Skiing Glossary

Published October 17, 2017

two happy skiers on the ski lift

New to downhill skiing? This skiing can quickly help you to get familiar with the most common terminology.



Aerial—Airborne, gymnastic-type maneuvers performed on skis. Done by freestyle skiers who first ski off a jump.

AFD (Anti-Friction Device)—Teflon® pad or mechanical slider attached to the top of the ski just behind the binding toe unit. The ski boot toe rests on this piece. Reduces friction between the top of the ski and the boot sole so that the boot releases smoothly during a fall.

All Mountain Skis—Skis designed to perform well in a variety of snow conditions over the whole mountain.

Alpine Skiing—Commonly known as downhill skiing. Uses stiff-cambered skis, hard-shell boots and fixed-heel, releasable bindings.


Base—The material on the underside of the ski, which allows it to slide when waxed. Usually made of polyethylene, the most common brand of which is P-Tex 1000.

Black Diamond—An expert-level ski slope designated by a sign with a black diamond on a white background.

Boards—Another term for skis.

Bumps—(see Moguls)


Camber—The slight arch of a nonweighted ski when resting on a flat surface which contributes to the ski's flexibility. A ski with higher camber will feel springier than one with low camber. Alpine skis have alpine camber. They lack a significant arch or wax pocket underfoot, as found on Cross-Country-camber skis.

Cap Skis—Skis designed with a seamless piece covering the top and sides so there are no separate sidewalls. Plastic caps, sometimes called "monocoque" construction, cover the true structure of the ski, usually a torsion box or a laminate.

Carve—A clean turn made on the edge of the ski, without skidding. The skier must put pressure and weight on the ski edge, which forms an arc in the snow.

Catwalk—A gentle, narrow trail that joins one ski slope to another or that winds down the entire mountain.

Chatter—Vibration or instability of a ski on hard snow due to the edges bouncing off the snow instead of biting in.

Christie—A braking turn in which the ski tails are allowed to skid. Easier to do than carving turns since the skis are not angled up on their edges.

Core—The center section of a ski, usually made of foam or laminated wood, which holds the structural layers apart. A ski's flex is determined by its core thickness.

Corn Snow—Snow condition usually occurring in spring and consisting of small, rounded "kernels" or balls.

Crud—Transition snow that is not packed down by skiers or grooming machines. Altered by temperature changes and repeated snowfalls, it has variable consistency, making it difficult to ski on.


Damping—A ski's resistance to sustained vibration, usually built into the ski with layers of shock-absorbing material.

Delamination—The separation of a ski's base or top sheet from its core, which is usually irreparable.

DIN—Deutsche Industrie Normen (German industrial standards organization). Sets standards for many things, among them alpine ski binding release settings and boot soles. (One DIN standard relates to the shape of boots as they fit into bindings.) The term "DIN" is typically used to refer to the binding release values when relating to alpine skiing.

Double Diamond—An extreme, expert-only ski slope, designated by a sign with 2 black diamonds on a white background.

Downhill—High-speed ski racing with tight turns and jumps. Speeds can be in excess of 60 mph. Also, the common term used for alpine skiing.



Edge—Usually made of carbon steel, it is the sharpened part on either side of a ski's base that bites into the snow. To edge a ski is to tip it up onto the side, pressing the steel edges into the snow.

Express Lift—Common name for a high-speed chairlift.


Fall Line—The line of gravity or the most direct route down a slope.

Fat Skis—Very wide skis designed to perform in deep powder snow.

FIS—Federation Internationale de Ski, the international governing body of alpine and Cross-Country skiing.

Flex—The amount of stiffness or "give" in a ski. A softer-flexed ski will perform better on soft, deep snow, whereas a stiff-flexed ski handles better on hard-packed snow.

Free-Carving—The relatively new style of skiing in which skiers use super-sidecut skis to make extreme, carved turns at high speeds, but without gates or moguls. The skier leans into the turn and compresses the legs. Poles are optional.

Freeride—Term given to skis built to handle everything from powdery, groomed slopes to bumps, crud and other challenging terrain.

