Last Updated on March 24, 2021 by James
Skiing can sometimes seem like such a complicated sport. From ski bum slang to ski instructor jargon, there are so many ski terms to try and get your head around.
Ski terminology can be especially confusing when looking for equipment. Don’t worry; we’ve all been there!
It’s easy to get confused and distracted by mountain language, making your job of learning to ski even more challenging. That’s why we have decided to make this glossary of ski terms, allowing you to cut the **** and understand the basics.
Feel free to scroll down and find the words that have been missing from your ski vocabulary, or take the time to turn yourself into the ultimate skiing dictionary. Either way, you’re sure to know more by the end of today than you did yesterday!
A-Z Glossary of Ski Terms, Ski Phrases and Ski Slang
A Frame: When the outside knee has collapsed into the inside knee (during a turn), causing an ‘A’ shape.
All-Mountain Ski: This is a common type of ski that is designed to perform in every mountain environment – including on and off piste.
Alpine Skiing: Skiing downhill, as opposed to cross-country skiing or telemark skiing (often referred to as ‘skiing!’).
Angulation: When the lower body is tilted inside the turn to gain edge angle on the skis, the upper body will move towards the outside of the turn, creating a ‘banana shape. This shape is known as angulation.
Après-ski: Time spent in the bar or café once you finish on the slopes.
Arc: This refers to the rounded shape of a turn.
Artificial Snow: Manmade snow made from water. Often used within indoor ski slopes or made by on-slope ‘snow canons’.
Avalanche: When the snow on a slope loosens and comes tumbling down, often causing severe damage and danger.
Avalanche Beacon: A ski safety device worn by skiers going off-piste. It transmits a signal, making it possible for them to be located in case they are trapped under an avalanche.
Avalanche Probe: A long extending pole that is used to locate skiers trapped under an avalanche.
Backcountry: Skiing on unmarked slopes. (Also known as off-piste).
Bail: Falling over while skiing.
Balls Of Your Feet: The bottom part of the front of your feet, where the toes are connected. (Also known as forefoot).
Binding: Device that attaches the ski boot to the ski.
Black Run: The most challenging type of slope on the mountain, usually steep or un-groomed (or both!).
Blue Slope: Some of the easier ski runs on the mountain, designed for advanced beginner and intermediate skiers.
Braking Plough: Making a wide ‘V’ shape with your skis, which will help you to ‘brake’ or stop.
Bumps: Snow has been pushed together to form many mounds of hard snow on the ski slope. (Also known as moguls).
Bunny Slope: The most basic beginner ski slope. (Also known as beginner slope or nursery slope).
Butter/Buttering: A skiing trick that involves pivoting on either the nose or tail of your skis. This ski term comes from its resemblance of the ‘smearing’ action used to butter toast.
Button Lift: A ski lift that features a seat (or ‘button’) that is attached to a long pole and works by pulling you up the hill as you remain standing on your skis.
Cable Car: One of the largest ski lifts on the mountain. It uses a large enclosed capsule that can transport a large amount of skiers.
Camber: The upward curvature along the base of a ski. The highest point of a cambered ski will be in the middle, with the tip and tail being the lowest.
Carving: A long turn shape where the skis grip to the snow. The tail of the ski will follow the tip of the ski, creating clean lines in the snow.
Carving Skis: Skis that are designed to grip the snow and take you round a tight turning circle.
Centripetal Force: A force that acts upon the skier while travelling around the turn. It allows the body weight to be inside the line of the turn without falling.
Chair Lift: An aerial ski lift where you sit on a seat (or ‘chair’) and are carried up the mountain.
Corridor: An imaginary corridor (on the ski slope) that we use as a guide for turn width.
Checking (Speed): When the skis are very quickly rotated 90-degrees to slide. This is used as a speed reduction method.
Chute: A steep, narrow slope. Often lined by trees, off-piste or high sides.
Corduroy: The pattern seen on the snow after it’s been ploughed (flattened) by a piste basher. This pattern resembles the lines seen on corduroy fabric.
Couloir: A steep and narrow slope that is often flanked by cliff faces on either side. This ski term means ‘corridor’ in French.
Crevasse: A deep crack in a slope or glacier – potentially extremely dangerous for skiers.
