With any sport, there evolves a lingo, slang or code. It’s good to know the internal expressions to sound knowledgeable and well – cool. Otherwise you might be lost in a base lodge conversation or worse, embarrass yourself. I, for example, know nothing about lacrosse and made a complete fool of myself asking why fellow moms had “lax” stickers on their SUVs (I was thinking digestive system relaxant). See our Ski Vocabulary for a Dictionary of skiing terms.
So let’s shed a little light on some ski and snowboard terms floating about the slopes, so that you aren’t caught being a complete “joey” or committing other ski pet peeves.
No offense to those named Joey, but this name has come to define a skier or snowboarder to whom the sport does not come naturally, understatement. I am sure there are many “joeys” in the ski world that are quite accomplished at alpine sports. I didn’t make this expression up, but I have heard it enough on the slopes to report on the cultural phenomenon, so apologies to all those “Joeys” who fall under this idiom undeservedly. Joeys do not carry their gear properly, instead they hold skis awkwardly crisscrossed, poles sticking out like skewers. Joeys don’t know how to ride the lift, and don’t ask directions, so they inevitably fall while loading or forget to unload at the summit – causing the entire lift to stop, eliciting groans from the more proficient skiers and riders now inconvenienced by the delay. Joeys ski trails way above their skill set, get going too fast and attempt a hockey stop before crashing, or they use their fellow joey ski buddies as human stopping cushions. When a “joey” hits a jump, their weight sails off center, their skis and poles flail, and their arms flap, but no amount of mid air antics will save them from their messy landing. Still you have to cheer for these misfits on the mountains for having the chutzpah, or novice naivety, to just go for it. Joeys should learn Terrain Park Etiquette and get to Know the Code.
To my knowledge there is no female equivalent for “joey,” this is good news for girls. However, a snow bunny is a cutely dressed lady who lacks great ski ability. Big hair, makeup, fitted snow pants and a furry hood are all clues. Some snow bunnies never leave the comfort of the lodge, recognizing that their lack of downhill skill could be detrimental to their looks, therefore ruining the whole facade. You will find other bunnies on the magic carpet, giggling at every cliché compliment their instructor bestows.
Having traveled recently to western Canada, so-called joeys are “punters,” while in the U.S. Rockies “gaper” is the common label. A “joey gap” or “gaper gap” is a noticeable space between your goggles and your hat or helmet where your forehead is gawkily exposed. It looks uncomfortable, and is a telltale sign that you are awkward and amateur at snow sports, far from the stylish look in ski magazines.
A “SPORE” is an acronym for a special person on rental equipment, easily identified by the numbers written with sharpie pen on their gear. I always feel for the guy who gets the rented helmet with the big number 13 on his forehead. A “spore” doesn’t know how to click into their bindings never mind turn with ease and finesse, but like the joeys, they represent the funding and the future of our sport.
A pinhead is a skier on telemark equipment; this expression dates back to original telemark skis that affixed the boot toe piece to the binding with three pins allowing the heel to go up and down freely with the bending of the knee. As the telemark craze has grown so has the jargon to include free heeler and knee dipper.
A shredder is a snowboarder. One planker, knuckle dragger, and rider are additional terms to signify that you snowboard versus ski.
Hot dog sounds like tubular lunch meat served in the lodge, but it references the act of performing tricks on skis. Hot dogging has been updated over the decades, now called free skiing or free riding (on a snowboard). If you hang out in the terrain park hot dogging, you might also be called a jibber.
Being “sick” is actually a good diagnosis on snow. Despite its unhealthy sound, if someone tells you your run was sick – that’s high praise. If your jump was ill, that’s positive feedback as well. “Gnar” stems from the word gnarly, also implying that you skied something extreme with expertise, worthy of esteem (props) from your ski pals.
Fall line is not a place where you queue up to wipe out. This is a technical term (so use it to impress) describing a trail’s pitch downward. To ski the fall line is to head down the trail, instead of traversing back and forth timidly. Reverse fall line does not mean to ski back up the trail; it indicates a trail slopes off to the right or left at an angled making it trickier than a straight graded descent.
“Fakie” sounds like you are pretending you know how to ski or snowboard – but to ride or ski fakie (or switch) requires proficiency since you are actually going downhill backwards on your boards, looking over your shoulder (hopefully) to see where you are headed.
Yard sale sounds like a flea market of used ski equipment, and in a way it is – only the items are not for sale – merely misplaced by the owner following a fall. A huge wipeout, wreck, or crash that causes all your ski belongings, boards, poles, hat and goggles, to be scattered about the slopes is jokingly referred to as a yard sale. It’s funniest when you are the voyeur not the victim. A hard snowboard hard is called a Mackerel Smack.
Then there are the countless terms for snow from cold smoke – the billowing trail of light airy powder that follows skiers on their first tracks, to “pow” or “freshies” describing fresh fallen snow, to cord which is perfect corduroy ribbed snow created by groomers, to death cookies which are hard chunks of ice that fowl up an otherwise smooth turn.
Snow snakes are mythical creatures that lay in the snow, like a death cookie only sneakier and less real, waiting to grab skiers and cause them to fall unexpectedly but providing them a quick scapegoat –or snow snake in this case.