other non-metallic materials, and the device used to take such reading on ski boot shells.

DUST ON CRUST: When a very shallow layer of fresh snow covers the hardpack underneath.

EAGLE: Also called spread eagle, this aerial move involves spreading one's legs and arms wide apart while in the air.

EAT WOOD: To crash face-first into a tree.

EDGE: 1) The sharp, narrow metal strip along the side of a ski or snowboard. 2) To tip one's ski or snowboard and engage the sharp edge in order to bite into snow and gain traction.

EDGE TO EDGE: To perform a series of short radius turns during which the skis move rapidly from one edge to the other.

EGO SNOW: Snow conditions, such as corn or machine-groomed packed powder, that make turning seem easy and inflate the estimation of one's abilities. Also called hero snow.

EXPERT: Someone with the ability to ski under control in any terrain or snow condition.

EXTREME: Ski conditions generally considered more risky and difficult than 'expert,' and can put your life in danger.

FACE PLANT: A fall in which you land on your face. Quite fun if it's on a powder day, not so much if you land on hardpack.

FACE SHOT: Skiing or snowboarding at sufficient speed in deep powder, causing the powder to spray your face.

FAKIE (GOING FAKIE): Skiing or snowboarding backwards.

FALL LINE: The natural descent between two points on a slope, i.e. the path a ball would take rolling down the mountain.

FALLING LEAF: A novice snowboarding move in which a rider descends by skidding back and forth on the same edge, akin to a falling leaf zigzagging on the ground.

FARTBAG: A one-piece ski suit, also known as a onesie.

FATTY (FAT SKI): A very wide ski designed for powder conditions.

FIB: A glib attempt to excuse a fall, by saying, "I caught an edge," or "I lost an edge."

FIGURE 8: Tandem skiers whose tracks when viewed from above give the illusion of the numerical 'eight.'

FIGURE 11 (SCHUSS): The ski in a straight line though powder, leaving behind parallel tracks that resemble the number 11.

FIRST TRACKS: Making your mark on a pristine slope and any area of fresh snow before others hit the trail, especially on a powder day.

F.I.S.: Acronym for the Fédération Internationale de Ski, the body that regulates the World Cup. Also known as the International Ski Federation.

FIXED-GRIP CHAIRLIFT: The traditional, slower lift in which the chair remains attached to the cable during the entire circuit.

FLAT LIGHT: Cloudy, low-contrast conditions that make it hard to read the snow and detect features in the terrain.

FLEX: When used in the context of ski boots, flex refers to the amount of pressure required to bend the boot: the higher the number on the flex index, the staffer the boot. Also used to describe stiffness of skis and snowboards. Measure generally runs from 50 (soft) to 130 (very stiff). Click HERE to find out more.

FLOAT: To remain close to the surface when skiing in deep snow.

FOOTBED: Removable insole in a ski or snowboard boot. Custom footbeds and orthotics can provide better fit and alignment than factory footbeds.

FREE HEEL SKIING: Skiing techniques such as telemark, Nordic, touring, and cross-country, in which bindings allow the heel to lift up.

FREE REFILLS: A powder day in which it keeps snowing, offering bottomless fun and preventing the pistes from getting tracked out.

FREE SKIING: Non-competitive, non-task-oriented skiing, done for adventure, enjoyment, exploration and/or self-expression.

FREECARVING (FUNCARVING, SUPERCARVING): Laying down slow-speed trenches on hypercarvers without using poles.

FREERIDE: 1) Style of snowboarding that takes place on natural, ungroomed terrain in the backcountry or sidecountry. also called big mountain or extreme riding. 2) Style of snowboard that is stiff and designed for fast, responsive riding.

FREERIDE SKIS: Mid-fat, all-terrain skis that excel in the steep and deep.

FREERIDER: Someone who prefers to ski off-piste steeps, jab through the trees and huck powder bumps.

FREESTYLE: 1) Skiing discipline in Winter Olympics that includes moguls, aerials, half-pipe, and slopestyle. 2) Style of snowboard that has more flex than a freeride board and is used in pipes and parks.

FRENCH FRIES: Image used to help kids visualise two skis pointed parallel, as opposed to the 'pizza' stance that puts the skis in a snowplow or wedge.

FRESHIES: Fresh, untracked powder.

FRONTSIDE: Refers to the side of the mountain where you find the groomed runs.

FROZEN CHICKEN HEADS: What you get when spring slush freezes.

FUNICULAR: A cable railway in which a pair of tram-like cabs on rails move along cables and transports skiers up and down a steep slope. Funiculars are more widely found in Europe.