Freestyle Skiing—Acrobatic skiing that includes moguls, jumps and aerial maneuvers such as twists and somersaults.


Giant Slalom (also G.S.)—A racecourse with medium-to-long-radius turns around gates. Also the type of skis used in those races.

Gondola—A fully enclosed ski lift, in which skiers remove skis and stand or sit.

Groomed Run—A ski run that has been smoothed over by machine for more consistent skiing.


Hourglass Skis—Super-sidecut skis, or skis on which the tips and tails are significantly wider than the waist.


Inner Boot—Insulating, cushioning ski boot liner that can be removed for drying. Fits inside the rigid plastic outer boot.



Mashed Potatoes—Lumpy, wet snow that catches ski tips and edges easily, making skiing challenging.

Moguls—Humps of snow created by skiers repeatedly making turns in the same places on the slope. Also known as bumps.


NASTAR (National Standard Racing)— A racing organization for recreational skiers.


Off-piste—The area beyond the groomed runs of a ski area or backcountry away from developed ski areas.

Overlap Boots—Traditional-style ski boot that closes in front with overlapping flaps and several buckles


Parabolic Skis—Shaped skis, or the most dramatically sidecut skis. Easier for beginners and intermediates to turn and control.

Parallel Turn—A turn in which the skis are parallel to each other (rather than angled, as in a wedge turn).

Piste—French for a groomed course on snow or the groomed portion of a ski area (see Off-piste).

Powder—Fresh, dry snow, prized by skiers and snowboarders for its lightness.

PSIA—Professional Ski Instructors of America. The organization that certifies most ski professionals in the U.S.


Quad—Chairlift that carries 4 people per chair.


Rear-Entry Boots—A style of ski boot that opens in back with a hinged flap that you push down to open and pull up to close. Usually has 1 or 2 buckles. Most commonly used for children and beginning skiers.

Rock Skis—Old skis used for thin snow conditions in early and late season when hitting rocks is more likely.

Rope Tow—A lift that pulls skiers up gentler slopes. Skiers hold on to handles along a continuously moving "rope" and keep their skis flat on the snow.


Shaped Skis—(see Hourglass Skis)

Sidecut—The difference in millimeters between the ski's waist (or narrowest part) and the tip and tail. A large sidecut allows skis to carve turns more readily.

Sidewall—The material along the sides of a ski that covers the structural and core components (see Cap Skis).

Schuss—Literally, "to shoot" or "shot" in German. To ski straight downhill very fast with skis parallel.

Ski Boards—Very short, twin-tipped skis used for carving fast turns, jumping and doing acrobatic tricks.

Slalom—Skiing in a zigzag or wavy course between upright obstacles, usually flags. Also, a timed ski race over a winding or zigzag course past a series of flags or markers.

Snowcat—A machine driven over the snow (on belts similar to a bulldozer's) to groom slopes for skiing or to transport people and gear.

Snowplow—A means of slowing or stopping on skis in which ski tips are pointed inward, tails outward, and pressure is put on the inside edges.

Stem Christie—A skiing turn begun by stemming a ski (pushing the tail outward) and completed by bringing the skis parallel into a christie (a braking turn in which the ski tails are allowed to skid).



T-Bar—A ski lift that pulls one or 2 skiers up a slope at a time with their skis resting on the snow. Skiers lean their hips/buttocks against a bar that hangs down between them.

Torsional Rigidity—Resistance to twisting. A ski's torsional rigidity comes from its construction and core materials. A more rigid ski performs well on hard snow, whereas a less rigid ski will be easier to handle in soft snow.

Tuck—A tight, forward-lean position used for fast downhill runs. The skier is in a squatting position with the arms tight against the sides and skis parallel.


Waist—The narrowest part of a ski in between the tip and the tail.

Wedge—(see Snowplow)

Remember: Safety is your responsibility. No internet article or video can replace proper instruction and experience—this article is intended solely as supplemental information. Be sure you're practiced in proper techniques and safety requirements before you engage in any outdoors activity.