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Glossary of Ski Terms – A to Z

by Dan Giesin | December 17, 2019

Glossary of Ski Terms – A to Z

Every sport has its jargon, and skiing and snowboarding are rife with it.

Many of these words are self-explanatory, but some have hidden — arcane, even cryptic — meanings.

The following is one person’s take on some of these words’ definitions.

Avalanche — When too much of a good thing can be really, really bad for you.

Bumps (a.k.a. Moguls) — Where orthopedic surgeons, mainly knee and back experts, get the money for lavish holidays.

Corn Snow — Sun-softened spring snow that is one of the most enjoyable riding surfaces around, but is very elusive and almost always turns to crud by the time you reach it.

Dirt Bag — A person who lives and breathes skiing and/or snowboarding with very little financial breathing room.

Ego Snow — Boot-top to knee-deep ultra-light fluff that gives you a false sense that you can actually ski powder.

Fleece — What many resorts do to you at their ticket window, on-mountain eateries and bars.

Gnarly — An archaic term (hopefully) for something that generally isn’t as rad as you think it is.

Hiking — A post-holing, air-sucking  trudge up a steep ridge to get the highly-anticipated good stuff that, invariably, has been skied out.

Instructor — Reminds me of an old joke: How can you tell who’s a ski instructor at a party? He’ll tell you.

Jerry — A usually harmless doofus who does something outlandish or laughable, both quite by accident, on the slopes.

Kicker — An artificial slope that allows a rider to launch themself into the air. Reminds me of another old joke: Want big air? Pull my finger.

Lifties — Chairlift attendants who are heart and soul of a snowsport resort. See also Dirt bag.

Mashed Potatoes — What corn snow degenerates to just before you reach it. Another money maker for orthopedic surgeons.

NIMBY — A trustifarian who after just a month or two at a mountain town doesn’t want anyone else to move there.

Open Bowl — A huge expanse of treeless terrain that is often the goal of hiking and is sometimes (paradoxically) closed because of unridable conditions.

Park Rats — Skiers and snowboarders who don’t think twice about paying exorbitant lift-ticket prices to ride the same shortish chair. All. Day. Long.

Queasy — The feeling you get when you look at the prices of some resorts’ F&B prices and/or  lift ticket costs; a side effect of being fleeced.

Rain — Also known as clear snow, it’s a boon for both manufacturers of Gore-Tex apparel and base lodge bartenders.

Snorkel — A breathing device that some resort marketers suggest you employ when cutting up their “bottomless Champagne powder”. Yeah, right.

Trees — A very useful resource — they provide oxygen, enable you to see in flat light, help mitigate erosion and/or avalanche concerns, etc — that is often gotten rid of to allow more people on the slopes.

Ugh — See Avalanche. Mashed Potatoes. NIMBY. Rain.

Vertical — The drop in feet from the top of a lift or resort to the bottom that can be very deceiving. The 2,000 vertical feet of GS

Bowl off Squaw Valley’s KT22 is a different story than the 2,000 vertical of, say, Schoolmarm Run at Keystone.

Waist Deep — Snow depth that is fun to ski or snowboard down but a real pain to hike up.

X-ray — Something you can generally avoid having by being safety conscious on the hill.

Yo-yoing — Riding the same lift — or skiing/snowboarding the same run — over and over and over. See Part Rats.

Zen — Realizing the sheer joy of skiing or snowboarding no matter what the conditions.

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