On your first season, you’re expecting to learn a new language, and you do! Just turns out it’s usually not French. Introducing ski slang…
A Beginners Guide to… Ski Slang
The ski resort bubble has it’s very own language, and to be fair, it sounds like nonsense to the casual listener. So if you don’t know your death cookies from your pow, read on…
The Ultimate List
- Aprés Ski – Skiing is over for the day – time to hit the bars! Austria does it best with steins and oompah-bands, but the Folie Douce comes pretty close too. Has the added bonus of being before dinner, meaning you don’t have to stay up late to party. The Folie between Méribel & Courchevel is one of the best in the Alps.
- Air – What you get when you jump – this can be from standing, off a kicker or even a park roller “Mark got so much air on that kicker!”.
- Backcountry – Another word for off-piste, the natural un-pisted areas of a ski resort that you should only explore if you know what you’re doing, and have the correct kit. Respect the mountain.
- Bluebird – Used to describe the perfect off-piste day – blue skies, sunshine and fresh, deep powder!
Let’s be real, first tracks and face shots are a high priority
- Bulletproof – The worst kind of snow. Have you ever fallen over in the street and hit the cold hard pavement? That’s what this kind of snow feels like. Avoid at all costs.
- Crust – When the sun has melted the top layer of snow, but it’s refrozen overnight, leaving a horrible “crust” as a top layer.
- Death Cookies – Hard lumps of ice ploughed up by piste bashers – hit one of these and you’ll go flying, or get a very nasty nick on your skis.
- Dump – In ski-resorts, dumps are GOOD! A fresh “dump” of snow = heavy snowfall and when it coincides with a bluebird day, you’re hitting first lifts. No friends on a powder day.
- Face Shot – When you’re riding through powder and it’s so deep that it hits you in the face. Feels weirdly satisfying.
- First Tracks – If you’re quick enough on a fresh powder day, you can be the first to ski down a piste or area and leave the first set of ski tracks behind. Makes a good IG picture!
- Four-man – This confused me for a long time – it means a 4 person chairlift. Same goes for 6-man, 8-man etc… “Let’s get on the 4-man and hit Dou de Lanches”
- Freerider – A mental skier. Also known as “big mountain” or “extreme” skiing, freeriding is essentially controlled falling down a really steep ungroomed piste and avoiding trees and avalanches. Not for the faint-hearted! If you wanna be a free rider, join our Verbier course.
Does it get much better than hero snow? We think not.
- Gnar – Short for gnarly, meaning “high on the scale of dangerousness and coolness.” It’s also a pretty extreme game in which you can score points for a various crazy thing like telling a pro skier “I’m so much better at skiing than you“. An attempt at your own risk!
- Hero Snow– You could be the worse skier in the world and this stuff would make you ski like Bode Miller. The snow is *just* right, and it’s like it’s giving you an extra helping hand. I don’t know-how, it’s magic.
- Jib / Jibbing – Riding everything and anything that isn’t snow, like as rails, boxes, logs…. see “Park rat”
- Kicker – A home-made ramp for getting air. Usually built by seasonnaires – if they’ve got a shovel and they’re not clearing snow, they’re making a kicker.
- Liftie – The friendly lift operators that make sure you don’t get dragged up a poma or get whacked by a chairlift. Make friends with them, they are usually locals so always have the best tips about where to ski and as importantly, know the forecast and avalanche risk.
- Magic Carpet – If you began skiing as a child you’ll remember these – a conveyor belt from the bottom to the top of the beginner’s slopes. Despite being at a 5-degree gradient, the child you are teaching will still manage to fall off.
Don’t confuse pizza and chips!
- Park Rat– A snow-park junkie who spends all day hitting kickers and jumps. Easily recognised by their bandanas, tall hoodies and short poles.
- Pizza (and chips) – Classic ski teaching for kids and beginners – pizza being the pointed snowplough, and chips being two parallel skis. You’ll often hear ski instructors yelling this on the green runs. Note the rising panic in their voices when pizza doesn’t work.
- Planks – Those two bits of wood you strap to your feet every time you go skiing. When you think about it, skiing is really weird.
- Pow – Powder. Also known as pow-pow.
- Punter – A novice skier or someone with all the gear, but no idea. Often prone to wearing silly hats and Spyder jackets. Also purveyors of the famous “punter gap”.
- Punter Gap – Is there a space where your forehead is visible between your goggles and your helmet? Then you’re a punter with a punter gap, sorry.
- Schuss / Schussing – “SCHUSS IT MARGARET!” – “schussing” is the act of pointing the skis downhill, normally when the slope flattens out and you don’t want to stop. Note – if high speeds are reached, this becomes “bombing” and seems to be a favourite pastime of Uni students everywhere. Also, a great opportunity to snigger at snowboarders who inevitably have to sit down and remove their board before walking to the next slope.
Know your white-out from wipeout?
- Ski Bunny – Avoid these people. They can’t avoid you, because they are wearing fur-trimmed stiletto boots and carrying a stupidly small dog across the foot of the piste. Why? We’ll never know.
- Snowplough– See “Pizza” – the tried and tested starting point for any novice skier. Skiers create a “v” with their skis pointing downhill.
- Steezy – Combination of “style” and “easy” which = cool. If you’re trying to look steezy, then you’re not.
- Tea-Tray – Derivative slang for the bit of wood boarders attach to their feet.
- Yard Sale – Crashing on the slopes and scattering all your worldly goods down the piste as you go. Has been known to cause abdominal pain to anyone watching as they laugh themselves silly and watch as you climb up the piste to collect everything from your helmet to your poles.
- White-Out – When the snow (or mist) is so heavy that you can’t see 10metres in front of your face. Scottish skiers call this “a normal day”. Top tip – look out for piste markers with a red/orange top – they are the right-hand markers. Don’t fall off the piste!
- Wipe Out – An epic crash, often painful.
Are you fluent yet?
So you’re on your way to sounding like you know what you’re doing. Every resort has its own lingo but you’ll pick it up in no time. But in the meantime, if you’re still stuck. Just watch this video until you get it. Bon ski!
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