Glossary: skiing terms, snowboarding slang, and snow words

Here’s my master list of skiing terms and snowboarding slang, as well as other snow-related words and terminology. I’ve consulted a variety of sources, including books, online glossaries, instructional articles, and general purpose dictionaries.

If a term is highlighted with a hyperlink, clicking it will bring you to a post with greater detail on the skiing term, snowboarding lingo, or snow-related word.

I’m continually adding new posts, so connect with SnowSlang via email newsletter, RSS feedFacebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z #

A

AASI – American Association of Snowboard Instructors, a nonprofit that promotes snowboarding through instruction and creates certification standards for instructors. Affiliate of the Professional Ski Instructors of America and part of PSIA-AASI.

Aerial tramway – Also called a cable car, aerial tram or 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 ski – A versatile ski that performs well in a variety of conditions, including groomers, powder, bumps, and trees. Also known as mid-fat ski and one-ski quiver.

Alpine skiing – Sometimes called downhill skiing, the alpine side of the sport involves going uphill via chairlifts and downhill via bindings fixed to the skis.

Alpine touring – Abbreviated 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 phrase describes the food, drink, and other social activities that occur after a day of skiing (or snowboarding).

Arête – Thin, knife-like ridge that is typically formed when glaciers erode parallel valleys.

Audio helmet – A protective helmet that includes speakers in the earpieces 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. Also referred to as avi or avy. 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 home 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 fence), 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.

Back to top

B

Back bowl – Large, open basin that is located on the other side of a resort’s main ridgeline.

Backcountry – In the context of snow sports, this term refers to areas beyond the boundaries of ski resorts that lack avalanche control, lifts, and amenities.

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.

Balaclava – A snug garment worn over the head and neck, often with holes cut out for the eyes, nose, and mouth. See also ski mask.

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 – 1) A measure of the depth of snow, often reported by ski resorts. 2) The underside of a ski or snowboard. 3) The cluster of amenities at the bottom of a ski resort.

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

Basket – A device 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 green circle 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, than 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.

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 diamond – Symbol for slopes of expert difficulty at U.S. ski resorts. See also double black diamond.

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 for achieving face shots. See also Champagne Powder.

Blue square – Symbol for slopes of intermediate difficulty at U.S. ski resorts.

Bluebird – Sunny, cloudless conditions. Also called a bluebird day.

Boarder – Nickname for a snowboarder.

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

Boilerplate – 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 ski or snowboard quickly down the slopes. 2) To set off high explosives as part of avalanche control.

Bomber – A skier or snowboarder who is bombing down the slopes, traveling fast, often in a straight line, and perhaps recklessly.

Bombing – Travelling fast and straight down a slope, somewhat recklessly. See also schussing and straightlining.

Bowl – A large, open basin that is frequently above treeline and devoid of obstacles.

Brain bucket – Nickname for a protective helmet worn by a skier, snowboarder, skateboarder, bicyclist, motorcyclist, solider, etc. See also nutcase.

Bro – Short for brother, an affectionate term for a fellow male skier or snowboarder. May have connotation of a frat boy.

Bulletproof – Hard, compacted snow and ice that requires serious edging and is often caused by thaw-freeze cycle or rain falling on slopes. See also boilerplate and hardpack.

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, green circle trail at a ski resort, typically located at the base, where newbies and kids 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 – Smearing skis along the snow in a fashion similar to buttering a piece of bread. Common technique for powder skiing with fat, rockered skis. See also smearing.

Back to top

C

Camber – The slightly convex or arched shape of a ski or snowboard, when viewed from the side. Helps distribute riders weight along length of ski or board.

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.

Carving – Turning technique in which ski or snowboard is brought onto its edge, leaving behind a clean arc in the snow, as opposed to skidding, side-slipping, or smearing.

Carving ski – A stiff ski designed for speed and racing that performs best while edging and bombing down groomers.

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 (cat) 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.

Catching air – Performing an aerial maneuver and leaving the surface. See also big air.

Catwalk – Synonym for cat tracks, the relatively flat paths through ski areas that are used by snowcats, skiers, and snowboarders. In summer, these are often dirt roads.

Champagne powder – Light, low-density snow. Champagne Powder ®is now a registered trademark of Steamboat Ski Resort.

Chatter – Sound and vibration made by a ski or snowboard turning and having trouble maintaining an edge on hardback, boilerplate, or bulletproof snow.