FUNITEL: An aerial cable lift used to transport skiers. Funitels are more widely found in Europe. 

GAP JUMP: A big sproing launched to carry you over a gap.

GAPER: 1) A novice skier or snowboarder whose fashion or hapless technique makes them stand out (so named for the gap between their goggles and helmets). 2) Spectators, whose location on the slope impedes one's downhill progress.

GARLANDS: Basic skiing and snowboarding manoeuvre in which partial or half-turns leave behind a pattern similar to a Christmas garland.

GEOMETRY: Refers to the shape of the ski and has a direct impact on the way that the ski turns.

GESCHMOZZLE: Race style in which skiers and snowboarders begin together, such as skier-cross and boardercross. Also called Chinese downhill.

GIANT SLALOM: Abbreviated to GS, this style of alpine racing is similar to the slalom but the gates are farther apart and the skiers travel faster. See also Super-G, in which the gates are even farther apart.

GLADE: Skiable terrain among the trees. Glade skiing and snowboarding describes travel through forests where the trunks are more widely spaced than in tree skiing and snowboarding.

GLIDING: Forward motion of an edged ski (or snow toy), as opposed to sliding any which way.

G.L.M.: Acronym for Graduated- Length Method, a teaching technique using progressively longer skis.

GNAR (GNARLY): Very challenging conditions or terrain.

GONDOLA: An aerial list that carries skiers and snowboarders up a mountain in a closed compartment that hangs from a rotating steel cable.

GOODS (THE GOODS): Untracked powder, usually in the trees.

GOOFY STANCE: As opposed to the 'normal' stance, the goofy stance in snowboarding has the rider's right foot in front.

GORILLA TURN: Using the whole body to force the turn around.

GRAB: Holding the edge of a snowboard with one or both hands during an aerial trick.

GRANULAR: Snow that has been packed down and possibly groomer, causing the surface to have coarse ice crystals that look like rock salt.

GRASS SKIING: An all-season skiing discipline done on grass with specialised equipment.

GRAUPEL: Type of precipitation caused when freezing fog condenses on a snowflake. Looks like styrofoam, also known as snow pellets or snow hail.

GROOMERS: Also known as pisted runs. These are marked trails that are smoothed out (pisted) for enjoyable skiing, often creating a corduroy pattern in the snow.

HALF PIPE: A frozen U-shaped structure used in freestyle skiing and snowboarding for aerial tricks.

HARDGOODS: Snow sports industry term for skiing a snowboarding equipment, as opposed to the softgoods category that covers clothing and apparel.

HARDPACK: Synonym for boilerplate or bulletproof, when snow becomes packed down and compressed due to grooming and wind exposure and becomes firm, almost icy. 

HEADWALL: Precipice at the edge of a glacial cirque, or any steep slope at the head of a valley.

HELI-SKIING: Using helicopters to access terrain for off-piste skiing and snowboarding. 

HERRINGBONE: Pattern created by a skier climbing up a hill by arraying their skis in a V-shape. Named for the resemblance to a fish's skeleton. 

HIGH-SPEED CHAIRLIFT: A chairlift that is relatively fast, usually because the lifts are able to detach in the loading and unloading stations. Also known as a detachable chairlfit.

HINGE: Falling downhill with great force.

HIP CHECK: Smearing one's butt on the snow while turning in steep powder, in order to scrub off speed.

HIT: Take-off point of a terrain feature, from which one can catch air.

HOCKEY STOP: A quick way to stop while skiing that involves bringing both skis on edge, perpendicular to the direction of travel, similar to how hockey players suddenly stop on the ice.

HOHO: Handstand on the apex of a halfpipe.

HOOKING: Tendency for a ski to turn uncontrollably.

HOT DOG: A skier or snowboarder who shows off, especially their aerial moves or prowess in moguls. Before there was freestyle skiing, there was hot dog skiing.

HUCK: To ski off a cliff, cornice, or other precipices, catching big air.

HURL CARCASS: To huck in a really major way. The current record is 226 vertical feet.

HYPERCARVER: Short skis with a radical sidecut and a turn radius less than 14 metres, often skied without poles.

INBOUNDS: Terrain lying within the boundaries of a ski area that is subject to avalanche control and other safety measures.

INDY GRAB: Snowboarding trick in which the rider uses their back hand to grab the middle of the board, between their toes, while turning backside. Can also be done with skis.

INSIDE EDGE: Literally, the ski edge on the inside of your turn.

