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A Beginner’s Guide to Ski Slang


Like in any sport, there is a dictionary of slang words that, if heard out of context, could be quite confusing. The sports we love most – skiing and riding – have their own vocabulary to define its culture. Check out the definitions of some of the most commonly used lingo and jargon so you aren’t caught off guard in your next chair lift conversation.


Après: This can be used as a noun or verb and refers to après ski, or “after ski.” This means getting a drink or food after a delightful day on the hill. You might say, “Where are we meeting for après?”

Avy: Short for avalanche. Often heard in reference to “Avy Dogs“.

Avy Dog: A dog trained in the art and technique of search and rescue after an avalanche. They work along side their owners on the resort’s ski patrol team.

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Backcountry: An area outside of the ski resort boundaries. This area is not patrolled or cleared of avalanche danger. Ski and ride the backcountry at your own risk.

Bar down/Bar up?: This refers to the safety bar on the chairlift. If you sit down on the chairlift and the person next to you says, “Bar down?” they are not propositioning you for a drink. They are politely inquiring if it’s OK to put the safety bar down, meaning you should situate yourself accordingly. When the lift nears its departure point and someone says, “Bar up?” they are saying it’s time to bring the safety bar up, so you should take your skis/board off of it.

Big/huge dump: Stop it with your potty mind. A big dump is a significant snowfall. Your buddy calls you from Park City and says, “You gotta get up here. We got a huge dump last night.”

Blue Bird: A beautiful, blue sky day.

Boards: Snowboards and skis. If someone on the lift is looking at your feet and says, “nice boards,” they are talking about your skis.

Bombing: Going downhill at a fast rate of speed, usually out of control. Also see: straightlining.

Brah, Bra, or Bro: A term of endearment between males (and sometimes females) that bond through their level of extremeness.

Bunny Slope: The easy and flat area where beginners learn to ski or ride. Usually found near the bottom of the mountain or close to a base area.

Carve: To use the edges of your skis or snowboard to cut a nice, deep turn in the snow.

Cat tracks: This does not refer to mountain lions. Cat tracks reference the flattish, narrow ski trails that function as service roads for snowcats and other on-mountain vehicles. They are typically the mildest green-rated trails on which to get down the mountain.

Chowder: Choppy skied out snow + powder = chowder. Not easy to ski in. AKA Tracked out.

Corduroy: The pattern left on a run after grooming. Corduroy can make anyone look like an expert! Aka: Groomer.

Dial in: This term has been circulating for about a decade, but still pertains to perfecting a trick, or discovering equipment that works well for you. For example, on the second or third time using your skis and adjusting the bindings and having a fantastic day on the hill, you can say, “I finally got my gear dialed in.”

Dumping: When it’s snowing a lot. Used in the same way you’d use “pouring” when talking about rain. It’s always a great thing when you look out the window and can say “it’s dumping out.”

Dust on crust: When only a little amount of snow falls on top of crusty snow. Crusty snow is a thin frozen layer of snow.

Face Shot: Powder that is so deep that it hits your face on every turn. When skiing in deep powder, you may also need a snorkel.

Fall Line: The line you take down the hill. Usually you turn on either side of the fall line.

First chair: When you arrive at the mountain before the chairlift starts and are waiting in line. Your buddy may ask you, “When did you get here?” And you’ll proudly reply, “I was here for first chair.”

First Tracks: When you are the first person to ski or ride through fresh snow. AKA: Freshies.

Flat Light: Grey, foggy, cloudy and overcast skies that cause dim light. This makes it hard to see variations in the snow and terrain. This is very vertigo inducing.

French Fries: Skiing with your skis parallel to each other. The opposite of: Pizza.

Freshies: This refers to making the first tracks through untouched snow/powder. As in, “That line was so sick, I got freshies the whole way down.” AKA: First Tracks.

Gnar: Shortened from gnarly. Slang for something that is difficult, dangerous, or challenging, but in a good way. Often heard as “Shred the Gnar”.

Groomers: The ski runs that are manicured (or groomed) by machines (called snowcats) for velvety smooth, consistent snow. When asked which area of the mountain you skied, you might say, “I ripped groomers all day.”

Hill: The ski mountain. Used more frequently these days than “slopes.” When your buddy calls when you’re skiing, you should say, “I’m on the hill. I’ll call you later.”

Hit It: Slang term for launching off a jump. Also called Huck It or Send it.

Launch: To go higher or farther than you expected off of a jump.

Liftie: Ski lift operator.

Little ripper: Kids who leave you in the dust. You see a kid flying down a steep mogul run and say, “look at that little ripper!” You may also hear the talented kiddos referred to as grommets, or simply groms.

