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How to Speak Winter Sports: 15 Terms to Get by on the Slopes

After posting about climbing terminology to get through conversations with even the more advanced climbing aficionados, we decided it would only be fitting to give you a cheat sheet for winter sports as well. New to skiing or snowboarding? Ready to hit the slopes without any real instruction? We all know how intimidating starting a new sport can be, especially when there are so many terms (both real and slang) thrown around in the process. While we can't get out there and help you down the mountain (not yet at least), we can help you feel a bit more confident before you even get there. Check out these 15 Ski and Snowboard terms to help you attack the mountain like a pro.


  1. Apres-Ski: Any social activity, drink or event that follows a day of snow activity. Ski and boarding takes a lot out of you - it's important to have a drink, a hot chocolate, spend some quality time in the hot tub or just sit down for a relaxing meal.

  2. Backcountry: Skiing and snowboarding at your own risk, away from resorts, roads and hoards of people. It is much more dangerous than resort skiing/boarding but can be twice as rewarding if done safely.

  3. Carving: A series of clean turns using the edges of your skis/board to move across and down the slope.

  4. Crust: A frozen layer of ice either covering a soft layer of snow or laying below fresh snow.

  5. Flat: When the lighting is just right (usually in the shade or late afternoon without sun) and you can't see any difference in the slope in front of you - everything appears white and flat. This can get tricky if there are bumps involved as you won't be able to see them.

  6. Freestyle: A style of skiing/snowboarding that primarily focuses on tricks.

  7. French Fry and Pizza: Not the foods, although those do taste fantastic after a day slope-side. These are ski terms used when teaching new skiers. When your skis are parallel to each other and facing forward, you are in French fry position and will slide down the slope. To brake, you put the tips of your skis together and the backs apart to form a pizza slice - this is an easy and quick way to stop progress on the slope, although it is quite the thigh burner if going straight downhill.

  8. Grooming: The most common form of trail maintenance, done to smooth bumps or spread snow across a slope. A snowcat is used to smooth out the slope - leaving beautiful tiny grooves that make for a perfect run. Early mornings are best for taking advantage of groomed slopes.

  9. Long Underwear: Sounds weird, always has, but boy does it make a difference. Long underwear is the common term used for thermal base layers that you wear beneath a variety of other layers when skiing/boarding. These layers help retain body heat and keep you warm throughout the day.

  10. Magic Carpet: A conveyer belt-like surface lift usually found on small slopes and bunny hills. You ski/board up to it and then allow the belt to catch the bottom of your skis/board to take you up to the top in a standing position.

  11. Moguls: Bumps or mounds of hard snow on ski slopes - these are used for a different technique of skiing/boarding that involves tight turns, flexible hips and a lot of bend in the knees. They can be very difficult depending on the depth of the bump and angle of the slope.

  12. Pow: Fresh powder! Pow is the slang for that lovely fluffy snow that settles after a long snow storm - while it can be tricky to ski/board through, it is highly sought after.

  13. Traverse: Skiing/boarding across a slope, typically in a zig zag pattern, as opposed to going straight down. Traversing is used to help maintain a manageable speed and control your descent.

  14. Whiteout: when visibility drops to almost nothing, caused by heavy snowfall, fog, storm, or a combination. During a whiteout, the slopes will appear "flat" (see term #5)

  15. Shred the Gnar: Something cool to say before hitting the slope. Technically to "shred the gnar" means to ski/ride with exceptional enthusiasm, speed or ability- especially in difficult terrain or conditions.

15 terms might not teach you how to get from the top of the mountain to the bottom but at least you'll know the correct terms for what you're trying to accomplish. You may not be able to walk the walk (yet) but at least you can talk the talk, and sound cool doing it.


Happy gnar shredding !


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