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A Beginner's Glossary of Skiing

From Apres Ski to your first Yardsale

Our slightly tongue-in-cheek beginner's guide to skiing terminology

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Alpine Skiing

Downhill skiing, not to be confused with Nordic skiing

Apres Ski

Social drinks after a day on the slopes. Can be a tipple before a chalet dinner, but can also run into the small hours and destroy the following day's skiing.

The Luckiest Goats in France

An anthropomorphic drama plays out on the slopes above Pralognan-la-Vanoise in the Rhône-Alpes. Ten goats are nearly overrun by an avalanche but narrowly escape.

 

Avalanche

When the snow slides down the mountainside. On television it's often light powder avalanches, but in reality they are often made up of heavy snow, ice and rocks and are often lethal for anyone caught in them. Fortunately, avalanche control is very well administered in the French Alps & the pistes are all protected. Do be aware that they only protect the pistes - 2 yards off the edge of the piste is unprotected and the vast majority of people caught in avalanches are within sight of the lifts. If you're going off-piste or into the backcountry, book a qualified mountain guide.

Base layer

The innermost layer of clothing. Avoid cotton T-shirts: get something which will 'wick' moisture away from the body.

Bashed

See groomed and piste basher.

Binding

The mechanism which attaches your boots to your skis or snowboard. Most of the time.

Black Run

The hardest of the 4 grades of pistes. A very challenging ski trail which should only be undertaken by experienced skiers. Sometimes groomed, though often not, black runs are always a challenge because of their steepness, moguls and challenging terrain.

Blades

Very short skis used without poles, like rollerblades or ice skates. A fun way to break up the ski holiday if you're looking to try something different.

Blue Run

Intended for beginner and lower-intermediate skiers, blue runs are commonly the most popular trails in any given ski resort.

The Bowl, Les gets

The nerve-centre of Les Gets skiing, The Bowl is a point of convergence between eleven pistes of varying difficulty, catering for all levels of experience. Served by five chair lifts, it is the perfect meeting point for groups of mixed ability. Last one back to the bottom buys the vin chaud!

Bubble Lift

An enclosed ski lift which conveys skiers, snowboarders and non-participating pedestrians both up and down the slope. Many resorts have a bubble lift from the resort centre because it allows novices and non-participants to get home without braving the steepish descent into the village. Also known as telecabine, gondola or cable car.

Cable Car

See bubble lift

Carving

A type of high-speed turn which uses the edges of the skis with no skidding. Carving looks effortless but is very difficult to master. It leaves a trail of two parallel lines throughout the turn.

Chalet

A wooden house or villa, usually large, typically found in an Alpine setting, beneath a blanket of snow. Just follow the smell of Raphael's cooking.

Corduroy

The distinctive striped pattern of freshly groomed piste, left behind by piste bashers.

Crust

A layer of icy, frozen snow. This may appear on the top of the piste, or may be buried under fresher snow. A crust can be both the cause and the target for a faceplant and/or yardsale.

The Drag Lift

A video teaching you everything you need to know in order to
avoid the walk of shame

 

Drag Lift

Also known as a button lift, the drag lift does exactly what is says: it drags you uphill - hopefully with your skis still on the ground.

Dump

A monumental downpour of snow, likely precipitate gleeful skipping and general mirth from everyone in resort.

Edge

A metal strip on either side of a ski or snowboard. They are sharp & used for biting into the snow when turning and stopping. To catch an edge (vb.) - In resort you may hear snow-coated and bedraggled skiers and snowboarders complaining that they have "caught an edge". This means they fell over and need something to blame. By convention, sympathy and back-patting are offered, with laughter suppressed at least until Apres Ski, at which point overt mockery becomes socially acceptable.

Faceplant (noun, vb. trans & intrans.)

A humiliating, bone-crunching tonsils-first descent into or over a mogul, always to be followed by the phrase "I must have caught an edge".

Fall Line

The straightest route downhill; the route by which a ball would roll downhill from where you are standing.

Freestyle

Tricks, showboating and/or tomfoolery on skis which may result in a yardsale. A freestyle skier measures their time on the piste not in hours but in somersaults.

Gondola

See bubble lift

Green Run

The easiest slopes in any given resort. Wide, flat and groomed, they are ideal for learning the fundamentals of skiing.