Make turns (phrasal verb): To ski or snowboard. For example, when you call your buddy to see if he/she wants to go skiing, you say, “Hey buddy, want to make some turns today?”

Off-piste: Either an out of bounds area, or in bound runs that are not specifically cut and groomed.

On-piste: On trail, usually the groomed runs of a resort.

Park: The terrain park—where the halfpipe and jumps are located.

Park rat: Skiers/riders who hang out in the terrain park most of the time.

Pizza: Besides my favorite food, pizza is when you ski with your skis in a wedge, or pizza shape, with the tips of your skis closer together than the tails. This is how beginners learn to ski. Also known as snowplowing.

Pow: Short for powder, as in, powdery snow. Let’s take a moment to point out that there are literally dozens of special terms for various types of snow and a long list for powder alone. “Pow” is one of the most frequently used for powder and is typically presented in expressions such as, “I skied some sick pow today,” or, “the pow was knee-deep.” Another favorite used similarly: “the gnar.”

Ride: To snowboard (and sometimes ski). Your friend calls and asks, “You riding today?” Hopefully, the answer is yes.

Rider: Snowboarder (and in some contexts, it can also be used for skiers)

Rip: To ski or ride very well. Someday, someone will look at you and say, “Woah. You rip.” And your life will be complete.

Ripper: A talented skier who can “rip” everything on the mountain.

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Setup: Your equipment: skis, board and bindings/boots. If someone asks what kind of setup you have, they want to know what kind of skis or board you ride.

Shredder: A talented snowboarder who can “shred” everything on the mountain.

Ski Bum: Someone’s top priority is skiing or riding, and often fits work around their ride schedule.

Slopes: The ski mountain/runs/trails. The phrase, “on the slopes” is somewhat outdated. If you answer your phone while you’re skiing and tell somebody, “I’m on the slopes,” you will sound old.

Send It: To launch off a jump.

Side Country: Backcountry terrain that you access through defined gates at the ski resort boundaries. This area is not patrolled or cleared of avalanche danger. Ski and ride the side country at your own risk.

Snowplow: This is both a noun and a verb, used for the technique and ski positioning beginners implement to slow down and turn with their ski tips together. It’s also called “pizza” or “pizza slice.” Your ski instructor might tell you to “start your snowplow” as you get nearer to the base of the ski run.

Stash: A secret area of snow or powder that not many people know about. You might ask the liftie, “Hey, are there any good stashes up there?” They may or may not share intel with you.

Stick it: When you successfully land a trick. For example, you’re watching the Dew Tour at Breckenridge and you see Olympic gold medalist Dave Wise launch off the wall of the halfpipe and complete four and a half rotations in the air, landing flawlessly and you say, “I can’t believe he just stuck that sixteen-hundred.” (There is an entire lexicon for ski/snowboard tricks and spins. We won’t get into that right now.)

Straightlining: Going down a slope at a high rate of speed without turning. It is usually illegal on most runs.

Strap in: When snowboarders have to strap their free foot onto the board before heading down the ski run. If you take off down the trail and your snowboarder buddy says, “Hey, I have to strap in,” they need to stop for a moment.

Tracked Out: A slope of once fresh snow that has already been skied out.

Ungroomed: This refers to ski runs that feature natural snow that has not been manicured by machines. This means the trail might be covered in moguls, variable snow conditions, or sick pow.

Yard Sale: A type of fall when someone loses their gear, including ejecting from their skis, dropping their poles, and other accessories are scattered across a run.

This is by no means a full list, but just a guide to get you started talking like a skier or snowboarder. This newly-learned vocabulary will help you understand skier lingo so that you can talk the talk as well as you walk the walk. Get out there and shred the gnar!

Do you know any lingo that we don’t? Comment below:

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Comments

  1. ‘Fall line’ is where a ball would go if you rolled it down the mountain. You aren’t necessarily skiing the fall line, nor are the runs necessarily cut along the fall line. It’s the desirable path to take since it means equal time during your left and right turns.

  2. Gaper: a tourist from a non mountainous state that stands in an in opportune place (like right below a jump) looking around at the scenery.

  3. Yo dudes: a collective term for a group of snowboarders of either set. Sometimes the feminine of this is “dudettes

  4. It’s great that you talked about ski vocabulary and its meaning. Recently, my wife and I started to try different extreme sports out. We thought we ran out of ideas, but we’ve never tried skiing before, so we’ll be sure to look into your article first. Thanks for the advice on ski culture and how to talk to other skiers.

  5. clear: to land on the other side of the knuckle(not the top)

    gap: a gap between your helmet and googles

    Jerry: the worst ever term to be callled in skiing history. Google gap, upside down pole and an awful skier

    Side jumper: the people who go off the rail jumps (DONT BE ONE!)

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