9 Words To Help You Navigate The Ski Slopes


Newcomers to skiing might snowplow down the slopes, or, better yet, appreciate the view from the lodge, but adventurous skiers and snowboarders will hot-dog down the mountain. This term means to perform unusual or very intricate maneuvers in a sport, especially in a showy or boastful manner. The connection, if there is one, between this sense and that of a certain sausage snack is unclear, though you might find both types of hot dogs at most ski resorts.

Yard sale

A steep, snow-covered mountainside might sound like an unlikely place to hold a yard sale, but if you’ve ever fallen spectacularly mid-slope, leaving your skis, poles, and other paraphernalia scattered in a trail of destruction behind you, then congratulations, you’ve hosted one. In skiing, this term refers to the site of such a crash.


A piste is a track or trail for skiing. It can also refer to a track made by a wild animal. The word is borrowed from French and ultimately can be traced back to the Latin pinsere meaning “to pound, crush.” Pestle (as in “a mortar and pestle”) finds its roots in the same Latin word.


Most skiers are familiar with the snowplow, a maneuver to decrease speed, turn, or stop in which the skier pushes the heels of both skis outward resulting in a V formation down the hill. But what if you have to get up the hill? The herringbone is a method of going up a slope in which a skier sets the skis in a form resembling a V, with the heels together, and pushes on the inside edges of his or her skis using poles for support. The method leaves a pattern in the snow that resembles a herringbone or chevron pattern.


In slalom events, skiers race down winding or zigzag courses marked by obstacles called gates. A hairpin is an obstacle configuration in slalom consisting of two gates with one closing gate. The word hairpin began to be used to describe a particularly sharp turn, such as the U-shape in a pin used to fasten hair, in the early 1900s.


A flush is another configuration in slalom consisting of three or more gates with one closing gate. The origin of the word flush is unknown, but is perhaps linked to the Latin fluer meaning “to flow,” which evokes the movements of skiers as they execute these highly technical courses.


In the newsroom, the word boilerplate refers to syndicated copy or hackneyed writing; in a shipyard, the word refers to plating of iron or steel for covering the hulls of ships; on the slopes, boilerplate refers to frozen, crusty, hard-packed snow, often with icy patches that can be dangerous for skiers.


The tuck is a maneuver used on the slopes to maximize speed by lowering center of gravity and boosting aerodynamic efficiency. In this crouched position, the skier holds the poles close to his or her chest, extending them back under the arms and parallel to the ground.


When the thought of herringboning up yet another slope to retrieve all your gear from your latest yard sale becomes too much to bear, consider commencing après-ski. This useful term refers to the period of relaxation that follows skiing, often marked by a cup of hot cocoa or some other form of hydration in the ski lodge.

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