Checking – Speed-reduction technique that involves briefly setting an edge to check one’s progress.

Chinese downhill – An event in which racers begin simultaneously, such as skier-cross and boardercross. Also called geschmozzle.

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, which frozen debris created by grooming machines and snowmaking.

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, slender gully, often lying in between rocky or otherwise impassable terrain.

Cirque – A bowl-like feature, often said to resemble an amphitheater, caused by glacial erosion.

Cold smoke – The plume of low, light-density snow that trails behind a skier or snowboarder. Similar to blower powder.

Cold-induced rhinorrhea – 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 snowcat or other grooming machine. So named for its resemblance to the fabric.

Core – Usually made from wood or foam, the core is 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 snow – Condition common in spring in which melting and freezing causes the snow to resemble kernels of white corn. Some describe riding on these frozen pellets as feeling like turning on ball bearings.

Cornice – 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.

Couloir – Steep and narrow snow-filled gully, often surrounded by rock walls and other impassable terrain that rise higher along the sides of the run. Also called a chute.

Counter-rotation – 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 travelers.

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 – Derogative term for snow when it’s lumpy, chunky, and difficult to turn in. After enough people ski and snowboard through powder, it turns to crud.

Cruising – Traveling downhill making wide-radius turns. In some cases, refers to a speedy descent but in other contexts suggests an easy, low-effort run.

Crust – Frozen layer of snow/ice that may serve as a solid layer underneath powder (see dust on crust) but also applies to thinner, breakable layer above softer snow than 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.

Back to top

D

Daffy – An aerial stunt in which a skier thrusts one ski forward and the other ski backward while they are airborne.

Death cookies – Small frozen chunks on a piste, usually caused by snowmaking and grooming operations. More common at Eastern and Midwestern resorts than Western ski areas.

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.

DIN settings – Measure 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.

Disco sticks – Short slalom skis.

Double black – Even more challenging than an expert black diamond trail, double black diamond runs are those in which riders face extreme risks, including very steep slopes, marginal snow cover, cliffs, and other obstacles.

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.

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 (e.g., it’s going to dump tomorrow, I enjoyed skiing last night’s major dump)

Dumping – Description of heavy snowfall. Similar to nuking or puking.

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 readings on ski boot shells.

Dust on crust – When a very shallow layer of fresh snow covers the hardpack underneath.

Back to top

E

Eagle – Also called spread eagle, this aerial move involves spreading one’s legs and arms wide apart while in the air.

Eat shit – To crash hard.

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.

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 trail – A black diamond trail. Even more difficult double black diamond trails are often called “extreme.”

Extreme – Generally considered more risky and difficult than “expert” and often used to denote double black diamond runs.

Back to top

F

Face plant – A fall in which you land on your face. Could be fun if it’s on a powder day, or lead to injury if you land on hardpack.

Face shot – When powder sprays a skier or snowboarder’s face. The snow must be deep and light enough (e.g., blower, Champagne Powder ®) and the rider must have sufficient speed to elevate the snow to face level.

Fakie – Skiing or snowboarding backwards.

Fall line – The natural descent between two points on a slope: imagine the path a ball would take rolling down the mountain.

Falling leaf – Novice snowboarding move in which a rider descends by skidding back and forth on the same edge, akin to a falling leaf zigzagging to the ground.

Fartbag – A one-piece ski suit, also known as a onsie.

Figure 11 – To ski in a straight line (schuss) through powder, leaving behind parallel tracks that resemble the number 11.

First tracks – Making your mark on a pristine slope before others hit the trail, especially on a powder day.

FIS – 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 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 stiffer the boot. Also used to describe stiffness of skis and snowboards.

Flex index – A measure of the stiffness of ski boots, generally running from 50 (soft) to 130 (very stiff).

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 on snowing, offering bottomless fun and preventing the pistes from getting tracked out.

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.

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 visualize two skis pointed parallel, as opposed to the “pizza” stance that puts the skis in a snowplow or wedge.

Freshies – Fresh, untracked powder.

Back to top

G

Gaper – 1) Novice skier or snowboarder whose fashion or hapless technique makes them stand out (so-named for the gap between their goggles and helmet). 2) Spectator on a slope who impede downhill progress.

Garlands – Basic skiing and snowboarding maneuver in which partial or half-turns leave behind a pattern similar to a Christmas garland.

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

Giant slalom – Abbreviated 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 gates are even farther apart.

