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Glossary of Skiing Terms and Phrases

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
As of 14 April 2009

ABDUCTION - movement of a joint away from the center line of the body. For example when you splay your foot outwards you are abducting.

ADDUCTION - movement of a joint towards the center line of the body. For example when you turn your foot inwards you are adducting.

AFD - Anti-Friction Device - a small pad located behind the toe-piece of the ski binding.

A - FRAME - The position that a skier's legs get into when the outside leg's knee collapses into the inner knee during the turn, or when the inner knee is not angulated into the centre of the turn. Is typically (but not always) seen as a problem to be eliminated when skiers are using shaped skis, as can be a "weak" ski position.

ALPINE SKIING - Also known as downhill skiing, uses skis the bindings of which fix the whole of the ski boot sole to the ski.

ANGULATION - When there is an angle (laterally) between the legs and the upper body. This is achieved by bending the body, so that the CoM is inside the turn and the edges are at an angle to the snow, while the body remains in balance. Angulation allows the skier to remain balanced while setting an edge (putting the ski on edge) – in the absence of Angulation the skier would topple over.

Illustration: A skier in an angulated position

ANTICIPATION - An exaggerated Counter position used at the end of a turn. The body faces down the hill, while the skis point across the hill. Commonly used to help a skier pivot the skis downhill during the Transition, for the start of the new turn.

APEX - The point during a turn at which half of the entire direction change which that turn will produce has been completed.

ARCING - An American term for perfectly carved turns.

ARC to ARC Turns – Dynamically skied Carved Turns that are perfectly linked with a smooth Transition.

ARETE - A sharp, narrow mountain ridge. It often results from the erosive activity of alpine glaciers flowing in adjacent valleys.

AT - Alpine Touring - AT ski equipment is specifically designed for ski-touring in steep terrain. A special Alpine Touring binding allows the heel to be clipped down for more support when skiing downhill, and allows it to be released to swing resistance-free from the toe, when climbing. Most AT bindings have DIN safety release, as in a normal alpine binding. Special ski boots with rigid soles are also used, something of a cross between a downhill ski boot and a hiking boot, light and flexible enough to be comfortable to walk up in, while still being stiff enough to provide good control when skiing down.

AVALANCHE - A mass of snow and potentially rock and ice falling down a mountain. There are numerous sub categories of avalanches

Full Depth avalanche - An avalanche which cleans off the snow right down to ground level

Loose Snow avalanche - aka point avalanche, an avalanche which starts at a point and gathers more snow as it travels down the mountain fanning out wider and wider as it travels.

Powder snow avalanche - An avalanche in which the snow breaks up into dust and may become airborne. Can flow in a straight line over irregular terrain.

Sluff Avalanche - Small snow slides running typically less than a 100metres and are small enough not to be considered dangerous to people.

Slab avalanche - An avalanche that is started by a crack across the snowpack with a whole section of snow coming down the mountain.

AVALEMENT - A French term (from "avaler" to swallow). The art of absorbing Bumps, using the legs but keeping the body still and quiet.

AVALEMENT TURNS – 'swallowing' the Bumps, so as to assist pivoting.

BACK SEAT - The position a skier is in when sitting back, with too much bend in the knees and not enough forward ankle flex.

BANKING - Poor use of Inclination to make turns, resulting in the skis not holding an edge during the turn and the skier being unbalanced and typically having too much pressure on the inside ski.

BASEBOARD - See Zeppa.

BASI - British Association of Snowsport Instructors - A British members' organisation that licenses and provides training for ski instructors.

BASI Instructor levels -

Ski Instructor level 1 - Trained to teach skiing up to parallel standard in artificial ski slopes within the UK;
UK Advanced Ski Instructor - Trained to teach skiing up to parallel standard at UK artificial ski slopes, but with additional training in teaching techniques from the Level 2 course. With further training in a mountain environment can become a level 2;
Ski Instructor level 2 - Trained to teach skiing up to parallel standard on piste in an open mountain environment;
Ski Teacher ISIA - Trained to teach all levels of skiing on and off piste (within the resort boundary) within a ski school;
Ski Teacher Diploma ISTD - The highest level of ski instructor, can teach skiing on and off piste anywhere except for glaciated terrain or where the use of ropes or ice axes is planned. Can operate autonomously or within a ski school;
BASI Tutor - An ISIA or ISTD level Instructor trainer who is qualified to teach Level 1 instructor courses;
BASI Trainer - An ISTD who is selected by BASI to train instructors.

