Not only do snowsports require a lot of equipment (we’ve got a gear checklist!), but there are also a lot of terms, phrases and words that you’ll want to learn.
New to skiing or snowboarding? Here’s a skiing glossary to help you navigate those first days at a ski area and on snow.
Arriving at the Ski Area or Ski Resort
Your introduction to the wonderful world of snowsports (it really is a wonderful world!) begins when you arrive at the hill or mountain where you’re going to ski.
Base Area: This term refers to everything you find at the bottom of the ski area including the parking lots, lodges, chairlifts, ticket windows, rental shop, restaurants and ski and snowboard school.
Be aware that there are a handful of “upside down” mountains in North America, where the lodge and “base area” are actually at the top of the mountain. This doesn’t really change anything, it’s just fun!
Children’s Center: At most resorts, the Children’s Center refers to a combination of ski and ride school and day care.
Discount Passes/Cards: If you plan to ski or ride three or more times this season, look for multi-day passes and discount cards. They are less expensive than purchasing individual tickets and they don’t require a season-long commitment.
Among the best deals are “passports” for kids — often for students in 5th grade, but sometimes for other grades as well — that provide free or heavily discounted skiing and snowboarding.
Liability Waiver: To participate in a lesson, rent equipment or purchase a season pass, you will sign a liability waiver (parents will sign them for their children).
Lockers and Bins: The weather changes rapidly in the mountains, so it’s a good idea to have extra layers of clothing, disposable hand warmers and, if you’re with small children, extra socks (in case their socks get wet).
Look for lockers or bins in the lodge where you can store extra items during the day.
Lift Ticket: When you buy your ticket, you will be given a radio frequency (RF) card to put into your pocket, or a paper ticket that you attach to your jacket or pants with a zip tie or a metal fastener called a wicket.
Rental Shop: If you don’t have your own equipment, you’ll need to rent skis, boots and poles or a snowboard and boots. You can also rent helmets and ski clothes.
Season Pass: Season passes are usually purchased before the winter begins. They allow one person to ski or ride as many days as they wish during the ski season.
Ski Area/Ski Resort: What’s the difference? Not much, as these terms are largely interchangeable. Still, the term resort is often used for larger ski areas and mountains that are closely linked to a community or town.
Ski and Ride School: Snowboarding is often referred to as riding, so the Ski and Ride School is where you will sign up for and take lessons to learn to ski or snowboard.
Ticket Window or Office: To ride a chairlift, you’ll need a lift ticket. Tickets are generally sold at a series of outdoor windows or an indoor counter. The ticket window or office is where you can find a trail map to take with you.
Trail Map: Resort maps come in three sizes: fold up maps for your pocket, medium size maps attached to the chairlift comfort/safety bar and large maps found outdoors at the base area, at the top of chairlifts and at on-mountain intersections.
On the Mountain
Chairlift: Chairlifts are a series of towers going up the mountain, with chairs attached to a cable. Depending upon how large the chair is, you may ride with strangers. But that is part of the fun!
Chairlifts are either attached, with a fixed grip on the cable or detachable and high-speed. High-speed chairlifts slow down to let skiers on and off. Fixed grip chairlifts maintain a constant speed.
In addition to chairlifts, you’ll find gondolas and trams at some resorts.
Gondolas hold 6-12 people, while trams are much larger. Take your skis off before loading and stow them in a rack on the exterior of the gondola or carry them into the tram. You sit down in a gondola and stand up in a tram.
Surface Tow/Poma/T-Bar/Rope Tow: Less common than they used to be, tow lifts pull skiers and snowboarders up the mountain with their skis or board on the snow.
Magic Carpet: Basically a conveyor belt, magic carpets are used for beginner lessons and on beginner slopes. Skiers and snowboarders stand on the belt with their equipment on and ride to the top. Lifties or instructors help everyone get on or off.
Maze: Before you get on the lift, you have to get in line. Look for a series of lanes marked off by rope. These lanes merge until they form a single line for boarding the lift.
Lifty: A lift attendant is the person who controls the chairlift and can help you get on or off. Lifties are there to help you. Ask if you have any questions and remember to always thank them – it makes their day!
Runs: A run is a designated route down the mountain. Runs usually have names and are marked with trail signs that show both the name and the difficulty of the run.
Beginners should look for runs marked with green circles.
Trail Signs: Trail signs are guideposts at the top of each run and at intersections that tell you where you are going. Match them up with the names on the map and you’ll never get lost.
Ski Patrol: Ski Patrol is a group of men and women who help ensure skier and rider safety on the mountain, as well as respond to emergencies, offer first aid and basic medical care and mark hazards (like rocks and stumps) on the runs.
Patrol Gates/Fence/Signs/Poles: When skiing or riding, you may notice gates, fences, signs and poles in the snow. These are placed on ski runs by Ski Patrol to control traffic and signify hazards and closed terrain. Pay attention to them!
Warming Hut/On-Mountain Lodge: These are buildings on the mountain where you can warm up, get something to eat or drink and use the restroom. Lodges are more full-service than huts.
Since my sons don’t live at home anymore, having fledged the nest and flown to college (and beyond!), I am not at all current on snowsports slang.
Still, here’s a snowsports slang post from several years ago — I called it a Skier’s Lexicon — that is fun and possibly still useful!
And please, feel free to start a list of terms that I’m missing below. I always appreciate your help.
© 2019, braveskimom. All rights reserved. Any use or publication of content, including photos, requires express permission.