Okay, newbies, let’s go down the check list of ski essentials. Lift ticket. Check. Equipment. Check. Apparel. Check. Ski Lingo. What’s that?!

An important element in the ski world is understanding the standard vocabulary that makes this sport very special. Knowledge is power and basic jargon is priceless – It’s street cred but on the hill. Imagine visiting a foreign country, ordering food, and having that handy phrase book in your back pocket for reference.  Maybe it’s not that extreme. However, sounding like you’re in the know or at least faking it until you make it when you’re hanging with your fellow ski bums and bunnies can save you some major embarrassment.

Luckily, my fellow Liftopia colleagues – Diana Paasch, Kate Christiaanse, Evan Reece, and Taylor Rhoads – were all very helpful in sharing with me the more frequently used terms this sport has created, and with a little coaching and a ton of laughs, I think I’m on the right path.

Here is my list of my top 10 favorite ski terms… for newbies, of course.

10. CRUD

What I originally thought:  I think I remember this word from high school computer class. It’s the acronym for Create, Read, Update, and Delete, right?

Definition: Crud is a combination of powder and patches of ice. It’s slippery or crusty on the surface and soft underneath.

9. BOILERPLATE

What I originally thought: Is this the ski way of referring to a Boiler Maker at a bar? “I’d like to order a boilerplate, please.”

Definition:  This is referring to the condition of snow when it’s non-skiable or non-rideable, basically solid ice.

8. CHAMPAGNE POWDER

What I originally thought:  Ah, yes, Robin Leach spoke of this on his television show the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.  This is what Colorado, Utah, and Montana millionaires make snow angels in.

Definition: It’s a very smooth and dry snow, which is ideal for skiing.

7. YARD SALE

What I originally thought: I’ve done this before, just from my garage and made a few bucks. Growing up in San Francisco means more city streets and very few front yards.

Definition: This is when a skier crashes and loses everything such as their outerwear, skies, poles, goggles, beanies, and gloves. Everything is scattered all over the hill.

6. GAPER

What I originally thought:  This has to be a term for a really awesome snowboarder. “You’re such a gaper, dude.”

Definition: A skier or boarder who is completely clueless on the slopes. They are usually distinguished by their jeans, starter jackets, onesies, or brightly colored clothes and a gaper gap, which is the gap between your goggles and a helmet or hat. Gapers are frequently seen doing the “Tex Tuck,” which is an attempt at being a skier racer by tucking. However, if your poles are sticking straight up towards the sky you are doing it incorrectly.

gaper day skiers

5. TEXAS GORE-TEX

What I originally thought: Is that the new spring line at North Face?

Definition: A person wearing denim jeans, starter jackets and camouflage hunting wear. Apparently, this is one of the sure tell-tale signs of a newbie. (I’ll admit that on my very first time on the slopes I wore a pair of jeans with leggings underneath, to keep warm, of course.  I probably would have worn my starter jacket, too, but I gave that away in 1993. Sad but true.)

4. GLADES

What I originally thought: That’s air freshener or multiple canisters of it, correct?

Definition:  Skiable terrain among the trees.

3. POACHING

What I thought:  Isn’t this a cooking preparation term? I usually eat poached eggs and salmon.

Definition:  This is when a person ducks ropes to find stashes of fresh snow or “pow,” which is out of ski area boundaries. (Skiers and boarder like to live on the edge. I’m noticing a pattern here.)

2. POW or POW-POW

What I thought: My only knowledge of the term “POW” comes from spending my summers in Hawaii as a kid. My cousins would shout at the table after finishing every meal “I’m POW!” Translation: I’m done.

Definition: Fresh snow. POWder. (I can’t believe I didn’t get this one from the start.)

1. APRES-SKI (My personal favorite.)

What I thought: I couldn’t think of much when this term came up. Try to imagine a deer in headlights – That’s what my face looked like when I first heard the term.

Definition: In French, the literal transaction means “after skiing,” but in the ski world it is the equivalent  to having drinks and socializing after a day on the slopes.  (When I found out what this meant, the light bulb went off in my head. It is basically Happy Hour after skiing or boarding. How did I miss out on this activity for all these years? Man, ski people really know how to live the life!)

Hopefully, the next time you make your way to the mountain and are surrounded by tenured skiers and riders, you won’t feel quite as intimidated. You’ll know what to say and do when you’re invited to après ski after partaking in some excellent POW –POW with some fellow hooligans that convince you poaching the other side of the mountain is way better than having an accident with a gaper risking a yard sale.

By the way, this is still a learning process, so please share any other words or phrases that I didn’t mention.

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  • Kate’s mom

    Now Kate, having skied so much in Vermont, should have told you that boilerplate is not non-skiable in the East. It’s just a bit slick and hard to set an edge in. The trail covered with it was usually rated “poor” or “natural”. Also for your older fans, how about sitzmark, schuss and vedeling (sp?) as well as stem-christies — references to downhill’s Austrian roots.

    • JennPC

      In Kate’s defense, my West coast colleague gave me that term. However, she taught me the meaning of apres ski but I’m sure you aren’t surprised by that statement.

      • Kate’s mom

        Oh for gluhwein and Irish coffee. Must be in the DNA.

  • K8

    slope etiquette: on your right, on your left, newbies have no idea when you call out and ski or board right on your fall line

  • Bsmiz

    “Freshies”-first tracks, especially on new pow pow

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1458608368 Frowsy Scot

    okay, i don’t know what a starter jacket is…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1458608368 Frowsy Scot

    but i do know what vedelyn is.

  • Slicksox

    Nooccar (pronounced new-car) the opposite of raccoon eyes due to a sweet goggle tan

  • Dan

    Bulletproof apparently refers to when the trails are a sheet of ice. Just learned that one this weekend.

  • Bobby

    Nice…. A few other terms that could be good are Piste and gnar.. Planning ski trip? go to Colorado, Utah skiing is overrated… ;)

  • http://www.valtournenche.org/albergo-valtournenche/ Albergo Valtournenche

    POW + APRES SKI make it a great day, seeing a couple of YARD SALES make it a better one
    however I didn’t know some of this lingo

  • duche

    That’s pau, not pow.

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  • gruntski

    I loved the article but you’re missing a couple of terms – from the point of view of a gaper who started skiing again when his son started going on high school trips. The two terms are mountain-man and mountain-woman. Gapers pronounce them as mawntin-mayun and mawtin-woomin. These are people to have a bit more skill and want everybody to know it and then try and chat your lady up in the bar. We gapers don’t mind ‘em so much because eventually it’s going to be summer and then there’s that sport we’re good at – say have ridden horses for thirty years. “What? This here Trakehner? Aww, shucks, sure you can get on ‘im, dude, why he’s just as quiet as a mouse….”

  • SkiMaine

    East Coast snow day- a term used almost exclusively by Coloradans spoiled by reliable powder to describe the wet hardpack that is characteristic of New England.
    Snow bunny- an annoying female skier who is 99% interested in looking good, pretending to be good, having the best gear and fanciest jacket and standing around posing and only 1% interested in actually skiing.
    Knuckle-dragger- a snowboarder carving. If you are confused, find a snowboarder wearing a XXXL jacket that doesn’t fit him and watch. You will know what I mean. Not necessarily derogatory.

  • Jimbo700

    The first time I heard the term “yard sale” was when I crashed and the people on the lift were looking down yelling “yard sale”. I couldn’t figure it out until the next time I was on the lift and someone wiped-out. After seeing the carnage, I burst out laughing and the phrase has been with me since. That was about 30 years ago.