BASIC SWING - see Plough-Parallel Turn. A Scottish term for what BASI refer to as Plough-Parallel.

BINDING LIFTERS - See Riser Plates.

BLOCKAGE - or Blocking - When the position of some of the body's joints effectively "block" or reduce the range of movement of other joints. To feel an example of this effect stand in your skiing "goal keeper's" position with all the joints flexed and your elbows slightly out as if you are holding poles. Now raise your elbows up as high as they will go and your neck/upper body will be blocked. Similarly, drop your elbows into your sides and your lower back will be blocked.

BOOT SOLE LENGTH - The length of the ski boot (in millimetres) measured along the outer sole and including the lugs that hold the boot into the binding. This measurement is important and is used to determine DIN setting on the bindings so that they release correctly.

BoS - Base of Support - The area of the skier (the bottoms of the skis and the poles) that are in contact with the snow surface, which supports the skier's body and transmits forces from the CoM to the surface of the slope.


BRUSHES - see Carrots.

BUMPS – see Moguls.

BUTTON LIFT - aka Poma Lift, A mechanized system for pulling skiers and snowboarders uphill, along the surface of the slope. There are two main types, detachable and fixed. Detachable are more modern and easier to use as the user can assume an appropriate posture relative to the button and pole while the pole remains stationary. When the cable grip attaches to the cable, the passenger's acceleration is lessened by having the pole being spring-loaded. Fixed buttons swing around the end of the pully wheel and the user must grab the pole as it travels by at the speed of the tow cable.


CAMBER - The curvature of the ski's base that helps distribute the skier's weight over the length of the ski. If a ski is placed on a flat surface without any weight on it, it will be seen only to be supported at the tip and the tail, with the middle of the ski not in contact with the surface.

CARABINER - (or Karabiner): An oval, pear, or D-shaped link of lightweight aluminum (or steel alloy for heavy duty versions) that serves as the climber's all-purpose connector. Guides will use it to connect a rope to a client's harness (see Harness or Climbing Harness) or it may connect a belay to a rope or a pulley. A screw-gate Carabiner can be locked by using a screw thread and are typically, but not always, higher load rated. A Snap-Gate, or more lightweight Wire-Gate carabiner cannot be locked.

Heavy duty types of carabiner, able to sustain multiple forces over wider angles are known as HMS Carabiners and are marked "HMS" or simply with an "H" as shown in the diagram below. The name HMS derives From the German term for Munter hitch belay: 'Halbmastwurfsicherung' and is used to describe a larger screwgate suitable for belaying. They are designed to be under load almost 100% during use through those axis shown by the black arrows.

A Snap-gate aka Wire-Gate carabiner is more lightweight and cannot be locked. Designed to be loaded at all times or by shock through the Axis shown here by the black arrow. Note, there is no stamp to define type as circled here in green.

CARROTS - aka Brushes - Markers used to set out training courses for ski racing. Carrots are screwed into the snow and have soft tops that, if skied over, will not cause a fall.

CARVED TURN - A turn on a completely engaged ski edge, where the tail of the ski follows the tip throughout the turn radius. In general terms, it is the fastest and most efficient turn possible. See also Parallel Turn.

CENTRIFUGAL FORCE - The force the skis exert on the snow. During the turn, centrifugal force is what causes the snow to spray out from under the skis.

CENTRIPETAL FORCE - When making a turn, the force that tends to pull the body to the inside of the turn.

CHATTER - When the skis repeatedly lose and regain grip on the snow in a rapid, pulsating fashion and feel as though they are skipping sideways across the snow. Typically experienced when attempting to carve on very hard snow, ice or uneven surfaces.

Chatter can have various causes including: engaging the skis too harshly at the start of the turn, not applying pressure in a progressive manner during the turn, trying to jam the edge into the snow/ice after a ski has already started to slide, and the presence of some Steering in the attempted carve.


CHUTE - see Couloir


CLOG - The lower part of a ski boot accommodating the foot and incorporating the Zeppa.