Glade – A stand of trees that is fairly open, sometimes found near tree line. Glade skiing and snowboarding describes travel through forests where the trunks are more widely spaced than in tree skiing and snowboarding.

Gnarly – Difficult conditions or terrain. See also shred the gnar.

Gondola – An aerial lift that carries skiers and snowboarders up a mountain in a closed compartment that hangs from a rotating steel cable. Compare with aerial tramway.

Goofy stance – As opposed to the “normal” stance, the goofy stance in snowboarding has the rider’s right foot in front.

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

Granular surface – Snow that has been packed down and possibly groomed, causing the surface to have tiny ice pellets.

Graupel – Type of precipitation caused when freezing fog condenses on a snowflake. Looks like Styrofoam BBs and is also called snow pellets or soft hail.

Green circle – Symbol for easiest trails at ski area. Usually groomed, wide, and not too steep. See also blue square, black diamond, and double black diamond.

Groomer – A groomed trail at a ski resort that is manicured by machine, often creating a corduroy pattern in the snow.
Grooming – The process of maintaining trails at resorts by spreading out snow and smoothing bumps, often using snowcats and other heavy equipment.

Back to top

H

Half pipe – A frozen U-shaped structure used in freestyle skiing and snowboarding for aerial tricks.

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

Hardpack – Synonym for boilerplate and bulletproof, this term refers to hard, dense snow and ice caused by repeated traffic or freezing.

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. Also spelled heliskiing.

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 chairlift.

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.

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 launch off a cliff, cornice, or other precipice.

Back to top

I

I love big dumps – Expression meant to signify one’s passion for powder days and large snowfall events.

Inbounds – Terrain lying within the boundaries of a ski area that is subject to avalanche control and other safety measures. Also spelled in-bounds.

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

Integrated binding – Bindings designed for specific ski brand and packaged together with the skis. By bending with the ski, they can provide greater control.

Intermediate trail – A trail of middling difficulty marked with a blue diamond.

Invert – To go upside down in an aerial trick. Short for inverted.

Back to top

J

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). Also see joey and gaper.

Jetting – When exiting a turn, a skier accelerates by jetting their 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 or bouncing off a feature in a terrain park.

Jibber – A skier or snowboarder who is fond of riding in terrain parks and doing tricks. See also park rat.

Joey – An inexperienced skier or snowboarder whose lack of ability of fashion sense is noticeable.

Back to top

K

Knuckle dragger – Description of a snowboarder, 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 treeline.

Back to top

L

Leash – A cord, belt, or other such device to attach a snowboard to a rider. 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 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 chairlift, gondola, or tram.

Liftie – Nickname for a chair lift operator.

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

Back to top

M

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.

Manky – An object, often clothing, that has become dirty and foul-smelling due to repeated use.

Mashed potatoes – Wet, sloppy, heavy snow conditions that resemble the side dish (see also corn snow).

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.

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 millimeters and based on the mean foot length and width for which each shoe is suitable.

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

Mountain rescue dog – Specially trained canines that assist human rescuers in locating and digging out avalanche victims. Also known as an avalanche dog.

Mute grab – Snowboard trick in which the rider’s front hand grabs the board in between the bindings.

Back to top

N

NASTAR – 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. 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.

No friends on powder days –  Alpine expression that describes the imperative of a ski bum or snowboarder to ditch his or her posse and go get first tracks on a powder day.

Back to top

O

Off-piste – Area beyond the trails (pistes) of a ski area, 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.

Onsie – A one-piece ski suit. Also known as a fartbag.

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 the patrolled boundaries of a ski resort. Includes sidecountry, slackcountry, and backcountry.

Back to top

P

Packed powder – Relatively fresh snowfall that has been compacted by grooming machines and/or the traffic of skiers and snowboarders.

Parabolic skis – Ski with wider tips and a narrower waist to facilitate turning. Also called a shaped ski.

Park – Short for terrain park, an outdoor recreation area where skiers and snowboarders can perform tricks on jibs and features.

Park rat – Someone who loves to do tricks in the terrain park. See also jibber.

Phat – Excellent or awesome. Also used to describe the width of a powder ski.

Pillow – Similar to a 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 – Moniker for a half pipe.

Piste – A downhill ski trail, typically with the snow compacted. See also off-piste.

Pistenbully – Brand of snow grooming machines that is popular at 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.