INTEGRATED BINDING: Bindings designed for specific ski brands, and are packaged together with the skis. By bending with the ski, the can provide greater control.

INVERT: An aerial manoeuvre during which one goes upside side. 

J-BAR: Surface lift in which a skier or snowboarder rests against a J-shaped seat that is pulled uphill by a cable. Similar to a T-bar.

JERRY: Someone who is clueless about skiing or snowboarding (e.g. wearing jeans on the slopes). See also joey and gaper.

JETTING: Accelerating while exciting a turn by projecting the feet forward.

JIB: 1) A fixture in a terrain park. 2) Skiing or snowboarding off a non-snow object, either natural or manmade, such as sliding down a rail. Note that, those who take part in 'jibbing' are often called 'jibbers.'

JOEY: An inexperienced skier or snowboarder, whose lack of ability and fashion sense is noticeable.

JUMP TURN: A method of turning direction by jumping with your skis in the air; generally used in steep terrain.

KICK TURN: Turning skis 180 degrees, one ski at a time, while stationary.

KICKER: A 'kicker' is just another word for a 'jump'. A pile of snow, shaped to allow a freestyle skier or snowboarder to ride off it and enjoy some time in the air or perform a trick before landing back on the snow. 

KNUCKLE DRAGGER: Description of a snowboarding, especially one whose hands touch the snow while carving turns.

KODAK COURAGE: A reckless display, such as hucking a cliff, in response to someone filming.

KRUMMHOLZ: Stunted windblown trees that grow near the treeline.

LEASH: A cord, belt, or another such device to attach a snowboard to a rider. The advent of ski brakes dramatically reduced use among skiers, though some still use powder leashes on deep days when skis could get lost in the snow.

LIFT-LICKERS: Children who can't resist freezing their tongues to the chairlift.

LIFT LINE: 1) Queue of skiers and snowboarders waiting to board a lift. 2) A trail that runs directly beneath an aerial lift, often through a forest cleared to make way for a chairlift, gondola, or tram.

LIFTIE (LIFTY): Nickname of a chair lift operator. 

LINER: Removable, cushioned boot found inside the plastic shell of a ski boot. Provides support/padding and may be customised. May also refer to glove liners.

LUNCH TRAY (LAUNCH TRAY): A snowboard.

MACHINE GROOMED: Description of trail conditions in which snowcats or other grooming machines have manicured the trails.

MAGIC CARPET: A surface lift in which skiers and snowboarders stand on a conveyor belt. Often found on bunny slopes or flat traverses.

MASHED POTATOES: Wet, sloppy, heavy snow conditions that resemble the dish.

MASSIF: A compact group of mountain summits, especially when set apart from other peaks.

MID-FAT SKI: Also known as an all-mountain ski, this versatile style performs well both on and off pistes. It's more slender than a traditional powder ski and wider than a racing ski.

MILK RUN: The first run of the day.

MOGUL: Mounds of snow and ice formed by repeated turns of skiers/snowboarders (or built artificially). Also called bumps.

MONDOPOINT: International standard for measuring shoe sizes that is often used with ski boots. Measured in millimetres and based on the mean foot length and width for which each shoe is available.

MONOSKI: A single wide ski. As in traditional alpine skiing, the rider faces forward and uses the same type of bindings, boots and poles.

MONOCOQUE: Another name of a capped construction. the ski's top sheet rolls over the entire construction to become the sidewalls.

MOUNTAIN RESCUE DOG: Specifically trained canines that assist human rescuers in locating and digging out avalanche victims. Also known as an avalanche dog.

MOUNTING POINT: Skis have a recommended position for bindings. Most come mounted slightly back of centre; mounting them further forward makes skis easier to pivot and feels more playful. However, tips tend to submarine in powder, and skis are less stable in long, fast turns.

MUTE GRAB: Snowboard trick in which the rider's front hand grabs the board between the bindings

N.A.S.T.A.R.: Acronym for the National Standard Race, the world's largest public grassroots ski race program.

NEVER CALL LAST RUN: Saying that embodies a superstition that announcing one's last run invites injury.

NEVER-EVER: A first-time skier or snowboarder. A phrase often used in ski and ride schools.

NO FALL ZONE: Section of a run where falling could carry grave consequences, such as the steep entry to a chute where the skier or snowboarder could keep tumbling.

NOODLE: A ski that lacks torsional rigidity, making it unstable at speed.

NORDIC SKIING: Usually meant as cross-country ski touring on skinny skis with free-heel bindings; the Nordic skiing events in the Winter Olympics are something quite different!

