Ski, board and snow jargon translator for first timers

You’re at the snow and you hear face shot so you pull out your phone to take a selfie. You ask people what time the yard sale is as you don’t want to miss out on a bargain. Then someone mentions death cookies and you wonder if you should or shouldn’t eat them and where you can buy them.

Life can be tough for a first timer. Welcome to the world of snow jargon.

If you’re hitting the slopes (that means you are going skiing or snowboarding) and don’t know if you are goofy or regular and wonder what a Disney dog has to do with snowboarding anyway? Then this column is for you.

We’ve put together a jargon translator below to demystify the language you find at the snow so you can look less like a gaper and more like a pro.

No friends on a powder day – it’s snowed, I’m greedy and competitive and need to be first for boasting rights and instagram pictures. You’re dumped. Go find someone else to ski with today because I won’t be with you.

The odds are good but the goods are odd – seven men to every woman at a snow resort but quantity doesn’t trump quality.

He just stomped that landing – he jumped off a cliff/roof/jump/rail and landed without falling on his face.

Yard sale – when you cartwheel down a mountain leaving a ‘yard sale’ of outerwear, helmet, goggles, skis and poles behind you.

Screaming starfish – when you cartwheel down the mountain leaving a ‘yard sale’ and scream at the same time.

Rag doll – what you look like when you fall down the mountain creating a ‘yard sale’.

Getting air – your feet with skis or snowboard attached have left the ground, by choice.

Switch – going backwards on purpose.

Drink the sky blue – you’ve been trapped indoors for days with chairlifts closed due to heavy snowfalls and wind. You need the sky to clear so you can dump your friends on a powder day (see above). Murphy’s law says if you get rip roaring drunk and wake with the worst hangover in the history of hangovers the sky will be blue and the chairlifts running on the best powder day all season.

Death cookies – lumps and clumps of hard packed snow and ice scattered on the slopes waiting to trip you up and send you to your death.

Face shot – when the snow is so deep it blows in your face as you ski.

Blower pow – snow flakes so light and dry that they blow like powder dust when you ski, no lumps here.

Snorkel deep – when the snow is neck deep as you ski.

Texas gore-tex – jeans.

Sweet cherry pow pow – untouched, virgin, blower pow just waiting to be taken (skied).

Shark teeth – itty bitty rocks sticking out from the snow ready to bite.

Chocolate chips – rocks sticking out of the snow.

Sierra cement – what those on the west coast of North America call powder.

Apres – it’s French for ‘after’ so anything that happens ‘after’ skiing or snowboarding becomes apres. Oh, and it involves alcohol, a lot of it.

Liftie – he or she is the one helping you on and off the chairlift. If the resort hasn’t jumped on the automated RFID lift pass train then they will be scanning your lift passes too.

Sent it or send it – to ‘go for it’ down a slope with total confidence.

Gnar – dangerously cool. The more high risk the better.

Steezy – sick as in cool, not ill.

Jib – do some cool stuff with your skis or snowboard on rails, rocks, in the terrain park.

Gaper – the gap between goggles and beanie or helmet. You don’t want it as it reveals you are a newbie or beginner or simply clueless and you will then also be called ‘a gaper’.

Pro – someone who is sponsored to ski.

Sponsored – someone who is paid money to wear certain brands while they ski.

Backcountry – if you don’t know what it is then you shouldn’t go there.

Slackcountry – for those that want the backcountry (see above) experience but are too lazy to work for it.

Goofy – you ride with the right foot at the front of the snowboard

Natural or Regular – you ride with the left foot at the front of the snowboard

What ski and snowboard jargon do you use? What have we missed out?

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Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of SnowsBest.com. A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.

5 COMMENTS

  1. No. “Switch” is NOT simply “going backwards on purpose”.

    “Switch” is riding a snowboard “backwards” as if going forwards – essentially riding as normal, but with your right foot where the left is supposed to be and vice versa. Simply landing backwards, for example, is known as “fakie”.

    Incidentally, skiing backwards is NOT “switch”. Actually skiing “switch” would be to ski forwards, but with your right foot where the left is supposed to be and vice versa.

  2. Blood Bucket – The sled type stretcher ski patrol use to transport injured skiers. One of my ongoing ski goals is to never end up in a Blood Bucket!

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