CLOG CANT - The angle of the Clog in relation to its interface with the ground/snow. The foot should stand from the heel at 2 degrees to the lateral/outside of the perpendicular. Most ski boots stand at a neutral 0 degrees and allow the boot fitter to adapt laterally(outside) or medially(inside) depending on the stance of the skier.

CoM - Centre of Mass - The CoM represents the balance point of a three dimensional object, it is usually, but not always, inside an object. Gravity and other forces act on the CoM. The CoM of a skier is not a fixed point and moves as the skier changes position.

COMBINED FORCES - The various combinations of forces (gravity, centripetal, inertial, friction) acting on a skier.

CONCAVE SLOPE - A slope which is steeper at the top, getting less steep as it goes down.

CONVEX SLOPE - A slope which swells out like a balloon - less steep near the top, getting steeper lower down and is generally a bit more vulnerable to avalanche than a Concave Slope.

COMPRESSION - Abrupt change in snow pitch to flatter than expected , requiring skiers at speed to absorb energy along their line of travel. Usually refers to large portion of piste width, particularly a concern in limited visibility.

CONVERGING - Skiing with the tips of the skis closer together than the tails, for example when in a Snowplough position.

CORN SNOW – Consistency of highly granular snow that forms when the bonds between snow granules begin to melt. Only happens off-piste and is a velvety smooth skiing surface that generally occurs only for a short period of time before turning slushy.

CORRIE - aka cirque or cwm, a bowl shaped geographical feature found on hillsides and mountains formed by historical glaciation.

COULOIR – aka Chute or Gully - A steep narrow passage between rocks. Couloirs should always be approached and skied with care.

COUNTER - Is a position in which the pelvis and upper body point toward the outside of the turn. Note that Counter is not a deliberate move, it happens as a result of the skier turning the skis under the body. The degree of counter is dependent on the situation the skier is in. For instance: high speed long radius turns require little or no counter to effectively carve the skis, yet skiing down a steep, narrow path the skier may end up with a large degree of counter to control their speed and line of descent.

COUNTER ROTATION - Is a turning technique in which the upper body is twisted one way while the skis are twisted the other. Overdoing counter rotation is generally not considered a good move and can result in pivoting and skidding of the skis.

COUTEAUX - A french term for ski Crampons

CORN SNOW - Highly granular snow clumps that form when the bonds between snow granules begins to melt. Only happens off-piste and is a velvety smooth skiing surface that generally occurs for a short period of time before turning slushy.

CRAMPONS - There are two types of Crampons used when ski mountaineering or touring.

Boot Crampons - Are fitted to the boot and are used when hiking/climbing without skis on.

Ski Crampons - aka couteux and harscheisen. Are fitted to the underside of ski touring bindings and provide the skier with stability when crossing icy or rocky terrain. When gliding or walking with touring bindings the heel is free to move upwards and the crampons are not in contact the the snow during the forward glide. Once the foot is forward, the heel comes down and the crampon, which is slightly wider than the ski protrudes below the base of the ski, "bites" into the surface.

CREVASSE - A deep, usually vertical, crack or split in a glacier, occurs as a result of the brittle ice flowing over a uneven surface beneath the ice. Crevasses can easily become covered by blown snow, even very wide ones. Great care must be taken when crossing ice and snow fields to avoid them.


Classic Technique - the old method of Cross Country skiing whereby when slides along with the feet parallel. Normally used in machine formed groves. Uses double chambered skis and a free heel binding.

Double Chambered Skis - to allow a "wax pocket" in which to put Grip Wax or Fish scales. When pressure is applied to the ski it bends it so that the centre area contacts with the snow and grips, allowing propulsion. When the pressure is removed the centre area is raised from the ground allowing the ski to slide forward easily.

Double Poling - propelling oneself using just the arms. Normally used when travelling fast ie downhill or by racers.

Double pole with kick - as double poling but with a single leg kick on the recovery movement of the arms.

Diagonal Stride - propulsion method used by classical skier in which the left leg and right arm are used to push, then the right leg and left arm.

Fish scales - pattern like fish scales to stop the ski sliding back. Used on "waxless skis"

Grip Wax - aka Kick Wax, placed in the centre of the ski to stick to the snow. Used in place of Fish Scales.

Glide Wax - used elsewhere on the skis, similar to wax used on Alpine skis.

