Don’t Look A Dope On The Slopes – Know Your Ski Lingo!

So maybe you’re considering a ski holiday and have spent time researching and planning your perfect trip to the slopes, with location, accommodation and transport all arranged. Well, there’s still one more thing you need to make sure you know before you go and that’s the snow sports lingo!

There’s plenty of jargon surrounding a ski or snowboarding trip, and knowing the correct terminology can make a huge, positive difference to your trip. Family holiday specialist Mark Warner has been taking adults and children on ski holidays for 35 years and Matt Davis, the Manager of the Chalethotel L’Aiguille Percee in Tignes, has picked a selection of his favourite ski terms from their beginners ski glossary, to ensure you’re up to speed with the lingo you need to know.


To make sure you don’t end up out of your depth or get too lost, it’s good to know your surroundings and the different features you can expect to see on the slopes. Here are a couple that you’re likely to come across regularly:

Piste / Ski Run – A ski run is a trail or path that skiers and snowboarders follow to get down the mountain – you’ll want to make sure you know the difference between them so you don’t end up biting off more than you can chew. There’s a simply classification system of colours; green, blue, red and black – green is the easiest and black is the most difficult run.

Off Piste – Skiing off groomed & marked runs, snow will be left as it fell & there will be no slope maintenance. Great fun – necessary safety precautions should be taken.

Terms for snow

It’s one of the most important aspects of a snow trip, but there are so many different types of snow that it’s easy to get confused with the best type for snow sports. Stay in the know so that you can be sure to make the most of your trip with the best snow:

Groomed – A piste is ‘groomed’, when piste-bashing machines have smoothed and compacted the surface level of snow to make it more manageable for skiers and boarders.

Powder – Powder snow is the finest, most desirable & most fun snow. When there is heavy snow fall you could have 50cm upwards of fresh & untouched snow on pistes around resort. It can be hard to get to grips with but it’s great fun & it doesn’t hurt when you fall!

Crud – Crud is snow that is crusty on the surface and soft underneath. This is a slightly more challenging type of snow to ski or snowboard on, offering a less even terrain. Crud is probably the worst and least forgiving kind of snow, this is usually formed when the temperature in the day time is warm and at night the temperature drops. This causes the snow to re-freeze in odd shapes making the pistes a lot more challenging.

Slush -Slush is created when the temperature starts to rise and the snow starts to melt, becoming wetter. Turns are much harder in slush as wet snow is much heavier than softer snow.

Ski techniques:

Once you know exactly what type of snow you’re dealing with, you can start mastering your techniques, but only once you know what their names mean:

Air – Air, as in ‘catching air’, refers to jumps and tricks where the skier or boarder leaves the slope to become airborne. Higher is better with this technique, with ‘big air’ meaning leaving the ground for at least a couple of seconds of hang time.

Cruising – A technique for all ski levels, cruising is simply skiing down a run at a laid back and relaxed speed.

Snow Plough – Possibly one of the first moves you’ll learn in skiing, this is a braking and turning ski movement. It involves making a ‘V’ shape pointing downhill, which can be widened to create more friction and slow you down further.

Catching an Edge – Catching an edge is when the leading edge of your ski or board digs into the snow, making you lose balance and fall, or nearly fall over. It’s a fundamental part of learning to snowboard and also why it is often considered a painful experience. However, when a boarder gains experience they will learn how to avoid catching an edge, spot the warning signs and recover when they get close to it.


It’s important to be kitted up with the right gear when hitting the slopes to ensure you’re not affected by the cold and to make sure you’re fully prepared for the new skills you’re set to learn. Not all names for clothing items are clear though, for example these two:

Ski Pants / Salopettes – These are waterproof trousers worn by skiers and snowboarders to keep legs warm and dry. Choose a style that has the appropriate features, such as breathable or highly insulating fabric, zip vents and reinforced layers. Also consider what is best for your chosen sport, as well as the weather conditions of the resort you will be visiting.

Base Layer / Thermals – Very important layer that is often overlooked. A good base layer could be the difference between you being warm or cold. Base layers should not be made from cotton as this material absorbs any moisture (sweat) and this can then make you very cold & uncomfortable in freezing temperatures.

Other useful lingo to know:

And in case you need to know them, here are two of my favorite terms – happy skiing!

Face Shot – When a skier or boarder ends up with a face full of snow when traveling through deep powder. This is what skiers all crave – the best feeling in the world.

Après-Ski – Après-Ski refers to drinking on the mountain side or in resort bars ‘after skiing’ and if you’re up for it, partying too! It often involves a glass or two of Vin Chaud, Glühwein or some other variety of hot wine. You might find live music and people dancing on tables! There is no better way to end a day on the hill than making the most of the fun après-ski activities.

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