NOSEBONE: Snowboard jump with front leg straight and rear leg flexed.

OFF-PISTE: Area beyond the trails (pistes) of a ski area which are ungroomed, such as trees, glades, and bowls.

OLLIE: A snowboarding trick in which the rider leaps into the air with the nose of the board rising first.

ONESIE: A one-piece ski suit.

ONE-SKI QUIVER: Nickname for an all-mountain wide ski (aka mid-fat) that is designed to perform in a variety of snow conditions and is versatile enough that a skier need not own other pairs.

OUT-OF-BOUNDS: Areas beyond patrolled boundaries of a ski resort. Includes sidecountry, slackcountry, and backcountry.

PACK: To slam hard.

PACKED POWDER: Relatively fresh snowfall that has been compacted by grooming machines and/or the traffic of skiers and snowboarders.

PARABOLIC SKIS: Skis with wider tips and a narrower waist to facilitate turning. Also called a shaped ski.

PARK: Short for terrain park. this is an outdoor recreation area where skiers and snowboarders can perform tricks on jibs and features.

PHAT: Excellent or awesome. Also used to describe the width of a powder ski.

PILLOW: Similar to dune, a snow pillow is a mound of powder, often created by the wind, that provides for soft landings and can also be used for leverage while making a turn.

PINHEAD: Nickname for a telemark skier. 

PIPE: Abbreviation of 'half-pipe.' A large man-made U-shaped channel cut into the snow, used by freestyle skiers to perform tricks.

PISTE: A downhill ski trail, typically with the snow compacted.

PISTENBULLY: Brand of snow grooming machines that are popular in many ski areas.

PIT ZIPS: Zippered openings near the armpits in a shell or rain jacket used to vent excess heat (and smell).

PIZZA: Also known as the wedge or snowplow, a technique in which the skis are put in a V-shape with the tips close together in order to slow or stop.

PLANKER: Moniker for a skier.

PLANKS: Slang term for skis.

PLAYFUL: Generally refers to rebound energy and springiness (pop) of the ski.

POACHING: Ducking a rope or otherwise entering a close area to steal a line in fresh powder.

POLE GRIP: The handle of a ski pole, often fitted with a strap.

POLISH DOUGHNUT: A freestyle trick in which a skier sits down on the snow while travelling, spins around in a full circle, and continues skiing. Also called a worm turn.

POMA LIFT: A type of detachable surface lift in which skiers and snowboarders rest on a platter while being tugged up a hill.

POND SKIMMING: A silly spring-skiing past-time at ski resorts in which skiers don costumes and try their best to skim across an icy pond.

POODLE TURNS: Show-dog demo turns made by PSIA instructors, even when they're not teaching.

POOPING: Sitting back on one's skis, while bent at the waist.

POP: Another word for spring or rebound. A ski with pop is great for accelerating out of turns or springing into a jump

POW (POW-POW): Another name for powder; loose, fluffy snow that hasn't been groomed or compacted.

POWDER: The holy grail of skiing and snowboarding, powder is the catch-all word to describe snow that is still fresh and yet to be tracked out by skis and snowboards.

POWDER BASKET: An extra-large basket attached to the bottom of ski poles that prevents them from sinking too deeply into the snow.

POWER TRANSFER: The effectiveness with which the force you apply to your boot is translated to the ski.

PRE-JUMP: To lift skis or board into the air before reaching the crest of a jump.

PRE-RELEASE: Denotes a situation when skis unhinge earlier than anticipated.

PROGRESSIVE: Innovative, a step forward.

P.S.I.A.: Acronym for Professional Ski Instructors of America. Connected to AASI, the American Association of Snowboard Instructors.

P-TEX: Polyethylene ski base material.

QUAD: 1) A four-seat chairlift. 2) Short for the quadriceps femoris muscle of the thigh, which gets a real workout during skiing and snowboarding.

QUARTERPIPE: A smaller version of a half-pipe.

QUIVER: One's collection of skis or snowboards, each pair/board specialised for a different purpose, for example, powder, backcountry, and piste.

RACING SKIS: Designed for speed, these skis tend to be stiff and are designed for racing at the professional level.

RADIUS: Defined by sidecut, the radius governs the natural turn circle of skis. The radius of curvy slalom skis may be 12m; straighter big mountain skis could be 44m. Some skis are multi-radius, meaning the turn circle changes along their length (wide at the front, tight at the rear). That's why skis in our reviews may have two or more radius figures.

RAG DOLL: Description of a skier or snowboarder who is tumbling downhill while limp and presumably hurt and/or unconscious. 

