Notes from the Road: Ski Slang to Keep You Young

I’m not a die-hard skier. Given the option, I’ll likely call it quits after a few runs in bad weather, even if the snow is, "Better than it’s been all season," (which it basically is, every time it snows). I enjoy the ritual of waking up early, getting into the lift line when the snow is still fresh, having a beer at lunch and heading home in the afternoon.

This also means that I rarely use words like, "Sick," "Epic," or, "Gnarly," to describe any action or noun on the mountain. In my world, the snow is usually, "Beautiful," or, "Fluffy;" my favorite ski run of the day is usually just, "Really fun."

However, for my own edification and for yours (and so that we all can figure out what the damn kids are saying), I’ve put together a thoroughly researched guide to mountain lingo. So even if you don’t agree with what your kids are saying, you can at least understand them.


Sick/epic = good. Some might say awesome or unbelievable, but since I hear these words thrown around with reckless abandon, I’m going to have to say they all mean some version of good to great.

Example: "That was like the most epic day. The powder was so sick."


Gnarly = bad. Again, this word seems to cover a huge range of bad, from poor weather to a lost limb.

Examples: "The wind out there is totally gnarly." "His broken leg looked so gnarly."


Drop in = To make the first turn off of a cat track, ridge or groomer onto a steep run or a run in the trees

Example: "Don’t drop in right there, bro; there’s a log right under you."


The Lip = either the top of a slope that you crest right before dropping into a steep run, or the part where groomed snow meets ungroomed snow on a groomer (imagine the lip of a glass).


Example: "I got serious air off that lip!"


Teleplant = when you’re deep in a telemark skiing turn but you get too close to the ground, hit your front knee and face plant into the snow.

Example: "How’d you get snow on your goggles?" "I totally teleplanted."


Poaching a line = to ski just ahead of someone who was skiing on some untouched snow before you and ruining their fresh snow with your own ski line. Totally uncool.


Example: "You just poached my line! 100 years of bad ski juju."


Yard sale = to crash hard and lose all your gear in the process, so that the slope looks like you’re having a yard sale with all your ski gear littered everywhere. Usually reserved for skiers.


Example: "Check out that gnarly yard sale."


Corduroy (aka ‘Roy) = after a run is freshly groomed, the lines in the snow look like corduroy.

Example: "So glad we got up early to hit these groomers. There’s fresh ‘Roy everywhere."


Tomahawking = cartwheeling down the mountain. Usually performed on a really steep slope after someone has dropped below the lip.

Example: "She broke both her legs after tomahawking off Lone Peak."


Hucking = jumping off a steep cliff or ridge. Landing optional.

Example: "I didn’t think he was that good, but did you see him huck that cliff?"


We’ve heard a ton of ski lingo over the years; give us your best and we’ll see if we can translate.