Quick guide to... A-Z Glossary of ski slang and trail talk

A Apres

Alpine Skiing:

Classic downhill skiing as opposed to Cross Country Skiing.

Apres Ski:

Literal translation is ‘after skiing’. When the lifts close for the evening (usually around 4-5pm) many people see this as an opportunity to head to the local bar for a tipple. 


A mass of snow, rock and ice falling down the side of a mountain at high speeds. There will be signs posted around the mountain if there is a high avalanche risk. See: Quick guide to signs and symbols (coming soon!)

B Backcountry


Refers to an area outside of the resort boundaries. Un-groomed and quite typically wild country, anyone having less than an expert ability is thoroughly advised to avoid these areas. Ski and board at your own risk.


Quite often refers to the base station on the mountain- the ‘main gathering area’ at the bottom of the ski resort where the lowest chair lifts start.


The round or star shaped piece of plastic on the bottom of your ski pole.


A bank of snow (or sometimes much higher) that builds up along the edges of the pistes. Berms act as outline for the skiable area, protect you from going off the piste and also provide some fun to practise your freestyle tricks off.


What you clip your ski boots into that holds them to the skis or snowboard.


See: Quick guide to... piste and slope classification & signs around the resort (coming soon!)

Black Diamond:

See: Quick guide to piste and slope classification & signs around the resort (coming soon!)

Blue bird:

Slang for extremely pleasant weather characterised by clear blue skies.


A skier or snowboarder ‘bombing’ down a piste in a recklessly fast fashion.


A land feature that is often tackled by the more experienced skiers and boarders. A bowl is quite literally a bowl-like land feature that has high, steep sides that grow gentler towards the bottom.

Brain Bucket:

A slang term for a helmet.


See Moguls

Button lift:

See: Quick guide to lifts and modes of transport (coming soon!)


C Cablecar

Cable Car:

See: Quick guide to lifts and modes of transport (coming soon!)


A series of clean turns using the edges of skis or snowboard.

Chair lift:

See: Quick guide to lifts and modes of transport (coming soon!) 


Another natural landscape shape that skiers and boarders love to tackle- a chute is a sleep and narrow gully surrounded by high sides. Usually found in backcountry skiing/boarding.


An overhang of snow that can be seen on roofs, tips of mountains, edges of the piste. Caused by high winds whipping fresh snow into interesting shapes. These snow features can be more hassle than they are worth, however, large ones can break off and cause avalanches.


A very deep, and usually hidden crack or crater in a glacier. Once again, found in backcountry or glacier skiing, a guide knows when and where to watch out for crevasses.

Cross-Country skiing:

Sometimes referred to as Nordic Skiing and classically different from downhill Alpine Skiing. Cross-Country skiing features special skis where the heel is not attached to the ski so that you can ‘walk’ across long distances aided by poles.


A type of snow. Typically softer, more pliable snow is covered by a thin (or sometimes thick) layer of ice.

D Draglift

Death Cookies:

Cookie sized chunks of ice (sometimes more like boulders) that are created by the piste bashers and grooming processes. This is magnified when the conditions get very cold!

Downhill skiing:

See Alpine skiing

Drag lift:

See: Quick guide to lifts and modes of transport (coming soon!) 


‘It’s dumping with snow outside!’ A very heavy dose of snow, usually overnight, with plenty of fresh powder snow to play in afterwards.

Dynamic stance:

With the terrain constantly changing on the mountain it’s important to adopt your dynamic stance- knees bent and flexible, placed slightly apart, in line with your hips, head raised and eyes focused on the area in front of you. This stance helps you to maintain your balance as you travel along.

E Esf



The sharp metal edge along the outside of your skis or snowboard.


Ecole du Ski Français- Largest ski school organisation in France with over 250 local schools and nearly 15,000 ski instructors. Recognised throughout the French Alps with their red jackets!


F Freestyle

Fall Line:

Hypothetical line for the most direct route down a piste/trail.


A phrase coined in the 1990’s that refers to adventurous backcountry skiing. Not to be confused with... (see following)


A style of skiing or snowboarding primarily focused on jumping into the air and doing lots of ‘tricks’- grabbing the tips of your skis/board or doing a twist are just a few examples.

Fun Box:

One of the features of a freestyle park, a literal ‘box’ that can hold the weight of a skier or snowboarder sliding across it.

Funicular Railway:

See: Quick guide to lifts and modes of transport (coming soon!)


