SKIING &
SNOWBOARDING

TERMINOLOGY

As with most sports, skiing has some of it's own terminology, some of which you may not be familiar with. To try and eliminate any confusion, most commonly used skiing terms are listed here with their definitions, as well as some other physics and mechanics terms used on the website. The website is also extensively linked to the entries on this page to make the definitions of anything that is not understood, easily found.

Ski Area Terminology

Ski Area
A mountain or collection of mountains with ski lifts and pistes/trails so people can go skiing and snowboarding. Ski areas can be situated around a town or resort, or can be further away.
Ski Resort
A town or purpose built resort than is next to or surrounded by a ski area.
Lift Pass
A ticket that allows you use the lifts in a ski area.
Piste / Slope / Trail
A marked snow path, that is patrolled and prepared for skiers and snowboarders by piste machines that compact the and flatten snow, so that you do not sink into it. Pistes are graded to give a rough guide to their difficulty and steepness, here are some of the grading systems from around the world:

Europe:

  • Green (France, Scandinavia, Spain) - Very easy, and gentle slope.
  • Blue - Easy slope, not very steep (usually).
  • Red - Intermediate slope, for more confident skiers and snowboarders.
  • Black - Advanced slope, steepest slopes, for good skiers and snowboarders only.
  • Ski route - Marked and patrolled off piste route.

North America:

  • Green Circle - Easy slope.
  • Blue Square - Intermediate slope, good pistes for the average skier.
  • Black Diamond - Difficult slope, only for good skiers and snowboarders.
  • Double Black Diamond - Very difficult slope, only for very good / expert skiers and snowboarders.

Japan:

  • Green - Easy slope, good for beginners.
  • Red - Intermediate slope, the grade of the majority of Japanese pistes.
  • Black - Advanced slope, for good skiers and snowboarders.

New Zealand:

  • Green - Easy slope, although they can be a lot more difficult than an american green circle run.
  • Blue - Intermediate slope, for intermediate skiers and snowboarders.
  • Black - Advanced slope, for good skiers and snowboarders.
  • Double Black - More advanced slope, for very good skiers and snowboarders.
  • Triple Black - Most advanced slope, only for very good and confident skiers and snowboarders.

The grading systems only provide a rough guide to the difficulty of slopes. In Europe blue slopes can still be far too difficult for beginners, and occasionally can be more similar to black runs from other regions, so it is always best to ask for advise on where to go if you are not very confident.

Piste Sign / Trail Marker
A sign that shows where the edge of a piste/trail is, often with a number to show which piste/trail it is.
Off-Piste / Backcountry
Unprepared parts of a mountain where the snow is left in its natural state, basically anywhere that is not a piste/trail. If it has snowed recently the snow hear will be very soft, and you will sink into it.
Snow Park / Terrain Park
A specially built area for freestyle skiers and boarders, with jumps, rails, boxes, and half pipes, etc.
Apres-Ski
Going for a few drinks in the afternoon, after a day's skiing. (Can get messy)
Chair Lift
A lift that takes skiers and boarders up the mountain, with them sitting on a chair and resting their skis or boards on a bar.
Magic Carpet / Conveyor Belt
A moving carpet that skiers and boarders can stand on, and get taken up a slope.
Rope Lift
A lift where the skiers or boarders have to hold onto a rope which moves and pulls them up a slope.
T-Bar
A lift that pulls skiers and boarders up a slope, with a T shape bar hanging from an overhead cable.
Button Lift / Poma Lift / Platter Lift
A lift that pulls skiers and boarders up a slope, with a button shape attachment hanging from an overhead cable.
Gondola
A lift where people get into a cabin, and are taken up a mountain. There are many of these on one cable.
Cable Car
A lift where people get into a cabin to be taken up a mountain, but with only one cabin on a cable.
Piste Basher / Groomer / Snowcat
A special machine that is used to compress, move and flatten the snow that is on the piste/trail.
Snow Cannon
A cannon that sprays water into the cold air at pressure to create artificial snow.

