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Don’t Let Ski Slang Get The Best of You This Winter

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Ski season has long-ago begun for some, and they’re stoked about shredding gnarly fresh pow lines or stomping sick new tricks with their park rat bros when the light’s a little flat and the snow slushes like mashed potatoes. For others, ski season can take its slow time and give a little snow here for Thanksgiving and a little snow there for Christmas, and leave us with blue bird afternoon cruiser runs the rest of the season. Regardless of which camp you ski in, ski jargon is a language unto itself that has developed alongside the onslaught of seasoned ski bums, new technology, and visiting tourists alike. It would seem like a perfect time for a quick run-down of some of the terms you might hear out there this season.

Après-ski: (ä-ˌprā-ˈskē) noun
    Literally means after-ski. The much anticipated celebratory post-ski day party at any base resort, restaurant, or bar where thawing bodies find themselves shooting pool and reminiscing on the turns they made on the slopes that day.

Bombing/bomb: (freshiesbäm) verb/noun
    To bomb as a noun (apart from when ski patrol lobs avalanche/avy bombs to keep skiers safe) is to ski or snowboard at a very rapid pace down a run, usually without turning, and often done in order to catch a few more lifts before the day ends. 

Bony: (bō-nē) adjective
    Usually refers to spring or early season skiing when rocks and tree stumps protrude from minimal snow cover, endangering your head, your bodily health, and above all, the base of your skis. 

Brain bucket: (brān ˈbə-kət) noun
    This is your helmet: wear it. 

Bumps: (bəmps) noun
    Moguls. Those pesky mounds of pushed-up snow that make you feel like you’re really making it out there for about three turns before the rogue one pushes you over too soon and you quickly lose balance and/or coordination and your form disintegrates into you looking more like a limp noodle. At least that’s my experience. 

Chatter: (cha-tər) noun/verb
           This is when snow cookies, or those round hardened marbles of snow, ice, and knee pain roll under your skis as you turn and cause the boards to quite literally chatter, sending earth-quaking vibrations up through your shred-weary bones. 

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Dirtbag: (dərt-ˌbag) noun
    A person who typically loves skiing more than anything or anyone else in life and will put it on the highest pedestal, to the point of living on couches or out of renovated vans in order to best maximize ski time. Admit it, we’ve all considered it at one point, even if as a distinctly impossible yet dreamy option. 

Face shot: (fās shät) noun
    When the new snow is so light, delicious, and fluffy that it sprays up into your face every time you make a turn. Frequently, this type of snow will make it the best ski day of your life. 

Flat: (flat) adjective
    This typically refers to low quality of light on the slopes, when everything morphs into a similar shade of grey and all the bumps and divots in the snow mysteriously disappear. Slightly dangerous and highly annoying. Antonym: high light, much preferable.

Freshy: (ˈfreshē, -shi) noun
    Also used in the phrase: fresh tracks. This is the glorious time when you are the first to ski a run and your tracks are the first and only on the new dumping of powder. Many wake up at unimaginable times of the morning to obtain these medallions of glory. Frequently associated with face shots.

Gaper/Gaper gap: (gā-pər , sometimesˈga-pər) adjective/noun
    Commonly someone who is new to skiing and unknowingly makes it clear with wardrobe selections and various mannerisms at the base area. Gaper gap refers to the inch or two of exposed and chilly forehead between the bottom of the helmet and those ten-year old pair of Scott goggles (not brand-specific). To be remedied by pushing the two back into unison, for style and also for a significantly warmer face.

Gnar: (när) adjective/noun
    Short for gnarly. Usually in reference to a difficult, beautiful, powdery run. I.e.: ‘shred the gnar,’ or ‘that was gnarly.’ Synonyms: sick, rad, radical, sweet.

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Jibber/park rat: (jib-bər) noun
    Someone who spends the majority of their resort time in the park, jibbing (riding) rails and sending (jumping) jumps. Often a rival of the lovers of backcountry or in-resort powder skiing. 

Liftie: (lift-ē) noun
    The gloriously kind people who run the lifts from open till close and help with all the caught tips, stuck poles, and general disarray surrounding loading and unloading the lifts. Thank them when you get the chance. 

Line: (līn) noun
    The route that a skier elects to take down a run. Usually in reference to a meticulously planned-out big mountain path that involves trees, cliffs, and freshies (see above) to have the gnarliest (see above) run of the day.

Mashed Potatoes: (mashd pə-ˈtā-(ˌ)tō) noun/adjective
    This is the snow that literally feels like what you would imagine skiing on mashed potatoes feels like: sticky, goopy, and throws you off balance every time you enter another patch of it. A speed demon’s nemesis. 

Pow: (pau̇) noun
    Powder, the glorious white fluffy snow that cold, dry nights often bring. An overnight Christmas miracle met with cries of joy, early morning departures, and too much coffee. 

Ripper (Antonym: gaper) (ri-pər) adjective/noun
    AKA shredder. A person who is a very skilled skier and bombs (see above) their lines (see above) flawlessly. Generally a beautiful sight to witness.


Sick: (sik) adjective
    See: gnar

Six Pack (siks pak) noun
    Another way to refer to a lift that holds six people.

Snow snake (snō-snāk) noun
    Those pesky, invisible snow monsters that grab your skis in the middle of a run and cause havoc for your previously beautiful line. Usually results in some sort of small crash or embarrassing, out-of-nowhere leg wobble. See: yard sale.

Stomp (stämp, stȯmp ) verb
    To stomp a line or a trick is to execute it without flaw and to have everything go to plan.

Switch (swich) verb
    To ski or ride backwards, typically used by park rats to describe how they begin or end a trick.

Yard Sale (yard-sāl) verb
    When a skier crashes and their gear scatters across the hill: poles, probably a glove, usually both skis, hopefully not a helmet. Please, stop and help this person out of their embarrassment and into either their gear or safety. 

We know that was a lot to cover, and we know it may still sound like non-sense to many of you, but hopefully this list of the terms will help you navigate the complicated world of young budding skiers. Good luck out there this season, folks!

And remember: If you’re trying to stomp that sick line under the six pack switch this year, make sure you strap on your brain bucket in case a snow snake causes a yard sale.