RAIL: A metal pipe or bar in a terrain park that skiers and snowboarders slide along.

RAILING: When an edged ski runs uncontrollably straight instead of turning.

RANDONNÉE: From the French for a long walk or journey, this style allows skiers to travel uphill by attaching skins to the bottom of their skis, then fasten the heels for an alpine-style descent. Also known as alpine touring or AT.

REBOUND: The energy released when a bent ski bounces back to its original shape; great for launching you into your next turn.

RECCO: The RECCO® Rescue System is used for avalanche rescue and relies on a detector finding reflectors that are permanently attached to clothing and equipment.

RETRACTION: Pulling the skis up towards the body with your legs, to change edges or absorb bumps.

REVERSE CAMBER: Also known as rocker or negative camber, this is a style of ski and snowboard that has its front and back tips raised, much like the rails on a rocking chair. 

REVERSE SIDECUT: Some powder skis with rocker get wider instead of narrower from the tips back towards the middle of the shovel, before narrowing again towards the waist, to help with float. The same may apply at the tail. 

RIPPER: An accomplished skier or snowboarder who knows how to shred.

ROCKER: A ski shape characteristic, which causes the tip and tail to rise away from the surface of the snow, making it easier to manoeuvre in soft snow, and less likely to catch an edge.

ROLLERS: Also called rolls, these are undulations in a trail or terrain where skiers and snowboarders may catch big air.

ROPE TOW: Surface lift, also known as a ski tow, in which a skier or snowboarder grabs hold of a rope or cable in order to be pulled up a slope.

ROYAL: Carved turn made only on the inside ski.

RUADE: Turn made by lifting both ski tails and pivoting on their tips.

RUN: A designated ski slope or trail.

RUN RUBBISH: Packs of snowboarders blocking runs.

RUNOUT: A relatively flat area at the end of a race or run where athletes and riders come to a stop or slow down.

SASTRUGI: Also spelt zastrugi, this is a wind-sculpted snow formation with irregular grooves and/or ridges.

SCHUSSING: Skiing downhill in a straight line without making turns. See also straightlining and bombing.

SCISSORING: Crossing one's ski tips, with edge-to-edge contact.

SCRAPER: 1) An unskilled snowboarder who is scraping away powder by edging straight down the fall line, sometimes while sitting. 2) A device used to remove excess wax and snow from a snowboard or ski.

SCREAMING STARFISH: Flailing and cartwheeling down a hill while screaming. May be associated with a yard sale.

SECRET STASH: An area of untracked powder that is known only to the skier or snowboarder (or so they think).

SHAPED SKIS: Also called parabolic skis, this style has a slight hourglass shape with the tips wider than the waist to promote easier turning and carving. See also sidecut.

SHELL: 1) The hard plastic outside of a ski boot. 2) A waterproof or water-resistant jacket.

SHORT TURN RADIUS: Quick turns, often used in steeps and moguls, that allow the skier or snowboarder to slow down and/or avoid obstacles.

SHOVEL: The upturned front tip of a ski. 

SHRED: To ski or snowboard with skill and passion, sometimes with reference to speed and at other times alluding to the snowy detritus left behind. 

SICK: 1) Very dangerous or risky, similar to gnarly. 2) Incredibly fun and exciting.

SIDE COUNTRY: Off-piste terrain that is easier to access than the backcountry.

SIDE CUT: The curve of a ski or snowboard that results from the waist being narrower than the tip and tail; the greater the difference, the deeper the sidecut, the shorter the turn.

SIDE CUT RADIUS: Same as turn radius; the turn radius refers to the size of the turn that the ski can make and is directly related to the sidecut; the deeper the sidecut, the smaller the turn radius of the ski, the shallower the sidecut the larger the turn radius.

SIDESLIP: Skidding down the mountain with skis or snowboard perpendicular to the fall line. Releasing and setting edges controls the movement. Both an exercise and useful technique in some terrain.

SIDEWALL CONSTRUCTION: The edge of the ski is separate from the top sheet, providing improved stiffness and excellent power transfer.

SIERRA CEMENT: Description of wet, heavy snowfall in California's Sierra Nevada mountains, often held in contrast to the blower and Champagne powder found in the Rocky Mountains

SINTERED BASE: Polyethelene pellets are fused together under extreme pressure to create a single-sheet ski base that contains lots of tiny pores, allowing it hold wax more efficiently and run faster.

SIT SKI: A device with a seat resting on a lone ski, primarily designed for disabled athletes who use outriggers for stability.

