Skiing Glossary

Like many sports and hobbies, over the years skiing has cultivated its own unique language. To a skier, many of these expressions are second nature; but to the ears of a layman, these words are merely incomprehensible jargon. Below is a list of common colloquialisms that the ski community uses on a daily basis accompanied with a short definition. Obviously, not every single ski term is listed, but these are the most common words and phrases you will hear on the mountain.

Aerial - Airborne moves performed by skiers who go off a jump or catch air in a halfpipe.

AFD (Anti-Friction Device) - Small pad attached to the ski directly behind the toe piece of the ski binding. This piece reduces friction between the boot and the top of the ski, allowing the boot to easily release in case of a fall.

All-Mountain Skis - Skis designed to perform well in various conditions at most speeds. These are all-purpose skis.

Alpine Skiing - Also known as downhill skiing.

Backcountry Skiing - Skiing outside of the resort boundaries, therefore you are not protected by the ski patrol. This can be dangerous and is only meant for expert skiers.

Base of Ski - Underside of the ski that slides smoothly across the snow when waxed.

Base Layer - Layer worn under your ski jacket and pants. This layer adds insulation and breathability to control your body temperature while on the mountain.

Bindings - Fixture that connects your boots to your skis. Bindings are installed individually depending on your skill level, height, and weight.

Black Diamond - Usually the most difficult runs on the resort, and are meant to be attempted by experts.

Blue Run - Intermediate trail that is usually groomed and generally popular because of the mix of accessibility and difficulty.

Bunny Slope - Located at the base of most mountains, this is a flat area for first-timers and young children to learn the nuances of skiing.

Camber - The upward curvature on the base of your skis. Cambers increases responsiveness through tension created within the ski.

Carve - Turning on the edge of your skis with minimal or no skidding.

Chair Lift - Aerial chair suspended by a cable that takes skiers up the mountain.

Chatter - Vibrations caused from traveling at high speeds or on hard snow. The instability stems from the skis bouncing off of the snow rather than digging into it.

Corn Snow - Springtime snow that turn into corn sized kernels through the repeated melting and refreezing of the snow.

Cross Country Skiing - Long distance, endurance skiing along a relatively flat trail.

Crud - Transitional snow that typically stems from a combination of powder and ice. The top layer is crusty and hard, while the underneath layer is soft.

Damping - Shock absorbing material built into skis to help resist chatter (vibrations).

DIN (Deutsche Industrie Normen) - Standardized setting related to the amount of pressure required before your bindings release from your skis upon falling.

Double Diamond - Even more difficult than black diamond runs, these trails are designed specifically for the best of the best.

Downhill Skiing - Also called alpine skiing.

Edge - Sharp metal strip located on the sides of your skis. Edges are important for turning because they bite into the snow, which enables smoother carving.

Fall Line - The most precise, direct line down a slope.

FIS (Federation Internationale de Ski) - The main international governing body for the sport of skiing.

Flex - The stiffness of your skis, or how much your skis bend when pressure is applied. Typically, soft skis are designed for soft snow or slower speeds; while stiffer skis work better on hard snow and at higher speeds.

Freeride Skiing - Also known as backcountry/sidecountry skiing, this style is skiing ungroomed trails inside or outside resort boundaries.

Freestyle Skiing - Style of skiing focused on tricks by using moguls and jumps to perform aerial tricks.

Giant Slalom - Race course with gates placed far apart to allow for higher speeds and wider turns.

Glade Skiing - Skiing through a batch of trees or forest.

Gondola - Enclosed lift that fits multiple skiers and is often faster than standard open lifts.

Green Run - Beginner level groomed trails that wide and flat. These are trails for beginners and first time skiers to learn and practice.

Grooming - A common practice in trail maintenance, snow is spread and smoothed over by a machine to eliminate bumps and inconsistencies.

Halfpipe - A long, u-shaped channel used for freestyle aerial tricks.

Heliskiing - Traveling atop of mountain via helicopter. Expert skiers are transported to the top of a backcountry mountain for an exhilarating, ungroomed run.

In-Bounds - Ski trails located inside the boundary of a resort.

Liner - Soft, removable portion of your ski boot located inside the hard outer shell that provides padding and warmth for your feet.

Mashed Potatoes - Wet, heavy snow that catches your ski tips and edges. Skiing is difficult with this type of snow.

Moguls - Bumps created in the snow. These bumps can either occur naturally through repeated skiers making turns in the same area, or carefully constructed for freestyle skiing.

Mondopoint - Standardized European measurement for boot sizing.

NASTAR (National Standard Racing) - International racing organization that allows skiers of all ages and ability levels to compare themselves to contemporaries across the world.

Off-Piste (Out-of-Bounds) - Also know as backcountry skiing, any trail located outside of resort boundaries.

Packed Powder - Newish snow that has been packed down by either grooming machines or repeated skiers.

Piste - French word for a groomed trail.

Powder - Fresh, light snow that skiers dream about. Fresh powder is the best ski condition.

Powder Skis - Skis that float on top of the powder and primarily used in areas that receive frequent snow storms. Their extreme wideness prevents the skis from sinking into the snow.

Quad - Four-person chairlift.

Racing Skis - Built for speed, these skis are stiffer, longer, and narrower than most skis.

Shaped Skis - Also known as hourglass skis, the tip and tail of these skis are wider than the waist. Most skis utilize this design.

Sidecut - The measurement (in millimeters), between the narrowest portion of the waist to the widest portion of the tip and tail of your skis.

Ski Blades - Also known as snowblades, these are two, very short twin-tipped skis.

Ski Brakes - When you detach from your bindings, brakes deploy to prevent your skis from sliding down the slope.

Ski Patrol - Trained employees at ski areas that assist skiers when injured.

Slalom - A race course set up via gates or flags you must pass through using quick turns.

Snowcat - Vehicle used to groom snow on the slopes, but can also be used to transport employees and skiers.

Snowplow - A beginner method for braking. In this technique, you point the tips of your skis inward while the tails spread apart, causing pressure on the inside edges that slows you down.

Superpipe - Larger version of the halfpipe.

T-Bar - Ski lift, generally found near beginner slopes, that pulls skiers up the slope.

Tail - Back end of your skis.

Terrain Park - Park isolated from the other trails built for freestyle skiers. These contain jumps, rails, and sometimes a halfpipe.

Tram - Very large aerial lift that transports many skiers at a time.

Twin Tip Skis - Specialized skis where both the tail and tip are curved upwards at the ends. These are mainly designed for more freestyle skiers, as the twin tips allow you to take off and land reverse on jumps and tricks.

Vertical Drop - Distance from the tallest point of the mountain to the base.

Wax - Applied on the base of your skis, wax helps your skis will glide across the snow.

White Out - Loss of visibility due to snow, fog, or other weather conditions.

Wind Hold - When wind gusts exceed a certain level, ski lifts can temporarily shut down for safety purposes.