Snowboarding and Ski Terms: A Snow Sport Glossary

By , Staff Writer
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Strap on those goggles, lock in those boots, and get ready to carve your way down a snowy mountain. Skiing and snowboarding are storied pastimes that have led to their own specific lingo and terminology. Whether you’re a gaper just getting used to bunny slopes or a seasoned shredder who has traversed the toughest trails, it doesn’t hurt to keep up with the terminology and lingo behind going downhill on snow really fast.

Snowboarding and Skiing Terms for Beginners

If you’re completely new to a ski slope, you might be confused by all the terms getting thrown around. Are you going to find rabbits on the bunny slopes? Everyone’s talking about carving, but you don’t see a single turkey around. Don’t worry, with a little time, you’ll be cutting through that powder with everyone else.

Word Definition Sentence Example
backcountry Any area outside the bounds of a set ski slope The expert skiers were ready to hit the backcountry, but we beginners weren't.
carve/carving A method of turning involving shifting onto the edge of your skis or snowboard, causing that edge to carve into the snow After I learned to carve properly, all my turns felt smooth.
chairlift A constantly moving series of benches attached to cables that transport skiers/snowboarders to the top of a slope She enjoyed the mountain view as she rode the chairlift up.
crust A hard layer of snow or ice atop softer snow He loved stepping through the crust into the softer snow below.
gondola An enclosed aerial lift that transports groups of people up a slope or mountain Our entire family fit in the gondola at the ski resort.
halfpipe A U-shaped pipe carved into snow for freestyle skiers He avoided the halfpipe because he didn’t know many tricks yet.
hard pack Firm, potentially icy snow Thanks to the hard pack, she had an easier time on the slope.
lift pass A permit that allows skiers/snowboarders access to access all lifts in a resort The lift pass allowed the group to travel nearly anywhere on the mountain.
off-piste French for “off trail”; taking place away from prepared ski runs; out of bounds The experienced snowboarders took helicopters to off-piste trails.
on-piste French for “on trail”; taking place on prepared ski runs; within bounds of ski resort I was fine sticking with the well-maintained on-piste trails.
powder fresh, untouched snow The fresh powder was perfect for snowballs.
slope A marked off and designated hill for skiing and snowboarding The slopes were surprisingly empty this morning.
traverse To travel perpendicular or diagonal to the slope instead of straight down She had to traverse the slope to meet her friend on another path.

Snowboarding Terms for Beginners

Skiing and snowboarding have a ton of overlap because they largely involve the same activity (going down a snowy slope). However, snowboarding does have its own unique terms that you should learn. For example, one of the first things you’ll be asked when you pick out a board is if you stand regular or goofy, and you don’t want to be confused when you learn that a board has both a nose and a tail.

Word Definition
backfoot The foot closest to the tail of the board
duck stance A stance characterized by your feet pointing at outward angles like a duck
flat stance A stance wherein both feet point forward (toeside)
forward stance A stance wherein both feet are angled toward the nose of the board
goofy A riding stance characterized by having your right foot forward (opposite of regular)
heelside The edge of the board closest to your heels
heel drag When the heels hang off the edge of the board, causing them to drag in the snow
regular A stance characterized by having your left foot forward (opposite of goofy)
switch The state of riding opposite your usual stance (e.g., riding goofy when you are normally regular)
toe drag When the toes hang off the edge of the board, causing them to drag in the snow
toeside The edge of the board closest to your toes

Terms for Types of Skiing

Although most people know about downhill skiing, ski culture has given way to a whole host of other skiing disciplines. Each of these have their own individual challenges, so if you find alpine skiing too difficult, maybe cross-country skiing or skijoring is more your style.

Word Definition
alpine skiing Another name for downhill skiing, noted for fixed-heel bindings and going in a fairly constant downward direction
backcountry skiing A form of skiing/snowboarding that involves being on unmarked slopes outside the bounds of a ski resort
cross-country skiing A form of skiing that involves using your own movements to get across relatively flat (or sometimes even uphill) terrain
Nordic skiing A synonym for cross-country skiing
skijoring A form of skiing wherein a skier is pulled by a horse, dogs, or a motor vehicle
slalom A form of downhill skiing and snowboarding that involve passing between poles or gates

Terms for Slope Difficulty Levels

Every slope is marked based on its difficulty level, and understanding that difficulty level is extremely important for your fun and safety. If you’re a beginner, you should avoid black diamonds, while experts might just get bored on the bunny slopes.