Snow Terminology

Hard Pack
Snow that has been compressed down so that it will not compress much further.
Powder
Naturally fallen snow that has not been compressed, which you will sink into a lot.
Slush
Snow that is melting, after having melted and refrozen before, making it made out of ice crystals rather than snow crystals.
Ice
When it has not snowed for a while the pistes/trails will become more solid and icy, which makes it harder to push the ski edges into the snow, and generally reduces your control.
Moguls / Bumps
Lumps of snow that have been created by lots of skiers turning in the same places, pushing the snow they move out the way into piles.
Snow Crystal
A crystal formed by water freezing in the atmosphere with a very fine structure, unlike that of ice.
Artificial Snow
Man-made snow that has been made by a snow cannon. The snow crystals in artificial snow are not as fine as in natural snow, giving artificial snow properties more like ice.
Death Cookies
Balls or blocks of ice, or hard snow, that can be big or small. When a slope has lots of small death cookies on it, it can be like skiing on marbles, making it harder to control the skis.
Avalanche
Where an unstable layer of natural snow breaks away and travels down a slope. They can be started naturally or by skiers and snowboarders, and can be of many different sizes and types.

Weather Terminology

White Out
Weather where the fog or mist is so thick that you cannot see more than a few metres. For more information please read the description in the Snow and Weather page.
Flat Light
Weather where the cloud cover is so thick that the light comes from all directions creating no shadows on the snow. This makes it very difficult to see bumps or even the gradient of the snow. For more information please read the description in the Snow and Weather page.
Gust
Where the wind changes strength dramatically. A gust is a period of wind where the wind is significantly stronger than its average strength.

Piste/Trail Features and Obstacles Terminology

Roller
An area of snow where the slope gets flatter and then steeper again. They can be used to jump off of the flatter area and land on the steeper section, but rollers can also make it difficult to see what is on the steeper part.
Run Out
A flatter area of snow, generally at the bottom of a piste/trail, which can provide enough room for you to lose some speed.
Kicker
A specially built and shaped jump, for skiers and snowboarders. Normally found in snowparks (terrain parks).
Rail
A metal rail for sliding along on skis or a snowboard, normally found in a snow park (terrain park).
Half Pipe
A U-shape run that skiers and boarders go through jumping off the sides.
Box
A wider rail usually with a plasic layer on top, for sliding along on skis or a snowboard, normally found in a snow park (terrain park).

Skiing Terminology

Alpine Skiing
The most common type of skiing, where the both the heel and toe of a ski boot are firmly secured to a ski. The type of skiing that this site is about.
Freestyle
A style of skiing/snowboarding that is based strongly on performing tricks, jumping with spins and grabs, and riding rails.
Freeride
A style of skiing/snowboarding that is based strongly on faster and more aggressive skiing/riding, on piste and off-piste.
All-Mountain
A style of skiing/snowboarding that covers all types of skiing/riding. It is a general term that is used for skiing/riding a bit of everything without specialising in anything.
Heli-Skiing
Skiing where a helicopter takes people to the top of the mountain. Used to go to out of the way off-piste/backcountry routes.
Slope
An area of snow that has a gradient.
Gradient
The angle of which a surface points downwards at.
Traverse
To travel across a slope at a right angle to its gradient.
Switch / Fakie
Skiing/riding backwards. For skiing this means backwards along the skis, for snowboarding it means in the direction along the board that is not set up as forwards.
Fall Line
The arrow used to show the direction of the slopeAn imaginary line in the steepest direction of the slope. i.e. the direction a ball would go if it was dropped and fell down the slope. In many graphics on this site the direction of the fall line is shown by a darker shaded arrow in the snow.
Slant
A gradient that is not in the direction of something's length. For a piste/trail, this is where the piste/trail goes in one direction, but the slope of the snow goes off towards one side.
Snowplough / Snowplow
The position that the skis are in when the front tips are close together, and the backs are further apart, making a inverted "V" shape. See the Snowplough page.
Ollie
A jump/hop that can be done on the flat. The skier/boarders weight is thrown to the back of the skis/board so that the skis/board bend and the nose comes into the air. The skier/boarder then throws their weight upwards and forwards springing off of the back of their skis/board and lifting themselves into the air. See the Jumping page.
Downhill Ski
The ski that is on the downhill side as you go across a slope.
Uphill Ski
The ski that is on the uphill side as you go across a slope.
Outside ski
The ski that is on the outside of a turn.
Inside Ski
The ski on the inside of a turn.
Ski Tips
The front ends of the skis.
Uphill Edge
The edge of a ski that is on the uphill side of a slope, when a ski is pointing at least partly across a slope.
Downhill Edge
The edge of a ski that is on the downhill side of a slope, when a ski is pointing at least partly across a slope.
Inside Edges
The edges on the skis that are on the inside of a turn, or in the inside of a snowplough.
Leading Edge
The edge on a ski or snowboard that is in front with respect to the direction of travel.
Trailing Edge
The edge on a ski or snowboard that is at the back with respect to the direction of travel.