SITZMARK: The impression made in the snow when a skier or snowboarder falls. Also referred to as a bathtub

SIX-PACK: A six-person chairlift.

SKETCHY: When you land a trick, but it doesn't look good.

SKI BOARDS: Very short skis with non-releasable bindings. Easier to turn than longer skis and sometimes used for tricks.

SKI BRAKE: Device on a binding used to prevent a ski from travelling downhill when the boot isn't engaged. Also called a snow brake.

SKI GOGGLES: Special eye protection worn by skiers and snowboarders, usually with tinted lenses and anti-fog features.

SKI MASK: Synonymous with balaclava, this tight-fitting garment protects the head and neck from cold weather and often has openings for the eyes, nose, and mouth.

SKI PATROL: Organisation that provides emergency medical services to skiers and snowboarders, either within a ski area or in the backcountry. Ski patrollers may conduct avalanche control, search and rescue, and other functions.

SKI PATROLLER TURNS: Linked short-swing parallel turns down the fall line, using heel-thrust edge-checks.

SKI SICKNESS: A form of motion sickness caused by skiing (or snowboarding) in a whiteout or other poor visibility conditions. Also called Häusler's disease.

SKIDDING: In contrast to carving by engaging the edges, skidding involves dropping speed and changing direction by steering the skis to the side.

SKIER'S LEFT (OR RIGHT): The description of the area adjacent to the skier from their point of view as they look downhill.

SKIER'S THUMB: Common injury to a skier's hand if they fall while still holding a pole. Such damage to the thumb ligament accounts for 8-10% of all ski injuries but can be avoided by properly holding the poles.

SKI-IN SKI-OUT: Description of a hotel, house, condo, or other accommodation that allows occupants to directly access the slopes of a ski resort without walking or using motorised transportation.

SKIJORING: Winter sport in which athletes are pulled by horses, dogs, or vehicles. From the Norwegian word skikjøring, for ski driving.

SKINNING: Hiking uphill to access backcountry terrain

SKINS: Coarse fabric strips used for ski touring. They are affixed to the bottom of your skis to prevent you from sliding backwards while climbing uphill.

SLACKCOUNTRY: Out-of-bounds terrain just beyond a resort that is easier to access than the backcountry. Unlike sidecountry, which still requires hiking, skinning, or climbing, the slackcountry can be accessed from lift-served terrain without bootpacking or skinning.

SLALOM: Alpine skiing and snowboarding discipline in which racers ski between poles or gates, which are spaced more closely than in giant slalom and super giant slalom (super-G).

SLASH'N'BURN TURN: A carved, banked turn off a wall

SLOPESTYLE: An event in the Winter Olympics and other competitions in which skiers and snowboarders travel down a course with rails, jumps, and other terrain park features. Scores are based on the height of jumps, the degree of difficulty, and execution.

SLUSH: Heavy wet snow created by thawing. Usually encountered at the base of the mountain when spring skiing.

SMACK (TALKING SMACK): Bragging

SMEAR: To scrub off speed on the steeps by dragging your hip across the snow. A common technique for powder skiing with fat, rockered skis.

SNORKELING: When powder runs up the body and blurs a skier's vision.

SNOTSICLE: A frozen discharge from the nostril. Common due to cold-induced rhinorrhea, a condition in which the nasal cavity gets filled with a significant volume of mucus due to cold temperatures and exertion.

SNOW BIKE: Any device resembling a bike in which a rider descends the mountain while sitting and steers with their hands. Sometimes used to describe fatbikes, with oversize, underinflated tires, that are actually pedalled over snow, sand, and other soft terrains.

SNOW FARM: A ski area that depends on artificial, manmade snow.

SNOW GUN: Device used to mix water and compressed air to produce ersatz snow. Used in snowmaking and grooming operations.

SNOW TOYS: Devices used for gliding on snow for those who are unable to ski.

SNOWBANK: A pile, mound, berm, or pillow of snow that is deposited by the wind or created by people.

SNOWBLADE: Also called skiblade and ski board, this style of skiing uses super short skis that are easier to turn.

SNOWCAT: A tracked vehicle with an enclosed cab that is used for grooming pistes and transporting skiers/snowboarders.

SNOWPACK: The layers of snow that accumulate for extended periods, especially in mountains and upland areas. The snowpack is studied for avalanche risk and is a vital component of the world's water supply.

SNOWPLOW (SNOWPLOUGH): The stance a beginner skier takes when learning to ski. It involves a wedge move that points the ski tips together in order to slow or stop.

