Skier Slang: Decoded

‘Tis the season for one of my all-time fave sports in Colorado: skiing. I love zipping down a groomer, crushing through knee-deep powder, or feeling the stinging sensation of ice crystals burning my cheeks. But you know what I don’t love? The vocabulary! More than any other sport, I feel like skiing/boarding alters the language every year so newcomers can barely keep up. Is being called a gaper a good thing or a bad thing? And a gaper gap? Is that like a thigh gap?!

Even worse? Half of the words don’t make any sense! {Truthfully, some are downright ridiculous…} I overheard a snowboarder describing a run to a friend the other week and his words were seriously absurd: “If you stay to skier’s left, it’s pretty gnarred up, but if you crush to the right, you’ll find some freshies. But watch out– this flat light makes it easy to ragdoll on the chop.” What. does. that. even. MEAN?! Words mean things, people!

But never fear: I’ve got your back, my friends! While I’m still a bit slow on the texting acronyms that are circling the preteen world, I’ve got the skiing vocabulary dialed in.


All photos by Will

Apres ski: In French, this literally means “after ski.” In the ski world, it can be anything from a slopeside beer at a bar or totally wrecking yourself with jello shots all night. Your choice!

Backcountry: Also known as “Heather’s favorite,” this includes any skiing NOT at a resort. You have to use special ski gear in order to skin up the mountains, but you don’t see anyone and it’s almost always untracked snow. Totally worth the sweat equity! {Side note: Always make sure to have the proper avalanche safety gear!}

Bombing: Skiing down a trail at a crazy-fast speeds.

Brah: A ridiculous term that people actually use in place of “bro.” It makes me cringe.

Bulletproof: When the snow gets compacted and ices over, it can be as hard as a rock….or bulletproof.

Bumps: I thought this was a common term worldwide, but Will said they typically said “moguls” in California. Bumps is just a slang term for moguls; makes sense, right?


Champagne Powder: This stuff is the BEST! Steamboat Ski Resort trademarked the term, but this is a type of snow that is incredibly light and dry. Skiing through true champagne powder feels like floating!

Corduroy: Ski resorts have groomers that maintain the trails near the base of any mountain. The machines leave a corduroy pattern in the snow that can be a lot of fun to ski if you catch it before others!

Core Shot: This means you’ve had a bad day! An unseen rock or stump can damage the base of your ski, scraping through the ptex and exposing the core of your ski.

Cornie: A cornice is an overhanging edge of snow on a mountain. Typically, wind will blow against the ridgeline and the snow will gradually build up into a false, overhanging edge. They’re a ton of fun to jump on skis or boards, but wicked dangerous in mountaineering since they deceive people into thinking they are solid ground. {Why we have to shorten the word to “cornie” is beyond me!}

Crud: Crappy snow with lots of hard, icy chunks spread throughout.

Face Shot: If you’re fortunate enough to ski on a powder day so deep that the snow splashes you in your face. you’ll know what a face shot is!

Flat Light: Flat light occurs when there is little light with gray skies. This causes the terrain to all blend together in terms of color and can make visibility tricky. Fortunately, specific goggle lenses are designed to combat this.

Freshies: Another word for powder that I strongly dislike!

Gaper: This can be a tourist or a newcomer to the slopes, but they are typically identifiable by their lack of slopeside fashion or general cluelessness. Not a very friendly term.

Gaper Gap: I do use this term! For those not familiar with ski fashion, it’s considered very uncool to have your forehead exposed above your goggles and below your helmet; this is referred to as a gaper gap. Ideally, you want the top of your goggles to sit flush against your helmet. Plus, you won’t get any ridiculous tan lines that way!


Gnar: Yet another word that I wish would disappear! This is short for gnarly and some riders use it to describe a trail or area of snow that is pretty awesome or tough. Why they can’t say “badass” is beyond me!

Jibber: Also known as a park rat, this is someone that hangs out in the park and skis rails and boxes.

Knuckle Dragger: When a snowboarder carves hard and turns down the mountain, they can lean over and touch the snow with their hand. This led to the term knuckle dragger. I don’t board, so I’m not sure if it’s considered offensive, but it kinda sounds like it to me!

Lines: The path a rider takes down the mountain.

Pow: Also shortened to “pow pow,” this is another slang term for powder.

Powderwhore: Although this doesn’t sound like the nicest term, it’s commonly used and not offensive. In short, it’s someone who loves to ski powder!

Ragdoll: If someone falls and almost cartwheels down the mountain, they ragdolled. If you ever see one in action, it will make sense!

Ripper: I frequently use this term when I see little kids bombing down the mountain, exhibiting talent far outside of my wheelhouse. These kids are “little rippers.” In essence, a ripper is anyone who is very good at the sport.