Cross-Country Skiing: A form of skiing performed on flat land and gentle hills. (Often referred to as Nordic Skiing).
Dendix: The name of the dry ski slope surface that is produced by UK based company Osborn.
Direct Line: Skiing a route (or path) down the ski slope, which requires little side-to-side deviation. This is usually the fastest route to the bottom.
DIN Setting: A setting on the ski binding that determines how easily your foot will be released from the ski in the event of a crash.
Downhill Ski: The ski that is furthest down the slope while traversing across. (Also known as outside ski).
Drag Lift: A ski lift that pulls you up the slope while you stand on your skis. (Also referred to as a rope tow).
Dry Ski Slope: An artificial ski slope created using a ‘carpet’ instead of snow. Common in areas that do not receive natural snowfall.
Dump: Ski slang term used to describe a large amount of snowfall in a short space of time. Often resulting in an epic ‘powder day’.
Edge Grip: Getting the sharp side edges of your skis to stick to the snow. Generally a ski term used during carving.
Endless Slope: Artificial, mechanical ski slope. They consist of a constantly revolving ‘carpet’ that is positioned at a sloping angle, representing a ski slope. (Also known as ski treadmill, ski deck and infinite slope).
Extend: When your body is straightened into a more upright position (usually at the beginning of a turn).
Face Plant: Ski slang term for falling face first into the snow.
Fall Line: The most direct line you can ski down a slope, pointing straight downhill.
First Tracks: Being the first skier to cut lines through the snow. Often a term used on a powder day, when you are the first one to ski the deep snow.
FIS: Fédération Internationale de Ski. This is the governing international snowsports organisation.
Flat Light: Conditions where it is difficult to see the contours of the ski slope. Often during a cloudy day or when the sun starts to set.
Flex: When the body is compressed (moved) downwards, mainly to apply down pressure (usually at the end of a turn).
French Fries (Chips): A term often used by ski instructors to signal someone to put their skis straight (parallel to one another).
Giant Slalom: A ski race where the gates you turn around are set far apart, allowing high speed.
Goggles: Special protective eyewear that is used when skiing.
Gondola: An enclosed aerial ski lift. Often carries around 6 people at a time.
Green Run: The easiest colour of ski slope on the mountain. One stage up from the beginner slope, often the first time you will use a ski lift.
Grip (Gripping): A turn where the edge of the ski sticks to the snow, without any slide or ‘skid’.
Groomer: Ski slang term marked ski run (or path) down the mountain, which has been professionally flattened for skiing.
Half-Pipe: A ‘U shaped’ pipe carved out of the snow for skiers to perform jumps on either side. Resembles the shape of a pipe that’s been cut in half.
Heli-Skiing: Using a helicopter to be transported to the top of a mountain peak that’s otherwise inaccessible, then skiing down.
Hard-Pack: Snow surface that is solid and often icy. Usually found on pistes that have not seen recent snowfall.
Inclining: When the skier leans their body weight inside the line of the turn, only relying on the forces created by speed to keep them upright (also known as ‘banking’).
Indirect Line: Choosing a route (or path) down the ski slope that allows you to turn side to side; keeping the turn size larger and allowing the skis to face across the slope.
Indoor Skiing: Man-made ski slopes that are created inside a large building or ‘dome’. These are often popular in areas that cannot support natural skiing.
Inside Edge: The sharp edge of the ski that is closest to the inside of the turn.
Inside Ski: The ski that is inside the path of the turn. For example: if you turn left, your inside ski will be the left ski.
Japow: Skiing slang term that merges the words Japan and powder. Used in recognition of Japan’s legendary deep snow.
Jerry: Ski slang for a skier who thinks they look accomplished but are not. In fact, they are embarrassing.
Jibbing: Sliding across a non-snow surface. Often associated with riding boxes and rails in a snow park.
Jump Turn: Jumping the skis around a turn, rather than using the shape of the ski. This is sometimes used on steep terrain and variable snow.
Kicker: A jump built into the snow, usually triangular in shape.
Last: Ski boot manufacturers term. It’s used to describe the interior shape of a ski boot.
Lateral Movement: This is any movement that is side-to-side. Usually referring to the upper body moving sideways to adjust and balance over the turning skis.