SOFTGOODS: Snow sports industry term for skiing and snowboarding clothing and apparel, as opposed to the hardgoods category, which includes skis, snowboards, bindings, boots, poles, and other equipment.

SPREAD EAGLE: Also called an eagle, this aerial move involves spreading one's legs and arms wide apart while in the air.

SPRING CONDITIONS: General descriptions of the highly variable conditions found in spring, in which slopes may freeze at night and melt during the day into corn, mashed potatoes, slush, and other sloppy conditions.

SPROING (GELANDESPRUNG): Using your momentum and a double pole plant to lift your skis off the snow and clear an obstacle.

STACK: To land a jump on a flat area.

STEAZEY: Style with ease - to perform a trick that may not be exceedingly difficult, but doing it with such grace and skill that it looks simple.

STEEPS: High-angle pistes and backcountry terrain.

STEM: To push out or wedge the tail of the uphill ski.

STICKS: Moniker for skis.

STOMP PAD: A device affixed to a snowboard that helps dislodge snow from the bottom of a boot and maintain traction while the rider's boot is out of the binding and resting on the board (e.g. while unloading a lift).

STRAIGHTLINING: Skiing or snowboarding straight down the fall line with excessive speed. Also known as bombing or schussing.

SUCKER HOLE: A fleeting patch of blue in an otherwise overcast sky.

SUPER-G: Supergiant slalom, a discipline of alpine ski racing which focuses on speed. Gates are spaced farther apart than in giant slalom, slalom, and downhill.

SUPER-SIDECUT: Modern recreational ski, with a sidecut of at least 14 mm.

SUPERPIPE: An especially large halfpipe with walls rising 22 feet from the bottom of the U-shaped structure.

SURFACE LIGHT: Catch-all phrase for mountain transportation systems in which the skier or snowboarder remains on the ground. Examples include rope tow, t-bar, magic carpet, and poma lift.

SWEET SPOT: The balance point on a ski that produces optimum turning; the bigger the sweet spot, the more forgiving the ski and the lower its performance in demanding situations.

SWING TURNS: Tip-pivoted parallel turns down the fall-line, with quick edge-checks.

SWING WEIGHT: Refers to the amount of effort required to swing both ends of the ski around a central point. A lower swing weight allows quicker, easier turn initiation, while a higher swing weight is more stable at speed.

SWITCH: Skiing/ landing backwards

TAIL: The back of the ski or snowboard.

TAKE-OFF: The lip of a jump's in-run

TAPER: Refers to the difference between the width of the tip and tail of the ski.

T-BAR: Surface lift in which a skier or snowboarder rests against a T-shaped seat that is pulled uphill by a cable. Similar to a J-bar.

TELEMARK: A style that combines elements of both alpine and Nordic skiing. With free heel bindings, the telemark skier descends with the signature bent-knee while making telemark turns.

TEN-EIGHTY: Aerial spin with three complete revolutions

TEN-EIGHTY-THREE: Ski School code for a lost child.

TERRAIN FEATURES: Natural or man-made obstacles on a run.

TERRAIN PARK: An outdoor recreation area where skiers and snowboarders can perform tricks on jobs and features.

TIP: The front of the ski or snowboard.

TIP-ROCKER: On-piste skis may have a little rocker at the tips, which can help with initiating turns.

TOILET TURNS: Sloppy turns made from the pooping position.

TOMAHAWK: To fall end over end down a mountain without any control. See also rag doll and screaming starfish.

TORSIONAL STIFFNESS: Refers to the ease with which the ski can be twisted.

TORSION BOX CONSTRUCTION: Fibreglass (often alongside other materials) is wrapped around the ski's core, creating a strong frame that is really responsive.

TOURING: Hiking on skis; travelling both up and downhill, often over long distances and multiple days, to reach terrain that can't be accessed from resort chairlifts.

TRACKED OUT: A slope, once pristine, that has seen its powder largely disappear due to the repeated tracks of skiers and snowboarders.

TRAIL: A marked ski run.

TRAM: Short for aerial tram, a lift with an enclosed compartment that is generally larger than a gondola. Also called a cable car, this type of aerial lift relies on a three-rope design in which two cables support the car and another provides propulsion.

TRANSITION: The sloped back side of a man-made jump, beyond the table-top.

TRAVERSE: To ski straight across the fall line or contour along a slope at the same elevation.

TRAYS: Skiers playfully remark that snowboarders slide on 'trays' down the mountain. the word 'trays' can be used to refer to the snowboarder themselves or the actual snowboard.