Word Definition
black run or black diamond A steep slope for advanced skiers/snowboarders
blue run or blue square A slope designed for skiers/snowboarders who know how to control speed and turn but may still be developing their abilities
bunny slope Easy, relatively flat areas designed for beginners learning to ski or snowboard
double-black diamond A slope designed specifically for expert riders
green run or green circle A slope designed for beginners; sometimes synonymous with bunny slope

Skiing and Snowboarding Gear Terms

To the uninitiated, skiing and snowboarding simply consist of boards attached to your feet, but there are a lot more parts and pieces involved with that. It’s not as complicated as your plumbing, but knowing about your bindings or understanding the difference between tips and edges can help to ease your mind when you’re learning how to traverse those slopes.

Word Definition
base The underside of the ski or snowboard
baseplate Bottom part of bindings; transfers movement from your feet to the ski/snowboard
binding The part of the ski/snowboard that attaches to your boots
camber A shape of ski or snowboard characterized by a slight arch in the middle when unweighted (opposite of rocker)
carving skis Thin, narrow skis designed for tighter turns
clamps A synonym for bindings
deck The top part of your ski or snowboard
edge The thin metal edges of your skis/snowboard that can be used to turn and control speed
goggles A form of eyewear to protect against wind, ice, debris, and UV rays
lugs The parts on the heel and toe of your ski boot that make contact with the ski bindings
nose The front tip of the ski or board
rocker A shape of ski or snowboard in which the middle part of an unweighted board sits flush against a flat surface (opposite of camber)
salopettes A form of clothing similar to overalls specifically designed to keep you warm and dry
shovel The upturned section at the front of a ski
tail The back tip of the ski or board
waist The middle section of skis
wax Substance applied to bottom of skis/snowboard for smoother gliding on snow; the act of applying wax
labeled pieces of skiing and snowboarding gear from the article
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Funny Ski and Snowboard Slang

Of course, skiing and snowboarding are fun and exhilarating activities that have developed their own unique cultures. On your next après, keep your ears open for some crunchy language to improve your steez.

Word Definition Sentence Example
après-ski (après) French meaning “after ski”; social activities done after skiing Let's hit the lodge for an après-ski.
bail To fall or lose control while performing a trick; to intentionally fall or otherwise not land a trick as a means of avoiding injury If you gotta bail, you gotta bail.
bomb To go down ski slopes at a fast speed, often out of control I watched her totally bomb that hill.
chatter The shaking of a snowboard or skis when going over rough terrain The chatter was practically up to my chin.
chowder A portmanteau of chopped snow and powder It’s chowder all the way down.
crud Hard, lumpy, and uneven snow or terrain Don’t mind the crud, you got this.
crunchy Cool I can’t believe you hit that crunchy backside 540!
dump Large amounts of fresh snow occurring in a short amount of time Let the dump melt down a bit.
faceplant To fall forward directly onto your face Might have swallowed a tooth with that faceplant.
french fries Placement of skis wherein they are parallel to each other Straighten those french fries!
gaper A beginner skier or snowboarder, often clueless or lacking skill There were just gapers left and right.
gnar Difficult, challenging, or dangerous but in a cool way (shortened form of gnarly) I don’t even know how you landed that super gnar spin.
grommet (grom, gremmie) A young skier or snowboarder A lotta groms on the slope today.
Jerry A skier or snowboarder who is clueless or ignorant (similar to gaper) Don’t be a Jerry!
jib To ride or slide across any non-snow surface or object (rails, boxes, tables, etc.) Jibbing’s all I love.
liftie/lifty A person operating a chairlift Appreciate your local lifties!
pizza Placement of skis such that the front tips touch, forming a wedge or triangle shape resembling a pizza You gotta pizza before you can learn to fly.
shredder An expert skier or snowboarder Gotta keep practicing to be a real shredder.
steez/steaz Style Some people are just born with steez.
steezy/steazy Stylish Keep it steezy.
stomp Successfully landing a trick off of a jump or ramp She absolutely stomped it!
wipeout A bad fall or crash; to partake in a bad fall or crash Worst wipeout I’ve ever seen.
yard sale A particularly bad wipeout that typically leaves your equipment strewn all over the slope Sorry, had a yard sale at the end there.