Groomed

Adj. describing pistes which are 'smoothed' overnight to provide a clean and clear skiing surface. Freshly groomed piste is a pleasure to ski on and, with the right snow, skiers will race to the top of the first chair lift to get pure groomed piste first thing in the morning. Also see bashed.

Herringbone

To use the inside edges of your skis to climb uphill facing in the direction you wish to climb (i.e. not sideways). As you 'herringbone' uphill, you will leave a distinctive herringbone pattern in the snow behind you.

Hit

A lump or bump in the piste from which it is possible to attempt a jump or trick.

Magic Carpet

A conveyor belt used to convey usually young skiers uphill.

Mid-layer

A layer of clothing worn between the base layer and the shell. This is typically a microfleece, designed to wick moisture away from the body to keep you dry and warm.

monoskiing

A monoskier looking for someone to overtake

Moguls

Mounds of snow created by the skidding turns of previous skiers.

Monoski

A forward-facing single ski with both boots attached, almost like a cross between skis and a snowboard. Rule number one of skiing: never let yourself be overtaken by someone on a monoski.

Nordic Skiing

Most commonly refers to cross-country skiing, but can also apply to any form of skiing where the heel releases from the binding, as in telemark skiing.

Off-piste

Also known as out-of-bounds or backcountry, off-piste refers to skiable terrain which is not marked on a pistemap and which is not groomed. Off-piste terrain may still be maintained by resort authorities, e.g. avalanche prevention.

On-piste

Terrain and trails which are marked on a piste map. To ski on-piste is to ski within the boundaries marking the edges of the piste itself. These markings are green, blue, red or black signs spaced at 100m intervals to the right and left of the piste.

Piste

A marked route which can be skied. In N. America, pistes are more commonly called 'trails'.

Piste Basher

A heavy-duty vehicle used to groom the pistes overnight, ready for tomorrow's skiing.

Powder

Dry, fresh, light snow - the ideal form of snow for skiing. In resort, conversations generally revolve around the current, most recent or forthcoming powder dump. For beginners, fresh powder can be quite difficult to ski on because it quickly gets ploughed into moguls which are very tiring on the legs.

Red Run

An intermediate-level groomed piste, steeper than a blue but not as steep as a black run. Some of the more challenging red runs in the Les Gets ski area include the 'Arbis' descent from the top of La Chamoisiere and the 'Aigle Rouge' from the Pointe de Nyon.
View Les Gets piste map »

Seasonaire Shuffle

A forward wriggle executed just before the arrival of a fast chair lift. If executed successfully, the Seasonaire Shuffle will ensure that your partner will take the full brunt of the chair to the back of the legs and you will be spared any such inconvenience.

Shell

The outermost layer of clothing, in most cases a ski jacket. It is commonly accepted that outrageously-coloured shells are the preserve and privilege of outrageously good skiers. Keep it conservative until you have done your first backflip.

Schuss (from the German to shoot)

To ski straight downhill without executing any turns, usually performed in a 'tuck' position to reduce air resistance.

Snowplough Turns

 

Ski-in Ski-out

Resort accommodation which can be reached without taking your skis off.

Snowpark

A dedicated, manmade facility for freestyle skiing and boarding, featuring half-pipes, jumps, boxes and rails. Cautionary note: there are two words you should never say in a snowpark - commit them to memory.

Snowplough

A beginner's best friend. The snowplough describes the wedge-shaped position which allows you to slow down and stop.

Switch

Skiing or boarding backwards, whether by design or otherwise.

Snowplough turns

The most elementary form of turn in skiing. A slow, controlled changed of direction ... in theory anyway.

T-bar

Like a drag lift or button lift but, instead of being button-shaped, the end of the vertical pole forms a cross-bar which can propel one or two skiers.

Telecabine

See bubble lift

Telemark Skiing

Also known as free heel skiing; a variety of downhill skiing where the boot is attached only at the toe. This allows the skier to adopt a stride position when exiting turns.

Walk of Shame

The slow, humiliating shuffle back to the start of the drag lift you have just slipped off. For basic etiquette, see catch an edge

"Watch this!"

The two words most likely to precipiate a faceplant or yardsale. Generally uttered semi-confidently before a fledgling first attempt at freestyle.

Yardsale

The instant, usually just before a faceplant, at which skis, poles and skier all head in different directions. The several minutes which may be required to gather together said skis and poles are generally spent explaining that an edge has been caught.

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