From its inception, skiing has been a sport that appeals to counter-culturists and, like any tribal demographic, it exhibits its exclusivity through the invention of a distinct colloquial jargon. Which is to say, skiing has always had its own lingo.
Chairlift speak has historically been a way of conveying authenticity. Ski bums devote significant creative energy to coining new turns of phrases and bon mots to better describe the specifics of snow quality, terrain type, ski technology, etc… Only the truly committed know the latest jargon. Terminology signifiers like “après” vs. “parking lot brewskies” separate the long-lunchers from the chairlift-brown-paper-baggers.
A Reflection of Trends in Skiing
Fads in skier slang reveal rather a lot about the character and make-up of the ski bum population and the trends in our sports. At present, there are a variety of sub-categories within skier slang that are worthy of note and which have substantially increased vocabulary.
With the inception of big mountain and powder skiing ushered in by the Golden Era of Shane McConkey and Glen Plake, synonyms for the word “powder” sky-rocketed. Synonyms for “powder” and “skiing powder” now count in the too-many-to count.
While your typical spring break groomer-grinder might only have one or two ways to express “powder skiing”, a true ski bum has any number of creative ways to communicate the experience of “getting pitted.” There’s…
- “Entering the white room”
- “Face shots!”
- “Serious pow was found.”
- “Needed a snorkel.”
Influence of Hip Hop
One of the most interesting trends in skier lingo has been the influx of hip-hop-oriented terms championed by the Slopestyle/Halfpipe/Freeskier crowd. The apotheosis of trick skiing slang was surely achieved when serious NBC commentators were forced to offer thoughtful critiques of so-and-so’s “Japan”, “Screamin Semen”, “Dinner Roll”, or “Misty”—forcing the mainstream media establishment to legitimate the sport and its colorful counter-culture tendencies.
The lingo coined and used by park athletes conveys the community’s deference to hip-hop, anti-capitalism, youthfulness, general mischief…and a wholesale disregard for established grammatical structures.
Even ski gear adheres to the usage of technical slang, which is only truly understood by those who are experienced enough to actually notice the difference between features. Terms like “rocker”, “camber”, “twin tips”, and “xxx underfoot” separate gear junkies, from well…people who care less about these things. You just don’t hear bankers say, “Man, you gotta check out my new decks—they’re rocker pontoons, epic for when it’s nuking.” Nope.
Tip: Skier slang is generally earned by experience, so it’s probably a good idea if you hold back on using it until you’ve skied Corbet’s, Huntington’s, Baker, or High Rustler.