A Beginner’s Dictionary to Skiing Terms
© Rezi Kenia/Red Bull Content Pool
Spend any amount of time on the slopes and you'll start to notice the unique lingo used by seasoned skiers and snowboarders. Here are 10 words you need to know and how to use them.
If you speak to a dedicated skier about skiing for any significant period of time, you’ll realise pretty quickly that the sport has a language of its own.
Since skiers also tend to use this language even when they’re not in the mountains, it’s useful to know at least some of the basics of the dialect. And since – for the time being at least – it’s not on Duolingo, we thought we’d step in to help you out.
Below are just a few examples from the skier’s dictionary.
Definition: A combination of the words ‘style’ and ‘ease’ used to describe effortless elegance on the slopes. Most commonly attached to freestyle skiers and backcountry powder hounds.
“Candide’s double backflip over that cable car was so steezy, man”
“No doubt. He’s the steeze king.”
Not to be confused with: Other words which sound similar, like ‘breezy’, ‘wheezy’, or ‘lemon-squeezy’. If you’re talking to a skier and they said something that sounds like one of these words, it was probably just ‘steezy’. Trust us, it’s a real word.
Definition: Shorthand for the word ‘powder’, the term ‘pow’ is probably one of the most commonly written down words in skiing slang and can be heard on days when the snow is good and the face shots (see point 10) are flowing.
“The pow today is absolutely out of this world.”
Not to be confused with: POW, the comic book noise Batman makes when he punches people.
Definition: A ski line that provides a lot of potential for gnarly (see point 8) riding, whether that be a particularly steep or dangerous line, or a line with a huge kicker that allows for a big jump. Both could be described as “sendy”. Similarly, to “send” something in skiing is to ride it with full vigour and at high speed, and to “go full send” is to go as hard as you possibly can.
“That couloir is so sendy. That is one seriously sendy couloir.”
“Looks like we’re going to need to go full send.”
Not to be confused with: The word ‘sending’, which is only loosely connected in that you do send yourself from the start point of a ‘sendy line’ to the end point. Still, to use the most obvious example of something that you traditionally ‘send’, neither a letter, nor the envelope it travels in, are ‘sendy’. There’s nothing sendy, in this context, about the Royal Mail.
Definition: The act of rocking onto the tips (nose butter) or tail (tail butter) of your skis and holding your weight there long enough to turn 180 degrees or more in one smooth, beautiful, life-affirming motion. Definitely one of the steeziest (see point 1) moves there is on skis.
“I’m getting quite bitter because I can’t butter better.”
Not to be confused with: Chutney, margarine, butter, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter or any other spreadable edible. You can’t eat these butters. Though they do look so sweet.
5. Park Rat
Definition: A skier or snowboarder who spends nearly all day, every day, skiing or snowboarding exclusively in the freestyle sections of the ski resort – namely, the park, half-pipe or air bag. The park rat is also easily identifiable outside of the park, though a rare sighting, as they’ll be wearing a hoody 19 times too big for them and will probably be halfway through a backflip.
“Look, there’s a group of park rats coming!”
“How can you tell?”
“They’ve all got twin tip skis and their jumpers go way down past their knees.”
Not to be confused with: actual rats in a park. Park Rats are very much human, and rats in parks are very much rodents. Don’t give either too much cheese.
Definition: An abbreviated term for a ski lift operator. The person who runs the ski lift. The guy or girl who controls the ski lift. On the ski slope. Normally in a little hut. Not sure what else we can say about this, really.
“The liftie gave me a courteous nod this morning before turning on the oompah music and taking a swig of a hip flask.”
Not to be confused with: Bellhops. The only similarity is that they both stand near mechanical devices that take you to a higher altitude. Lifties are hardened outdoor professionals. Master DJs. Shovel diggers. Safety kings and queens.
Definition: To ride backwards on skis. If you do a 180, then land correctly, you’ll now be riding switch. Unless you started the 180 from switch. Then you’ll just be riding normally again. Basically, switch means riding backwards.
“He dropped into that jump switch.”
“He dropped into what, where? Do we need to go and get him out?!”
“It means he skied into the jump backwards, dude. Come on. You’re embarrassing me.”
Not to be confused with: The act of swapping one thing for another thing. Or the 2005 Will Smith song ‘Switch’. Remember that?
Definition: Gnarly mainly means something that is particularly extreme, radical or cool. But it can also mean something which is downright painful, unpleasant or unattractive, like a horrible wound or scar. And it can also mean something that’s good, or even perfect, so you can wish someone a ‘gnarly day’. What we’re really telling you here is that it pretty much means whatever you want it to.
“Look at that skier! That line is totally gnarly.”
“Especially in gnarly weather like this.”
“Oh no! He’s taken a gnarly crash.”
“Totally. I’ve got to head off, dude. Stay gnarly.”
Not to be confused with: The animal ‘narwhal’. You know, the one with the big tusk coming out it’s head? The unicorn of the sea.
Past tense: jibbed
Definition: To ride your skis across anything that isn’t snow. If you hit a rail, a box or even grind a tree, you’re jibbing. The wider definition of jibbing can also include some fun or playful tricks on snow, too. Butters (see point 4) for example, would be included in jibbing.
"I spent all day jibbing in the backcountry, bro. It was most bodacious.”
Not to be confused with: A triangular mast in sailing, the projecting arm of a crane (if you knew that was called a ‘jib’, kudos), or the act of physically jabbing someone. If a skier tells you they spent their afternoon jibbing, they don’t mean they joined the local boxing club.
Definition: To splash up so much snow while skiing in light, fluffy, deep, beautiful powder that the snow hits and covers the face of the skier in question, often obscuring their view entirely for a split second and prompting a loud scream of excitement from the skier involved.
If you’re dealing with faceshots, then you’ve picked a good day to get out on the mountain. Extremely strong levels of pow (see point 2) are required.
"I was taking faceshots left, right and centre today. My face almost froze in a smile!”
Not to be confused with: Let's leave it there.