Snow and skiing terms meanings: How to speak snow language

"It was totally gnar, I mean, I thought I was going to hit the white room but ended up cliffed out in crud."

If you find your eyes glazing over at apres (that's short for apres ski which is the drinks at the bar you consume post-ski day) when confronted with ski and snowboard jargon then you've come to the right place.

Everyone has to start somewhere, right? But not every beginner knows the difference between corduroy and gore-tex. For the record the former is groomed snow that creates a corduroy-style groove on the snow and the latter is a type of fabric that keeps you dry.

Skiing and snowboarding has its fare share of jargon, which we have translated into layperson's speak for you to study before you hit the ski fields this winter.

Avie: This is an avalanche. It should be avoided at all costs. You will know when you are caught in one.

Air: Commonly thought as something one inhales but in snow world terms it is something you "catch". As in "I caught some air", meaning your skis or snowboard left the ground with you in them.

Boilerplate: You do not want to ski or snowboard this though it is likely you will. Otherwise known as bullet proof, the surface is hard, rock hard, because the snow has melted and then frozen. Like avies, this snow should be avoided.

Chute: If you don't know what it is, don't ski or snowboard it. These narrow channels of snow tend to be lined with rock on either side and come with a side order of steep.

Death cookies: Hard packed chunks of ice, snow, debris that scatter over an otherwise pristine snow surface. Hit one of these and you may tumble to your death.


Groomers: Snow that has been given the corduroy effect in order to create the prime conditions for "ego skiing" (where you can do no wrong).

Bunny slopes: You will start here. Three-year-old children will beat you down the hill or bunny slope. You will cry. It will get better.

Cliffed out: This will not happen on the bunny slope though it may feel like it. This is when a skier or boarder has no way down other than to jump a cliff that will kill them.

Crud: Vile, hideous, snot-filled snow that has a crust on top and is soft below and almost always causes injuries.

Face shot: When snow hits your face while skiing deep powder.

Pow: This is caveman speak for powder. It is coveted by those that ski backcountry and off piste (see below) and provides serious boasting rights.

Japow: See above but in Japan.

Chowder: This was once pow but has been chopped up by skis and snowboards leaving their trails on the snow.

Packed powder: This is what resort snow reporters call hard-packed snow - sometimes referred to as ice.

Pro: A skier or snowboarder who has been given a free pair of socks/gloves/goggles and a sticker to blast a ski or snowboard brand across their social media.

Racing parent: The person on the side of a ski race course holding thousands of dollars worth of camera gear picked up duty free on their last jaunt to the continent but begging ski and snowboard brands for free stuff so they can say their child is sponsored (see below).

Sponsored: An athlete who has been given a free pair of socks/gloves/goggles and a sticker to blast a ski or snowboard brand cross their social media.

Backcountry: Snow-filled mountain terrain that is not within the ski resort but is coveted by those looking for pow. Often contains chutes and avies.

Slackcountry: Like the backcounty but accessible from a ski resort boundary.

Off piste: Anything within the ski resort that is not groomed.

White room: The sensation of skiing or snowboarding deep pow or Japow and having face shots that blind the skier or boarder due to the amount of snow thrown into the air by the act of skiing or boarding.

Skiing and snowboarding does come with a separate language. There are many more words you will develop in your snow vocabulary. But next time someone asks you how your day was just say "It was gnar".

Gnar is the universal ski and snowboard term for sick, which means awesome which means dangerous and thrilling but I survived. If they say you're using it incorrectly just ask them to spell it.

Instagram2Win a ski trip to Whistler

We've partnered up with SkiMax this season for the annual #misssnowitall Instagram competition. You could win seven nights for two at the swanky Fairmont Chateau in Whistler plus lift passes for two people at Whistler Blackcomb for six days and return flights for two from Sydney to Vancouver thanks to SkiMax.

Just tag your winter-inspired Instagram pics #misssnowitall #skimaxholidays to enter. We'll publish five finalists each week with one winner at the end of the season. See this week's top entries in the gallery at the top of the page.

The Fairmont Chateau in Whistler.

The Fairmont Chateau in Whistler.

Pro photographers can win a Sony 4k Action Cam with Helmet Side Mount and Board Mount worth $697 (they are not eligible for the Whistler prize) by tagging their pics #misssnowitall #skimaxholidays #pro. We'll choose one pro shot a week as a finalist with one overall winner at end of season.

The Sony 4k Action Cam.

The Sony 4k Action Cam.

Click here for competition terms and conditions.

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