TREE SKIING: Skiing in a glade or forest, hopefully around the trees and not into the trunks or branches. Also called glade skiing.

TREE WELL: A void or depression around the base of a tree that can pose a potentially fatal hazard to skiers and snowboarders if they fall in and get buried.

TREELINE: Area on a mountain where trees stop growing due to harsher environmental conditions.

TRENCH: Deeply-carved track of a ski or snowboard.

TUCK: An aerodynamic position assumed by skiing racers that involves bending the knees and holding hands in front of face to minimise wind drag.

TUNE: To perform maintenance work on skis and snowboards, including sharpening the edges, fixing damage to the base, and applying wax.

TURN RADIUS: Also known as sidecut radius; the turn radius refers to the size of the turn that the ski can make and is directly related to the sidecut; the deeper the sidecut, the smaller the turn radius of the ski, the shallower the sidecut the larger the turn radius.

TWIN TIP: Twin tipped skis are generally used for freestyle skiing. As the name suggests, twin-tips have the same profile at the front and at the back making them easy to manoeuvre forwards and backwards!

 

UNTRACKED: Terrain with fresh snow that has yet to be visited and tracked out by skiers and snowboarders.

UNWEIGHTING: Reducing the downward pressure on skis or snowboards in order to facilitate a turn.

UPHILLING: Similar to ski touring, but not specific to a backcountry excursion. Many 'uphillers' will skin up the ski resort for exercise.

U.S.A.S.A: Acronym for the United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association.

U.S.S.A.: Acronym for the United States Ski Association, a national race organisation.

VERMIN: Groups of snowboarders or skiers blocking access to the lift lines.

VERTICAL DROP: 'Vert' for shorthand, this is a measure of how many feet of meters a skier or snowboarder has descended in a run, day, or a lifetime. Also used to describe the elevation difference between a resort's highest and lowest points.

VORLAGE: A skier leaning their weight forward, especially before a turn. Form the German for fore (vor) position (lage). Also a ski resort in Quebec, Canada.

WAIST DEEP: Used to describe thick snow or powder. 

WAIST WIDTH: Measurement of a ski or snowboard's width, taken at the narrowest point under or between the boots.

WEDELN: Linking hip-wiggling turns down the fall line, feet and knees locked together, edge-set minimal.

WEDGE: Also known as the snowplough, a technique in which the skis are put into a V-shape with the tips close together in order to slow or stop. Also called a 'pizza' in ski school for kids.

WHITE ROOM: When there are face shots galore and the skier or snowboarder's vision is being obscured by the powder.

WHITEOUT: When the weather comes in up the mountain and skiers or snowboarders are caught in a white cloud with little visibility.

WIDE-TRACK: Parallel skiing with feet 12 to 18 inches apart.

WIND HOLD: Stoppage of a chairlift, gondola, or other transport due to gusty winds.

WIND PACKED: Snow that has been shaped and hardened by the wind. 

WINDSHIELD WIPERS: Sloppy, skidded turns that resemble the back and forth of wiper blades.

WINTER THEME PARK: A former ski area that has become over-run with snow toys.

WORLD CUP: International races for all disciplines including alpine, cross-country, ski jumping, freestyle skiing and snowboarding and more.

WORM TURN: A freestyle trick in which a skier sits down on the snow while travelling, spins around in a full circle, and continues skiing. Also called a Polish doughnut.

X GAMES: ESPN's annual sports event that focuses on extreme sports. Winter X Games include Superpipe, Slopestyle, Skier X, Snowboarder X, Big Air, snowmobiling, and other events.

X.C. SKIING: Shorthand for cross-country skiing.

YARD SALE: A major crash in which a skier loses their poles, skis, clothing, and other items, littering the slopes with their possessions.

 

ZASTRUGI: Also spelt sastrugi, this is a wind-sculpted snow formation with irregular grooves and/or ridges.

ZIPPER LINE: In mogul skiing, this is the fastest route through the bumps, heading straight down the fall line, and requiring piston-like action in the legs.

ZORB: An orb, usually made of transparent plastic, that is large enough to contain one or more people and used to roll downhill.

1080: An aerial manoeuvre in which a skier or snowboarder rotates 1080 degrees, or three full turns.

180: An aerial manoeuvre in which a skier or snowboarder rotates 180 degrees, or a half-turn

2 PLANKS: A cheeky term used by snowboarders in reference to skiers.

360: An aerial manoeuvre in which a skier or snowboarder rotates 360 degrees, or a half-turn.

720: An aerial manoeuvre in which a skier or snowboarder rotates 720 degrees, or two full turns.