Skier Slang

Steaze: This started years ago and although it’s used less frequently, the phrase still pops up. Steaze is a combination of the words “style” and “ease.” For example, if you see a boarder complete an insane trick in the half pipe, he has steaze.

Yard Sale: Although this is never funny while happening, it is the PERFECT terminology! If a skier or boarder has a huge fall, they can frequently lose their hat, gloves, skis and poles while tumbling down the mountain. This is called a yard sale.

Zipper Line: A zipper line is the fastest and most direct route down a field of moguls. If you see a talented skier bomb down the bombs, their knees bounce back and forth so smoothly that it looks like that are following the teeth of a zipper.



  • Reply John Sills at

    A couple to add…
    Grom: short for grommet and is a term used to refer to kids who can really rip up the mountain.

    Scorpion: when a boarder falls face down and their legs and board flip up in the air, often hitting said boarder in the back of the head. Like ‘garage sale’ above the term is completely accurate but painful to the ego and cranium of its victim.

    Sierra Cement: the exact opposite of champagne powder, this is the type of early season, high moisture snow that builds great bases on CA resorts, but quickly turns to crud .

    • Reply heather at

      SCORPION! Those are brutal to watch! Now that I think about it, I think that is how Will got one of his concussions 🙂 Thanks for adding to the list!

  • Reply Lynn at

    Ha! This is great. When I first moved to Tahoe and I was just learning to snowboard, I heard someone yell, “Don’t frost me, brah!” to his friend. I felt like I had moved to an alien land. Here we get the lovely combination of Norcal slang AND the ski/snowboarding words. Hope you get hella fresh tracks this weekend, Heather!

    I do like ‘gnar’, but mostly because of the movie, Gnar (, which you should totally see if you haven’t!

    • Reply heather at

      1) I haven’t seen that movie so I’ll check it out – thanks!
      2) After a lifetime of Colorado skiing, I still refuse to use some of the more ridiculous words (like brah). I just can’t even.

  • Reply Heidi @BananaBuzzbomb at

    I had no idea this slang even existed. Ha!

    • Reply heather at

      Not a lot of ski hills in Arizona or Ohio? 🙂

  • Reply Kovas - Midwest Multisport Life at

    We’re pretty much 100% bulletproof here in the Midwest, so we do get some powder on occasion.

    Have you seen the video on “How to be a Skier?” Some parts are pretty funny:

    • Reply heather at

      Hahah that’s awesome! I’ve never seen that! And I’ve never heard it called a “gorby gap” or whatever so I just learned something 🙂

  • Reply Laura at

    This is so helpful – thank you so much! I grew up skiing in Vermont and we NEVER had all this slang… I find it so confusing! Why can’t people just use the regular words? Now hopefully I can be less of a “gaper” when I’m in Summit County 🙂

    PS – we referred to them as “moguls” as well; to me, “bumps” means an icy surface with loose chunks of ice making it a rough ride, not moguls.

    • Reply heather at

      That bump thing seriously blew my mind! In my head, moguls were kind of the stuffy, formal word and most people just called them bumps…..but I’ve also been in CO my whole life. I am learning so much today! 🙂

  • Reply Natalie Ford at

    🙂 I guess I’m technically a gaper, but, after a lifetime of skiing, I’m more familiar with most of these words than I would have thought! I had to laugh at the yard sale-I’ve been witness to quite a few of those!

    • Reply heather at

      Yard sale makes me laugh every time I hear because while painful, it is such a FITTING word!

  • Reply Christine @ Love, Life, Surf at

    This is awesome. Yes, the slang is ridiculous but you just made me want to ski so badly!! Yard sale IS really such a fitting word. And yes, moguls. Grew up skiing in VT and CA and that’s how we referred to them!

    • Reply heather at

      This seriously blew my mind. HOW DID I NOT KNOW THIS?!

  • Reply Thursday Thoughts: Winter Time Stuff | Free Range Human at

    […]  Speaking of skiing, you guys really need to check out Heather’s post.  She’s broken down skier/boarder language, and it’s helpful as well as hilarious.  I […]

  • Reply Logan at

    Ha..I don’t know if I’ve ever called them moguls. It’s always “what do you want to do today?” “BUMPS!” So weird how the vernacular changes in different areas of the country.

    I’m not sure it’s a real ski term, but I’ve been called a “ski snob” multiple times for refusing to ski on the east coast. Why bother when I know what the west has to offer??

    I’m almost to single digits until my first run of the season. Cannot wait.

  • Reply Tony at

    What about ‘Sendy’? I heard that a few times at Winter Park and Copper this season.

    • Reply Heather at

      That’s used when skiers are starting to really go for it, hucking cliffs and killing it. You’d say something like, “It’s getting sendy here!”

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