G Grooming

Giant Slalom:

See Slalom


The frozen mass of ice and snow that sits on top of many mountains is often accessible to ski on into the summer months. Glacier skiing and snowboarding is not for the faint hearted for it often involves travelling right to the very top of the mountain via snowmobile or helicopter.


A word for something that is over the top extreme, radical, dangerous and/or perfect. It can be used in both positive and negative contexts. i.e that was an awesome ski run, so steep and Gnarly/his cut on his hand was really gnarly!


A shortened version of Gnarly, meaning high on the scale of ‘cool’ or ‘radness’. GNAR is actually an acronym for Gaffney’s Numerical Assessment of Radness, a game invented by the late Shane McConkey and Robb Gaffney at Squaw Valley Resort. The game is simple; you get GNAR points for doing cool stuff. Skiers quickly adapted this game in order to push themselves, get one up on each other and just have fun whilst making idiots of themselves.


See: Quick guide to lifts and modes of transport (coming soon!)


See: Quick guide to piste and slope classification (coming soon!)


Most resorts will ‘groom’ the slopes after the lights go off. This is usually done with a tractor at night time combing/ploughing out the snow on the slopes that gets messy during the day so that they are smooth and fresh in the morning.


H Heliskiing


Another feature that appeals to freestyle skiers is the halfpipe. A U-shaped channel with smooth and manicured sides that freestyle skiers can launch themselves off and perform tricks.


See Packed powder.


A form of backcountry touring: helicopter-assisted skiing is often quite an expensive adventure but well worth the while! Access remote areas by helicopter and ski through vast expanses of untouched snow and beautiful wilderness. Expert and advanced skiers only.


L Liftpass

Lift pass:

Your ticket to access the resort and lifts. They sometimes come in the form of a waterproof tag that you wear attached to the outside of your clothing, or a contactless card that can be worn on the inside of your clothes or sleeve that you simply ‘swipe’ on the barriers to get through. 


A slang term for someone who manages/works on the ski lifts.


M Moguls

Magic Carpet:

A conveyor-belt surface lift (like the ones found in airport terminals) usually found at the nursery slopes to help beginner skiers up the slope.

Mashed Potatoes:

Another slang name for snow. This refers to wet and heavy snow that can be quite difficult to ski on.


Where two slopes/pistes join together and it is very much like merging traffic of skiers and boarders! Exercise caution in these areas as you would do on the road.


Humps and bumps carved into the snow, typically created by many skiers skiing over an area and whipping up the snow into these characteristic bumps, but sometimes they are deliberately created by piste groomers. Once at an intermediate level, navigating the mogul field can be great fun.

N Nordic

Nordic Skiing:

See: Cross-country skiing.

Nursery slopes:

Slopes dedicated for beginners and those who are having skiing and snowboarding lessons. Usually dotted around the bottoms of the mountains, these do not offer through-routes to the base stations.

O Outofbounds


Refers to leaving the marked trails in the resort and going off-trail.


Forbidden areas. Usually forbidden for a good reason such as avalanche risk or dangerous rock/tree features.

P Parallel


Packed powder:

Relatively fresh snow that is densely packed. Either it has been groomed and arranged to be that way or has come packed from many skiers and boarders riding over it during the day.

Parallel turning:

The art of making a smooth and elegant turn without positioning your skis at an acute or right angle.


Freestyle park. An area filled with jumps and interesting features that freestyle skiers and snowboarders can jump off and slide across.

Park Rat:

A skier or snowboarder that spends all of their time in the snow park. Easily identified by their exuberantly ‘steezy’ size xxxxl clothes.


Slang for skier.


The French word for trail/ slope/ run. In Europe the trails are referred to as pistes, whereas in North America they are better known as trails.

Poma lift:

See: Quick guide to lifts and modes of transport (coming soon!)

Pow Pow:

Pronounced “paow paow”. Pow Pow is the slang term for the crème de la crème of skiing, fresh POWDER. Fine, dry, fluffy and lightweight; powder is the Holy Grail for snow sport enthusiasts. Large amounts of fresh snow make for epic conditions and give you the feeling of ‘floating’ on the surface. BUT be careful as there are few things in this world more challenging than the art of getting up in powder once you have fallen over!


Fresh, untouched snow that can be very deep and very soft! Great fun to ski in if you have the right equipment and level of ability.

Powder skis:

Skis that are designed for skiing through this very soft and deep snow. They are usually wider and longer so that you stay above the soft snow.