Poaching – Ducking a rope or otherwise entering a closed 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 traveling, spins around in full circle, and continues skiing. Also called a worm turn.

Poma lift – Type of detachable surface lift in which skiers and snowboarders rest on a platter while being tugged up a hill.

Pooping – Sitting way back on one’s skis.

Posse – A group of people who have come together for a common purpose, such as a bunch of friends going skiing or snowboarding together. See also wolfpack.

Pow – Shorthand for powder. See also pow pow.

Pow pow – Somewhat redundant shorthand for powder. See also pow.

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.

Powder day clause – Element of one’s work arrangement, either formal, implied, or secret, in which the party is entitled to blow off their job and go skiing when there’s fresh powder. Common in ski towns and among ski bums. Also called powder clause.

Powder hound – A skier or snowboarder who is dedicated to finding fresh show. Often used to describe those willing to travel great distances or to remote portions of ski areas to find their precious pow.

Powder leash – A device attached to skis to prevent them from being lost on a deep powder day. Snowboard leashes are also common since boards lack the brakes that are standard on most ski bindings.

Powder pig – Similar to a powder hound, a powder pig is obsessed with wallowing in the white room often to the exclusion of other obligations. May devote significant time to finding and gorging on secret stashes.

PSIA – Professional Ski Instructors of America, the main organization that certifies and represents skiing instructors. Connected to AASI, the American Association of Snowboard Instructors.

Back to top

Q

Quad – A four-seat chairlift.

Quads – Quads are short for the quadriceps femoris muscle of the thigh that get a real workout during skiing and snowboarding.

Quarterpipe – A smaller version of a half pipe.

Quiver – One’s collection of skis or snowboards. Each “arrow” in the quiver is a different style of ski for certain conditions, such as powder, backcountry, and piste. See also one-ski quiver.

Back to top

R

Racing skis – Designed for speed, these skis tend to be stiff and are designed for racing at the professional level.

Rag doll – Description of a skier or snowboarder tumbling downhill while limp and presumably hurt.

Rail – A metal pipe or bar in a terrain park that skiers and snowboards slide along.

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.

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.

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

Ripper – An accomplished skier or snowboarder who knows how to shred.

Rocker – Style of ski or snowboard in which the tips are raised higher than the middle, akin to the rails on a rocking chair. Also known as reverse camber.

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.

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

Back to top

S

Sastrugi – Also spelled 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.

Scraper – 1) An unskilled snowboarder who is scraping away powder by edging straight down the fall line, sometimes while sitting (see butt-dragger). 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 radius turns – 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. See also avalanche shovel.

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.

Shred the gnar – To ski or snowboard with exceptional speed, ability, or enthusiasm, especially in challenging terrain and conditions. See also shred and gnarly.

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

Sidecountry – Out-of-bounds terrain just beyond a ski resort that is easier to access than the backcountry. Typically, the skier or snowboarder will still have to hike, skin, or climb.

Sidecut – A measure of the gradual hourglass shape of parabolic skis and shaped skis.

Sideslip – Skidding down a 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.

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.

Sit ski – 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 that longer skis and sometimes used for tricks.

Ski brake – Device on a binding used to prevent a ski from traveling downhill when the boot isn’t engaged. Also called a snow brake.

Ski bum – Someone totally dedicated to skiing (or snowboarding) who arranges their life around powder days.

Ski bunny – A female skier, sometimes one who is more concerned with her fashion than her turns.

Ski goggles – Special eye protection worn by skier 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. Also used during bank robberies.

Ski patrol – Organization 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 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 – Description of the area to the left of a skier (or snowboarder) as they head and look downhill.

Skier’s right – Description of the area to the right of a skier (or snowboarder) as they head and 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 motorized transportation.

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

Skinning – The process of walking uphill on skis using special adhesive skins fastened to the base of the skis that maintain traction.

Skins – Adhesive strips that are attached to the bottom of skis with telemark or alpine touring bindings to enable walking uphill without sliding backwards. Also called climbing skins.

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).

Slopestyle – Event in 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 height of jumps, degree of difficulty, and execution.

Slush – Snow that has begun melting in earnest, leaving behind a heavy, wet mess that can be difficult to turn in. See also mashed potatoes.

Smearing – Skidding a turn in powder, similar to how one would smear cream cheese on a bagel. Common technique for powder skiing with fat, rockered skis. See also smearing.

SNOTEL – An automated system of more than 730 SNOw TELemetry and climate sensors operated by the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service.

