A guide to skiing vocab!

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Essential (and less essential) Skiing Vocab

There are lots of words which are only ever heard in a ski resort, so if it’s your first time skiing be prepared for some new and strange vocab.

While it’s important to learn the basic terms before navigating a ski resort, there are also some much more nitty gritty words you’ll rarely hear unless you hang around with some pro skiers who live and breath riding.

But first let’s start with the basics, and the most important terms to know for your ski holiday:

  • Green run – The easiest run in resort, for first time riders
  • Blue run – The next level up, but still quite steady slopes
  • Red run – Intermediate level ski run
  • Black run – Advanced level ski run
  • Backcountry – Non-pisted areas of the slope which doesn’t have avalanche control in place
  • Cable Car – Enclosed ski lift, also known as a bubble lift
  • Cross-country Skiing – A type of Nordic skiing where a rider uses narrow skis which have heel releases
  • Gondola – Similar to a cable car but usually smaller
  • Magic Carpet – A conveyor-belt style ski lift typically found on bunny slopes
  • Avalanche – When loose snow falls down the mountain, gathering other snow on its way. These can be lethal if you are caught by one
  • Off-piste – Non-pisted, backcountry parts of the mountain
  • Snow park – A roped off freestyle zone filled with jumps, rails, fun boxes, and other assorted obstacles
  • Drag Lift/pommel – A type of ski lift which drags you up the mountain while you are on your skis or board
  • T-bar lift – Like a drag lift, but with a T-bar shaped arm suspension

And here are some less essential but still quite common skiing terms:

  • All-mountain skis – Skis designed to work in all conditions
  • Alpine Ski – Downhill skiing, the opposite of Nordic skiing
  • Avalanche Beacon/Transceiver – Avalanche equipment worn by a skier or border. If the individual is caught in an avalanche, it sends out a signal out so that rescuers can locate them
  • Avalanche Control – Triggering avalanches through artificial means
  • Baseplate/Binding Plate – The bottom section of a ski or board binding
  • Basket – The round or starshaped part at the bottom of ski poles which prevents the poles going too deep in the snow
  • Binding – The part that connects the boot to the board or skis
  • Boot Board – The platform inside a boot shell that the liner sits on top of
  • Bowl – Large mountain basin popular among skiers for doing long sweeping turns
  • Bumps/Mogels – Bumpy parts of a slope which make for trickier skiing
  • Camber – Upward curvature on base of board or skis
  • Cant – The lateral angle of the boot in relation to the ski or snowboard
  • Carving – Turning technique using the edge of skis or snowboard to reduce slowing down
  • Carving skis – Narrower skis designed for carving
  • Cat Tracks – Relatively flat paths created by the Snowcats
  • Chatter – Vibration of skis or board caused by riding at high speeds
  • Cirque – similar to a bowl, but steeper
  • Cornice – an overhang of snow caused by constant wind. These are broken during avalanche control
  • Couloir – A gorge or gully on the side of the mountain, often skied down by off-piste skiers
  • Crevasse – A deep and often hidden crack in a glacier or permafrost
  • Dampening – A tool used to reduce chatter
  • DIN Settings – The amount of tension needed on a binding to release the skis in a crash
  • Edge – Sharpened metal strip on side of skis or snowboard designed to make better turns
  • Effective Edge – The length of the edge that is in contact with the snow
  • Fall Line – The most direct route down a slope
  • First tracks – First marks made in fresh snow
  • Flex – The stiffness of the outer shell of a ski boot
  • Footbed – Removable sole in a ski boot
  • Freestyle – A type of skiing focused on tricks
  • Frozen Granular – Old snow that has been frozen together
  • Grab – Holding on to any part of your skis or board while in the air
  • Granula surface – A surface of snow which has been very packed down
  • Grooming – The most common form of trail grooming
  • Halfpipe – A U-shaped channel with smooth walls used by freestyle skiers and snowboarders to do aerial tricks
  • Heliskiing – An advanced form of skiing which involves a helicopter dropping the skier on to a very difficult part of the mountain. Illegal in France but is still done in other places
  • Indy Grab – Grabbing in between your board bindings when jumping, otherwise known as a safety grab on skis
  • Method Grab – Front hand grabs the back of the snowboard
  • Jib – Riding across anything that isn’t snow
  • Kicker – A triangular wedge shaped jump
  • Liner – The soft inner part of a boot
  • Micro-fleece – An improved form of fleece with a tighter, less dense knit
  • Monoski – A single ski with both boots attached
  • Mute Grab – Grabbing the toe edge of your snowboard between the bindings with your front hand
  • Packed Powder – Relatively new snow which has been flattened
  • Pit Zips – Zips under your armpits for ventilation
  • Pole Grip – The handle on a ski pole
  • Powder Skis – Skis designed to float atop powder
  • Power Strip – The strap on top of a ski boot
  • Quarterpipe – A halfpipe divided in half lengthways and used for a single, often massive, aerial trick
  • Racer Skis – Typically longer, thinner, and stiffer skis designed for racing
  • Racing Boot – Typically narrower and stiffer boots designed for racing
  • Rail – A bar, typically metal, used by freestylers to slide across
  • Reverse Camber – The downward arc created in skis or a board made by the pressure from the rider’s weight
  • Schussing/ Straight-lining – Skiing straight downhill without turning
  • Shell – The hard outer plastic part of the ski boot
  • Shovel – The front end of a ski which bows up to avoid sinking into the snow
  • Sidecut – The inner curvature of a ski or snowboard
  • Ski Boards/Snowblades – Extremely short skis
  • Ski Brake – An attachment for ski bindings designed to stop a ski from shooting downhill after detaching
  • Ski Patrol – Skiers and boarders responsible for slope safety
  • Ski-in Ski-out – Accommodation which can be skied up to and straight out of
  • Skins – Strips of material that can be temporarily attached to the bottom of skis, used for climbing up hills
  • Snowcat – A tracked vehicle used for moving around snowy, mountainous areas. Also used to groom runs
  • Snowplough – A beginners technique for slowing down on skis, by turning the tips of each ski in to each other to make an upside down V
  • Snowskate – A skate board without wheels used on snow
  • Superpipe – A larger version of a regular halfpipe
  • Tail – The backend of a ski
  • Telemark Skiing – A mix between alpine and cross-country skiing which uses detaching heel binders to allow for traversing, but also has wide enough skis to handle high speeds and sharp turns
  • Transitions – The section of a halfpipe linking the vertical walls to the flat floor
  • Traverse – Skiing across a slope in a zig-zag pattern
  • Tree Line – The altitude at which trees stop growing on the mountain
  • Twin Tip – Skis where both the tail and the tip are curved upwards, allowing for backwards skiing
  • Vertical Drop – The distance between the base of the mountain and its tallest point
  • Wax – Used on skis or a board to keep them gliding smoothly
  • Waxless Skis – A type of cross country skis with a crosshatch or fish scale pattern on the base which means it has no need to be waxed
  • White Out – When visibility is so poor you basically can’t see anything
  • Wind Packed – Snow which has been flattened by the wind
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