Q Quarterpipe



Slang for a 4-person chair lift.


A halfpipe that has been divided in half length ways to create a segment that skiers and snowboards can approach at a speed, and will be launched into the air to perform a single, aerial trick. 

R Rail



Rag doll/Tomahawk:

The dramatic action when a skier or snowboarder loses control and crashes in a cartwheel tumble, turning head over heels down the mountain side. Another word for this move is the ‘yardsale’, because the poor victim’s belongings are scattered and spread out across a large area (resembling a yard sale).


A bar, usually metal like hand railings you get by stairs, but positioned in such a way that skiers and snowboarders can slide, or 'grind', up and down it. Most exclusively found in a terrain park. 


See: Quick guide to piste and slope classification (coming soon!)


An accomplished skier who knows exactly what they are doing on the mountain. They ‘rip’ up the slopes with their skills.

S Slalom



Slang for skiing straight downhill without turning.


Another word for crazy, cool, insane, amazing, radical.

Slow zone:

Zones and areas across the mountain where skiers and boarders are required to slow down to a gentle pace. These are often based around the Base Stations, or the bottoms of busy chairlifts, or near après ski bars where reckless skiing and boarding could cause an accident. French: Ski Tranquille.

Ski brake:

Small spokes that stick out of the bottom of your skis when they are not attached to your boots to stop the loose ski from sliding away from you when you are trying to clip them on or they come unclipped following a fall.

Ski Bum:

A seasonaire who is lucky enough to not need a job during the ski season. This obviously means plenty of riding time on the slopes but you will need plenty of money to do so! Fingers crossed for that winning lottery ticket!

Ski patrol:

Trained skiers and boarders employed by the resort to keep an eye on slope safety, patrol the slopes and monitor any possible dangers like the potential risk of avalanches after a storm and obstacles/risks on the mountain. They also assist with carting injured skiers and boarders down the mountain.

Ski tranquille:

See: Slow Zones.

Skiers left:

Used to describe the area to the left of someone travelling downhill.

Skiers right:

Used to describe the area to the right of someone travelling downhill.


Used to describe hotels and bars that boast of ski runs/ lifts being right outside the door.


A form of downhill ski racing where the racers must meander around ‘gates’ or markers that involve lots of high-speed sharp turns!





A technique taught to new skiers that helps them to gain a sense of control and balance. The skis point inwards together so that the skier can control their speed until they feel more confident to go faster.


The term has been coined by Snowboarders and combines the word ‘style’ with ‘ease’. If a trick is done in a smooth, cool and clean fashion it could be described as being steezy or that the rider landed the trick with steez. A rider’s clothing (normally the baggier the better) can also be described in the same fashion if they are looking particularly cool or ‘gangsta’.


‘I am so totally stoked, dude!’ A slang word that overly-keen skiers use to explain how excited and enthusiastic they are.


To land a trick in a super clean and cool fashion. ‘Dude you totally stomped that 180 to faceplant’.


Skiing/riding backwards. For skiing this means backwards along the skis, for snowboarding it means you ride the board with the opposite foot forward of how you normally ride. If you ride “regular” (left foot in front), when you ride switch you will have your right foot in front.


T Terrain


See: Quick guide to lifts and modes of transport (coming soon!)

Telemark skiing:

Hybrid between Cross Country and Alpine skiing. The boot heel can still be detached from the ski and does not restrict the skier to simply downhill skiing or cross country skiing.

Terrain park:

See: Park.

Tracked out:

When a fresh snow area has been over ridden and there are no fresh lines available.


Arguably the safest way to descend a steep slope- skiing in traverse fashion is typically zig-zagging your way down a piece of steep terrain as opposed to going straight down. This allows you to control your speed.


A fun sport that involves sitting in a large rubber ‘doughnut’ ring that has a smooth bottom and sliding down the slope. Much alike sledging but faster and there are often dedicated tubing slopes so you can go as fast as you like within a controlled environment.


W Whiteout



Used on the base of the skis and snowboards to keep them extra smooth and so they can glide and slide over the snow smoothly. 

White out:

‘It’s a whiteout out there!’ Conditions of extreme poor visibility often due to heavy snow/ blizzard/ mist or all combined. The resort may stay open for experienced skiers in these conditions but many lifts that access the more challenging pistes may be closed.

Wind packed: 

Snow that has been compressed by the movement of the wind. 

Wind hold: 

When the lifts stop running due to dangerously high winds. 


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