Skier Terminology

Skier
Someone who skis.
Snowboarder / Boarder / Rider
Someone who snowboards.
Freestylers
Skiers or snowboarders that spend most of their time in a snow park (terrain park) doing jumps, tricks and rails, with equipment that is well suited for freestyle skiing/snowboarding.
Freeriders
Skiers or snowboarders that spend most of their time riding piste or powder, with equipment better suited to this kind of riding.

Ski Racing Terminology

Slalom
A race where the skiers have to make relatively small turns, to go through a course. The gates are marked by pairs of flex poles, which are between 4 and 6 metres apart. The distance between the turning poles in each set of gates is between 6 and 13 metres (combination gates between 0.75 - 1m apart, and delay gates 12 - 18m apart). Courses typically cover a 180 to 220 metre vertical drop.
Giant Slalom
A race where skiers have to make turns about twice as big as in a slalom race. The gates are marked by pairs of two gate poles with a gate panel between them. The gates are between 4 and 8 metres wide, and each set of gates is at least 10 metres apart. Courses typically cover a 250 to 450 metre vertical drop.
Super-G
A race where the skiers make very large fast turns through a course. The gates are marked by pairs of two gate poles with a gate panel between them. The gates are between 6 and 8 metres wide for open gates, and between 8 and 12 metres wide for vertical gates, with the turning poles of each set of gates at least 25 metres apart. Courses typically cover a 400 to 600 metre vertical drop.
Downhill
The fastest of the races where skiers take almost the fastest route down a mountain. The gates are marked by pairs of two gate poles with a gate panel between them. The gates are at least 8 metres wide, but there are no set rules for how far apart each set of gates must be other than their positioning must control speed before difficult sections or jumps. Courses typically cover a 800 to 1100 metre vertical drop.
Gate
The flags or poles that define a race course.
FIS
The Fédération Internationale de Ski (International Ski Federation). FIS is the highest governing body for skiing and snowboarding, and sets the international competition rules.

Ski Equipment Terminology

For more information on ski equipment, please see the Ski Equipment section.

Edges
The metal strips down the sides of skis and snowboards, that cut into the snow giving us our control. See the Skis page.
P-Tex
A polyethylene plastic that is used to make the bases of skis and snowboard. It can come in different grades, and can also be mixed with other materials like graphite, to have different properties. It is the P-Tex that you melt wax into to make skis and snowboards slide more easily and faster. See the Ski Construction page.
Wax
Special wax is applied to the bottom of skis and snowboards to make them have less friction with the snow, and slide more easily. See the Ski Construction page.
Binding
The mechanism that attaches the ski boot to the ski. See the Ski Bindings page.
DINs
The tension setting on bindings that will determine how easily they will release a ski boot. See the Ski Bindings page.
Sidecut
The shape of the side of a ski. A ski with tips a lot wider than the middle of the ski, has a large sidecut, whereas a ski with a similar width along its length, has a small sidecut. See the Skis page.
Sidecut Radius
The radius of the curve on the edge of a ski. See the Skis page.
Ski Length
The entire length of a ski, including the tips. See the Skis page.
Effective Edge
The length of the edge that will contact the snow when the ski is leant over. See the Skis page.
Camber
Camber is the arch shape a ski has along its length. See the Skis page.
Rocker
Where the camber of the ski starts to go upwards before the sidecut has finished. Rockers can make skis float more easily in powder, or a bit easier to handle on the piste/trail. See the Ski Cambers page.
Base
The underside of a ski. See the Skis page.
Salopettes / Skiing Pants
Waterproof trousers that are worn for skiing, often with straps that go over the shoulders.
Transceiver / Peeps
A device that is used to locate people when they have be caught in an avalanche, providing they people caught are also carrying the device.
Probe
A long pole that is used to precisely location a person caught in an avalanche.
Shovel
The shovel the is carried by off-piste/backcountry skiers and boarders to dig for someone caught in an avalanche.
Laminate / Laminated
Where a material is made of several sheets of an original material glued together. This produces a far stronger material than the original material was.
Composite
A material made from more than one base material, often with a special structure that can affects its strength and properties.

