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.

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:


  • 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.


  • 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.

Off-Piste / Backcountry
Unprepared parts of a mountain, basically anywhere that is not a piste. If it has snowed recently the snow hear will be very soft, and you will sink into it.
Piste Basher / Groomer / Snowcat
A machine that is used to compress, prepare and flatten the snow that is on the piste.
Ski Area
A mountain or collection of mountains with lifts and pistes so people can go skiing and snowboarding.
Lift Pass
A ticket that allows you use the lifts in a ski area.
Ski Resort
A town or purpose built resort than is next to or surrounded by a ski area.
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.
Going for a few drinks in the afternoon, after a day's skiing. (Can get messy)
Run Out
A flatter area of snow, generally at the bottom of a piste.
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.
A style of skiing/snowboarding that is based strongly on performing tricks, jumping with spins and grabs, and riding rails.
A style of skiing/snowboarding that is based strongly on faster and more aggressive skiing/riding, on piste and off-piste.
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.
Someone who skis.
Snowboarder / Boarder / Rider
Someone who snowboards.
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.
A polyethylene 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.
Special wax is applied to the bottom of skis and snowboards to make them have less friction with the snow, and slide more easily.
The mechanism that attaches the ski boot to the ski.
The tension setting on bindings that will determine how easily they will release a ski boot.
Snow Park / Terrain Park
An specially built area for freestyle skiers and boarders, with jumps, rails, boxes, and half pipes, etc.
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.
Skiers or snowboarders that spend most of their time riding piste or powder, with equipment better suited to this kind of riding.
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.
A specially built and shaped jump, for skiers and snowboarders. Normally found in snowparks (terrain parks).
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.
Salopettes / Skiing Pants
Waterproof trousers that are worn for skiing, often with straps that go over the shoulders.
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.
Hard Pack
Snow that has been compressed down so that it will not compress much further.
Natural snow that has not been compressed, which you will sink into a lot.
Snow that is melting, after having melted and refrozen before, making it made out of ice crystals rather than snow crystals.
When it has not snowed for a while the piste will become more solid and icy, making it harder to push the skis into the snow, which generally reduces 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, the snow crystals in artificial snow are not as fine as in natural snow, giving artificial snow properties more like ice.
Snow Cannon
A cannon that sprays water into the air at pressure to create artificial snow.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A long pole that is used to precisely location a person caught in an avalanche.
What is carried by skiers and boarders to dig for someone caught in an avalanche.
Skiing where a helicopter takes people to the top of the mountain. Used to go to out of the way off-piste routes.
A race where the skiers have to make relatively small turns, to go through a course.
Giant Slalom
A race where skiers have to make turns about twice as big as in a slalom.
A race where the skiers make bigger faster turns around a course.
The fastest of the races where skiers take almost the fastest route down a mountain.
The flags or poles that define a race course.
An area of snow that has a gradient.
The angle of which a surface points downwards at.
To travel across a slope at a right angle to its gradient.
A gradient that is not in the direction of something's length.
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.
The metal strips down the sides of skis and snowboards, that cut into the snow giving us our control.
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.
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.
A material made from more than one base material, often with a special structure that can affects its strength and properties.
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.
The physical volume of a solid body. Weight is calculated by multiplying mass by the gravitational attraction of the earth.
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.
Something that has a definite direction.
Something that has no direction, or it's direction is not of importance.
Where 2 or more objects are pointing in the same direction along a length.
The arrow used to show velocitySpeed with direction (vector), if the direction that something is moving changes but the speed stays the same, the velocity has still changed. 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.
The arrow used to show accelerationThe rate of change of velocity with respect to time. Acceleration is shown in the graphics by a green arrow like the one on the right.
The rate of change of velocity with respect to time, in a direction against current movement. It is still an acceleration, but against velocity.
The size or power of something.
Pressure is a force divided by the area that the force is transferred through.
The energy that a skier has stored in their movement. Momentum is mass x velocity.
Right Angle
A angle of 90 degrees.
An element of something that can be seen to act in a certain way.
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.
The direction usually refered to as lengthways.
The direction usually refered to as sideways.
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.
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.
The force created by gravity acting on a mass.
Momentum Induced Force
A force that is created when something tries to affect 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.
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.
A point at which something turns around.
Having a resultant force around a pivot, leaving a force that makes something want to turn.
A twisting property or force.
The force that acts along a surface resisting the surfaces movement when in contact with another surface.
An active movement.
Something caused by another action.
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.
To oppose the effects of something.
A constantly changing property, due to movement or changing inputs.
A 3-dimensional space that contains no matter.

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