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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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Downhill skiing, not to be confused with Nordic skiing 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.
Downhill skiing, not to be confused with Nordic skiing
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.
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.
The innermost layer of clothing. Avoid cotton T-shirts: get something which will 'wick' moisture away from the body.
The mechanism which attaches your boots to your skis or snowboard. Most of the time.
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.
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.
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!
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.
See bubble lift
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.
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.
The Drag Lift
A video teaching you everything you need to know in order to
avoid the walk of shame
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.
A monumental downpour of snow, likely precipitate gleeful skipping and general mirth from everyone in resort.
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.)
The straightest route downhill; the route by which a ball would roll downhill from where you are standing.
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.
See bubble lift
The easiest slopes in any given resort. Wide, flat and groomed, they are ideal for learning the fundamentals of skiing.
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.
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.
A lump or bump in the piste from which it is possible to attempt a jump or trick.
A conveyor belt used to convey usually young skiers uphill.
Mounds of snow created by the skidding turns of previous skiers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A marked route which can be skied. In N. America, pistes are more commonly called 'trails'.
A heavy-duty vehicle used to groom the pistes overnight, ready for tomorrow's skiing.
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.
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 »
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.
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.
Resort accommodation which can be reached without taking your skis off.
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.
A beginner's best friend. The snowplough describes the wedge-shaped position which allows you to slow down and stop.
Skiing or boarding backwards, whether by design or otherwise.
The most elementary form of turn in skiing. A slow, controlled changed of direction ... in theory anyway.
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.
See bubble lift
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
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.