Physics / Mechanics Terminology

Resonance
The ability of a material to vibrate significantly from a relatively small amount of input energy. Resonance occurs when the input energy is acting at close to the natural frequency a material.
Mass
The physical volume of a solid body. Weight is calculated by multiplying mass by the gravitational attraction of the earth.
Force
A physical energy that can push or pull on something. Your weight is the force that you push on the earth with, when there are no other accelerations.
Reaction Force
The force that the snow pushes back with when a ski puts a force into the snow.
Vector
Something that has a definite direction.
Scalar
Something that has no direction, or it's direction is not of importance.
Parallel
Where 2 or more objects are pointing in the same direction along their length.
Velocity
The arrow used to show velocitySpeed with direction (vector), if the direction that an object is moving changes but the speed stays the same, the object's velocity will have changed even though the speed hasn't. Velocity is shown in the graphics by a red arrow like the one on the right.
Constant Velocity
A speed that does not change how fast it is, or the direction that it is in.
Acceleration
The arrow used to show accelerationThe rate of change of velocity with respect to time, or more simply where something either gets faster, or its speed changes direction so that its speed has increased in one or more directions. Acceleration is shown in the graphics by a green arrow like the one on the right.
Deceleration
The rate of change of velocity with respect to time, in a direction against current movement. It is still an acceleration, but against velocity, which means that whatever is being observed will be slowing down in at least one direction.
Magnitude
The size, power or value of something.
Pressure
Pressure is a force divided by the area that the force is transferred through. When the same force is transferred through a smaller area, the pressure will increase.
Momentum
The energy that a skier has stored in their movement. Momentum calculated by mass multiplied by velocity, and therefore has a defined direction.
Right Angle
A angle of 90 degrees.
Component
An element of something that can be seen to act in a certain way. Most things or forces can be split into many different components, to better understand what they are, or where they come from.
Vertical Component
The component of something (generally a force) that acts in a vertical direction.
Sideways Component
The component of something (generally a force) that acts in a sideways direction.
Longitudinal
The direction usually refered to as lengthways.
Lateral
The direction usually refered to as sideways.
Gravity
Gravity is an attraction that acts on a mass, and creates a force pulling the mass straight downwards.
Centre of Gravity
The point at which the overall effect of gravity can be seen as acting on, the centre of an objects mass. Where the centre of gravity is, can change if the shape of the object changes.
Centre of Mass
The same as the centre of gravity. The point at which the effect from the mass of a body is the same in all directions.
Gravitational Force
The force that gravity produces acting on a mass.
Weight
The force created by gravity acting on a mass.
Momentum Induced Force
A force that is created when something tries to work against momentum (i.e. when something's velocity changes).
Unopposed Force
A force that has no force acting against it, and will result in creating an acceleration.
G-force
A sideways force that is created when the direction of velocity is changed.
Resultant Force
The overall force that is created when there is more than one force acting on something.
Pivot
A point at which something turns around.
Moment
Having a resultant force around a pivot, leaving a force that makes something want to turn.
Torsion
A twisting property or force.
Friction
The force that acts along a surface resisting the surfaces movement when in contact with another surface.
Motion
An active movement.
Effect
Something caused by another action.
Axis
An imaginary line representing a 1 dimensional direction. Any distance can be show by 3 measurements along 3 different axis at 90 degrees to each other.
x-y Plane
A 2 dimensional plane along the x and y axis.
z-y Plane
A 2 dimensional plane along the z and y axis.
Wind Resistance
The resistance against movement that is created by the air.
Counteract
To oppose the effects of something.
Dynamic
A constantly changing property, due to movement or changing inputs.
Vacuum
A 3-dimensional space that contains no matter.

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