Lateral Separation: Refers to a separation between the upper and lower body. It is evident when the skis are tilted inside the path of the turn and the body is tilted outside the turn – showing a ‘banana shape’.
Liftie: The person who operates the ski lift.
Lift Pass: A ticket that allows you to access and use the ski lift.
Line: The route you choose to ski down the mountain.
Liner: Term used for the removable, soft inner ski boot.
Magic Carpet: A ski lift that resembles a conveyor belt. Allowing the skier to stand on the belt and be transported up the slope.
Moguls: Snow has been pushed together to form mounds of hard snow on the ski slope. (Also known as bumps).
Mondopoint: Standard European measurement that is frequently used for ski boot sizing.
Monoski: A type of skiing when both feet are attached to one board (instead of two skis), while still facing forward as if you were skiing.
Nordic Skiing: Any type of skiing where the toe of the ski boot is fixed, but the heel of your ski boot can release from the ski. The most common types of Nordic skiing is cross-country skiing and telemark skiing.
Off-Piste: Any area that is away from the marked ski slopes.
On-Piste: Any time you are on a marked ski slope.
Outside Ski: The ski that is outside the path of the turn. If you are turning left, this will be the right ski.
Parallel Turn: Where the entire turn is completed with both skis following the same path, side-by-side.
Park Rat: Skiing slang term for someone who spends their time in the snow park using the jumps and rails.
Powder Hound: Somebody who loves skiing deep snow.
Powder Skiing: Skiing freshly fallen, deep snow. This is common when skiing ‘off-piste’ or ‘backcountry’.
Powder Skis: Skis that are specifically designed for use in deep snow. They are usually wider than regular skis, helping you to float on the surface of the snow.
Piste: A marked run (or path) down the mountain – used for skiing.
Piste Basher: A vehicle that is used to flatten (or ‘groom’) slopes in preparation for skiing. (Also known as snowcat).
Pizza: Ski slang term for making a triangle shape with your skis. (Also known as wedge or snow plough).
Plough Parallel: A turn where the first part of the turn is in a ‘snow plough’ position and the second part of the turn is in a ‘parallel’ position. Usually used as a stepping-stone between snow plough and parallel skiing. (Also known as stem christie).
Pole Plant: The action of stabbing (or ‘planting’) the pole into the ground – performed at the beginning of a turn.
Power Strap: The Velcro strap found at the top of a ski boot, allowing it to be pulled tight around your calf and shin.
Racing Boot: Any ski boot that is designed for ski racing. Often very stiff and tight fitting.
Racing Ski: Any ski that is designed for ski racing. Often narrower and longer than a regular ski (although this depends on the type of skier/ski race event).
Radius (Turn): Refers to the size of the circular shape of the turn.
Rail: A metal bar found in a snow park or on a ski slope.
Red Run: An advanced-intermediate level ski slope, marked with red poles.
Rocker: Type of ski where the centre of the ski will be the lowest point, with the tip and tail being the highest points. This type of curved ski base is the opposite of ‘camber’. Often used in park skis.
Rollers: Gently undulating ski surface with rolling peaks and troughs.
Rope Tow: A ski lift where you hold onto a moving rope that pulls you up the slope. Often found on beginner ski slopes.
Rotational Separation: Where you can see different amounts of rotation (or turn) between the upper and lower half of the body. For example, if the skis are pointing sideways but the upper body is pointing forwards – they would be showing rotational separation.
Run Out: The flat area at the end of a ski slope that allows you to decelerate. Found at the bottom of most ski slopes.
Salopettes: Waterproof and insulated trousers that are designed to be used for snowsports. (Also known as ski pants).
Shell (Ski Boot): The hard plastic outer layer of a ski boot.
Shell (Ski Jacket): A thin ski jacket, designed to keep you dry but with minimal insulation.
Short Turns: These types of turns have a small (or ‘short’) radius and are completed using a narrow amount of slope.
Side Country: The area just off the side of a ski slope. This is a skiing slang term derived from mixing ‘side of the ski slope’ with ‘backcountry’.
Side Cut Radius: This is the curve that is seen along the side of a ski. This curved side of a ski resembles the edge of a full circle (the distance around the edge of a circle can be known as the radius’).