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 mountain while sitting and steers with their hands. Sometimes used to describe fatbikes with oversized, underinflated tires that are actually pedaled over snow, sand, and other soft terrain.

Snow farm – A ski area that depends on artificial, manmade snow.

Snow gun – Equipment used in snowmaking and grooming operations to create artificial snow.

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. See also cat skiing.

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

Snowplow – In the skiing context, a wedge move that points the ski tips together in order to slow or stop.

Snowslide – Sometimes used as a synonym with avalanche, the term snowslide suggests an event with only snow falling down a slope.
Snow-water equivalent – A measurement of the snowpack that gauges the water content and describes how much water would result if you instantly melted the entire snowpack.

Softgoods – Snow sports industry term for skiing and snowboarding clothing and apparel, as opposed to the hardgoods category that 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 description 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.

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 – Description of high-angle pistes and backcountry terrain.

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. See also bombing and schussing.

Sucker hole – Colloquial term, originating in sailing, that describes a quick break in the weather or a small hole in the cloud cover.

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

Superpipe – An especially large half pipe with walls rising 22 feet from the bottom of the U-shaped structure.

Surface lift – 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.

Back to top

T

Tail – The back end of a ski or snowboard.

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.

Tomahawk – To fall end over end down a mountain without any control. See also rag doll.

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.

Terrain park – An outdoor recreation area where skiers and snowboarders can perform tricks on jibs and features.

Tracked out – A slope, once pristine, that has seen its powder largely disappear due to the repeated tracks of skiers and snowboarders.

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.

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

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 the 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. Also spelled tree line.

Trenching – Laying down deep channels in powder while skiing or snowboarding.

Trustafarian – Rich young person who adopts a hippie lifestyle while surviving off a trust fund or similar financial support from their family. A subspecies of ski bum and powder hound.

Tuck – Aerodynamic position assumed by skiing racers that involves bending knees and holding hands in front of face to minimize wind drag.

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

Turning radius – The radius of an imaginary circle created by a ski carving an arc. Deeper sidecut skis have a smaller turning radius.

Twin tip – Alpine skis with the tip and tail both turned up, allowing the skier to easily travel or land backwards.

Back to top

U

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.

USASA – Acronym for the United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association.

Back to top

V

Vertical drop – “Vert” for shorthand, this is a measure of how many feet or meters a skier or snowboarder has descended in a run, day, or 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. From the German for fore (vor) position (lage). Also a ski resort in Québec, Canada.

Back to top

W

Waist width – Measurement of a ski or snowboard’s width, taken at the narrowest point under or between the boots.

Wedge – Also known as the snowplow, a technique in which the skis are put in 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 – Weather condition in which visibility is severely compromised due to blowing snow, making it hard to find the horizon or reference points. May induce vertigo and ski sickness.

Wind hold – Stoppage of a chair lift, gondola, or other transport due to gusty winds.

Wind packed – Snow that has been shaped and hardened by the wind. See also sastrugi or zastrugi.

Windshield wipers – Sloppy, skidded turns that resemble the back and forth of wiper blades.

Wolfpack –  A group of male friends who ski or ride together. See also posse.

Worm turn – A freestyle trick in which a skier sits down on the snow while traveling, spins around in full circle, and continues skiing. Also called a Polish doughnut.

Back to top

X

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.

XC skiing – Shorthand for cross-country skiing.

Back to top

Y

Yard sale – A major crash in which a skier loses their poles, skis, clothing, and other items, littering the slopes with their possessions.

Back to top

Z

Zastrugi – Also spelled sastrugi, this is a wind-sculpted snow formation with irregular grooves and/or ridges.

Zipper line – In mogul skiing, 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.

Back to top

#

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

180 – An aerial maneuver in which a skier or snowboarder rotates 180 degrees, or a half-turn.

360 – An aerial maneuver in which a skier or snowboarder rotates 360 degrees, or a half-turn

420 – Code that signifies acceptance of cannabis or signals it’s time to consume. Pronounced four-twenty and also written as 4:20 and 4/20.

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

SnowSlang.com is an illustrated glossary of skiing terms and snowboarding slang. Deepen your knowledge and love for snow sports by opting-in for our email newsletter, subscribing to our RSS feed, and connecting with us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+.

Photo of snow cornice and other skiing terms

A snow cornice in Vasquez Cirque, part of Winter Park ski area. Photo by Mitch Tobin.

Back to top