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The Newbie’s Glossary of Ski Phrases

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"So I went down that line when I was suddenly behind that F-ing Jerry who was pizzing down the hill. So I had to bail and have a sip of snow."

Did you understand that? No? Then you may be the Jerry who is just starting out on the slopes.

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If you didn't grow up in a state where you had access to snow-capped mountains, you've probably never met skiers, snowboarders, and other winter sports enthusiasts in their natural habitat. As a beginner, it is important to familiarize yourself with the terms and vocabulary that you can hear on the slopes – not only for aesthetic reasons, but for your own safety.

To help you find your way around the mountain language, we tapped John Collinson, one of the most renowned big mountain skiers in North America and Red Bull and The North Face athletes (@johncollinson). Here is a list of terms you want to know:

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ski conditions

Apres-ski: This is a French term that means "after skiing". It refers to making a few drinks after skiing and throwing them back.

Deposit: A targeted fall to avoid jumping or railing.

Bomber: A skier who "bombs" the mountain at a ruthless speed.

Brain Bucket: Another word for helmet.

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Butter: When a skier swings on the tips or tails and turns 180 degrees.

Carving: Make clean curves with the edges of your skis. This usually leaves “S” marks in the snow.

chairlift: A row of chairs hung from a moving cable that carried passengers up and down the mountain. Each mountain usually has a handful of chairlifts that take you to different parts.

Chatter: The vibrations of your skis that occur at high speeds. The more chatter, the less contact your skis have with the snow.

Crust: A frozen layer of ice that covers powder or is buried under snow.

dump: When a mountain is “run over” with a lot of snow.

Faceshot: If you whirl up so much snow that your view is temporarily impaired. This usually means that you ride a lot of powder in ideal conditions.

French fries: Straighten your skis to gain speed, another popular term among new skiers.

Gaffer: An unsuspecting skier identified by wearing the wrong equipment. The term gaper comes from the gap between a skier's helmet and his goggles.

Gnarly: A word used to describe something extreme – a trick, a trail, or conditions in general.

Jerry: Another name for an inexperienced skier.

Liftie: A ski lift operator.

Park Council: A skier who spends the whole day in the terrain park with jumps and rails to try out.

Pizza: Turn your skis inward to form a triangle (like a slice of pizza). This is how new skiers learn to slow down.

Pow: Short for powder or a lot of snow.

ripper: An accomplished and experienced skier.

Sendy: A path that is particularly steep or dangerous and may allow a big jump.

Shred the Gnar: For tearing off or skiing on a difficult part of the mountain.

ski lift: A device that can be used to pull skiers uphill, usually a moor rope that skiers hold onto while gliding on their skis.

steeze: A combination of "style" and "lightness" that describes an effortless and elegant run.

Paper shredder: Like the ripper, this is an accomplished ski bum.

obliterate: A gnarled fall.

Trail terms

All slopes are marked with a different shape and color to determine the level of difficulty. Here's what you need to know:

Line: A route down the mountain, like "Let's take this line under the elevator."

Green circle: Simple. This is the easiest way on the mountain. They are neat, broad and have a grade of only 6 to 25 percent.

Blue square: Moderate. These well-groomed slopes are a little steeper than greens (with a gradient of 25 to 40 percent), but they're also the most-used slopes because they're popular with beginners and intermediate skiers.

Black Diamond: Heavy. These trails are usually located on the top of the mountain and are at least 40% steep and prone to harsh conditions (think of ice patches, rocks, and narrow lines). You can avoid this on your first (and second and third) ski tour. However, once you've acquired some skills, this is an entertaining challenge that will test your athleticism, reflexes, and stamina.

Double black diamond: Expert. Take a wrong turn and you will find that you slide all the way down while continuously swearing that you will never ski again.

Triple black diamond: Extreme. Just leave it to the professionals.

road conditions

A list of the four most popular terrain styles that you will encounter in the resort (and sometimes outside the resort).

Moguls: Humps are bumps that are made up of people who drive on the same line and lead to an accumulation of snow that is not run over. You should drive in the grooves around them. "To do this, you want to have quick hips and knees and consider your legs as shock absorbers while keeping your torso still," says Collinson. Many trails are divided, one side being groomed and the other mogul. This enables beginners to try their hand at skiing and to bail if necessary.

Backland: This is a pretty wide area. It is used to describe everything outside of a ski area boundary. It can be anything from huge peaks to the slopes right behind the resort. Backcountry skiing is fun because you are alone. So you have to make more decisions and there is a lot of fresh, untracked snow. We recommend avoiding off-road skiing when you are new, as you are more likely to get lost, injured, and in some cases get caught in an avalanche.

Terrain park: This consists of artificial elements like rails and jumps – it's like a skate park on the mountain. Younger skiers and boarders typically hang out here. It can be fun for beginners, but you just want to be careful.

Tree skiing: That's exactly what it sounds like. You drive between trees and in the forest. It's fun because the trees make you feel like you're driving faster than you are. For this you want to have a good separation of upper and lower body – your feet should move away from your upper body so that you can turn around trees better. Just look alive and you should be fine.

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