Side Stepping: Stepping sideways with your skis pointing across the hill. This is the most basic way to climb up the ski slope.
Sitting Back: When skier’s hips move back behind their heels and slightly downwards, it can resemble a ‘sitting’ position.
Ski Area: The total mountain area that is marked for skiing.
Skiing Joints: These are the joints that will provide movement and flexibility while skiing. They are: ankles, knees and hips.
Skating: Flat ground technique used by pushing with alternate feet to glide on the snow. Resembles ice-skating.
Ski-in, Ski-out: Ski resort accommodation where it’s possible to ski directly to your front door.
Skins: Material that can be temporarily fixed to the base of your skis. They allow you to walk up a slope without sliding backwards.
Ski Patrol: Mountain ski slope safety service. They rescue injured skiers/snowboarders, keep the ski slopes clear of obstacles and help to combat avalanches.
Ski Touring: Skiing backcountry and off-piste terrain. Often done by skiers who hike to parts of the mountain that are not accessible by lifts and ski down.
Slalom: A ski racing event where the gates (or ‘poles’) that you turn around that are set close together, requiring short and quick turns.
Slush: Snow that has partially melted and turned slightly wet.
Snow Blades: Extremely short skis, usually less that one-meter in length. This ski term take the word blades from ‘roller blades’.
Snow Canon: A machine that creates man-made snow by turning water vapour into snow crystals. Often used for indoor ski slopes or on mountains lacking natural snow.
Snow Park: Area filled with jumps and rails for freestyle skiers.
Snow Plough: When a ‘V’ shape is made with the skis. It is predominantly used to control speed and stop. (Also known as wedge or pizza).
Straight Lining: Going straight down the slope without turning, often at high speed.
Super G: The fastest ski racing event. The ski gates are set far apart to allow for maximum speed.
Surface Lift: Any ski lift that pulls you up the slope while your skis are still touching the ground. The most common surface lifts are rope tow, button lift, t-bar lift and magic carpet.
Tail: The rear end of a ski.
T-Bar: A ski lift that involves a pole suspended from a moving aerial rope. The pole has a bar across the bottom, which is used a ‘seat’ while you’re pulled up the mountain.
Telemark Skiing: A form of Nordic skiing when your heel is detached from the ski. Although your heels are detached, it’s still possible to ski all types of ski slope due to the larger size and shape of the ski used (in comparison to cross-country skiing).
Terrain Park: A ski area with jumps and rails. (Also known as a snow park).
Tip: The front end of a ski.
Tracked Out: Ski slang term for a slope that was previously covered in fresh snow but has been ridden over too many times. (Also known as ‘choppy’ or ‘crud‘ snow)
Traversing: Skiing horizontally across the mountain, instead of down. Also used in the term ‘traverse skiing’, where the skier will us a large amount of slope to ski across the mountain in-between turns.
Tree Skiing: Skiing in the trees or woodland area.
Tree Well: A hollow space that is often formed around the base of a tree following fresh snowfall. Dangerous for skiers and snowboarders who run the risk of falling in if they get too close.
Twin Tip: Type of skis where both tails and tips curve upwards. Designed to allow skiers to ski backwards without catching the rear of the skis. A design often used for park skis.
Uphill Ski: The ski that is furthest up the slope as you ski across. (Also known as the inside ski).
Waist Width: The middle section of a ski; the narrowest part of the ski.
Wax: Used on the base of skis and snowboards to make them ‘slippery’.
Wedge: Triangular ‘V’ shape made with the skis, used for speed control. (Also known as snow plough or pizza).
Wedge Turn: Turning with your skis in a wedge shape. (Also known as snow plough turn).
White Out: Skiing term used to describe a situation where your visibility is almost nothing. Commonly during a snowstorm or low hanging clouds.
Wipe Out: Ski slang term for a large and dramatic ski crash.
Yard Sale: Skiing slang term for a crash that causes a skier or snowboarders gear to fall off, leaving it scattered across the ski slope.
James is the founder of SnowSunSee. He started skiing when he was five years old and has been a qualified ski instructor for 8 years. He has taught skiing in many countries, including UK, Europe, Japan, China and Malaysia. When he’s not on the slopes, James spends his time travelling the world one trail at a time.