Kick Wax - See Grip Wax

Skating technique - the more modern method of xc skiing. Unsurprisingly it looks rather like skating. Using single cambered skis and a fixed heel binding.

CROSSOVER - A Transition from one turn to the next, when the CoM generally rises and crosses over the BoS (joints are extended as the skis go flat) frequently seen on the flatter sections of a GS course.

CROSSUNDER - A Transition from one turn to the next, where the BoS moves under the CoM, the CoM generally stays low (joints are flexed as the skis go flat), frequently seen in tight slalom gates.

CRUST - A hard snow surface lying upon a softer layer. Crust may be formed by sun, rain or wind, and is described as Breakable Crust or Unbreakable Crust, depending upon whether it will break under the weight of a turning skier.

CSCF - Canadian Ski Coaches Federation.

CSIA - Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance.

CUFF - The higher part of the ski boot which wraps around the leg aka Collar.



DEPOSITION ZONE - The area where the bulk of an avalanches snow piles up.

DEPTH HOAR - A granular "sugar" structure of snow that is formed at the base of the snow pack when cold temperatures create a temperature gradient in the snow and the snow re-forms into crystals that do not bond well together. Can be a very weak layer and cause avalanches.

DIN SETTING - Deutsche Industrie Normen. An internationally agreed scale that is used to adjust the spring tension release setting on ski bindings to ensure that bindings from any manufacturer release at a consistent point. This figure is determined using the skiers height/weight, ability level and boot sole length.

Because the release settings of bindings affects the skier's health and safety, adjustments should only be carried out by trained professionals, as mistakes can be very dangerous.

DIVERGING - Skiing with the tips of the skis further apart than the tails.

DOWNHILL - The side of the body which is facing the downhill, or lower, side of the slope. Also used to denote the longest, fastest type of alpine race course.

DPTM – Direct Parallel Teaching System – see PMTS.

EDGE ANGLE - The angle formed between the snow and the base of a tipped ski. The larger the angle, the more the ski will bend, and the more sharply the skier will turn.

EDGING - Tipping the skis into the hill to obtain grip on the snow.

ENSA - Ecole Nationale de Ski d’Alpinisme - French official governing body which trains and certifies ski instructors, mountain guides, piste patrollers and other alpine-related professionals.

ESF - Ecole du Ski Français - The largest ski school in France with over 250 local schools in their association and over 15,000 ski instructors. Local ESF ski schools are cooperatives of self-employed instructors, organised and run by a committee of elected instructors.

EURO TEST - aka Speed Test - A timed GS race that must be passed as part of the highest instructor certification levels in the Euro Zone countries. A pace-setter runs the course and his time is adjusted, using a handicap reflecting his skill level. The adjusted time is meant to be equivalent to the time in which the current fastest skier in the world rankings would have run the course. Males must get within 18% (females 24%) of the adjusted time to pass. A skier can be exempted from the Euro Test if he/she has achieved less than 100 FIS points in approved races.

EURO ZONE - A group of European countries that recognises each other's highest level of instructors, granting equivalent status in each country. Currently includes Great Britain, France, Italy and Austria.

EXTENSION - The lengthening of the body by straightening out the joints.

EXTREME SKIING - Skiing in areas where the consequence of a simple fall is likely to be fatal.

FALL LINE - The hypothetical path an object would take if allowed to roll freely down a given slope.

FEMUR STEERING - See Leg Steering.

FIS - Fédération Internationale de Ski - The world governing body for all disciplines of ski racing.

FIS CODE - aka Alpine Responsibility Code - A list of 10 codes of conduct to which all skiers should adhere.

FIS POINTS - Skiers competing in FIS-recognised events are given points depending on their result, for each race in which they participate. The fewer the FIS points, the higher the ranking, with the best skier in the world having zero FIS points in the rankings.

FLAT LIGHT - Visibility conditions in which viewed objects are not obscured or hazed, but their shape or perspective is distorted in relation to background. May occur in different ways and be mitigated by differently coloured optical lenses:

1) The light source is very diffuse, such as from an overcast sky. Because the light rays do not come from one easily defined source, shadows are distorted and significantly reduced from the accustomed ones, and the contrast is very low. (Blue lens conditions.)

2) The light source is in an unusual position in the sky (eg on the horizon at sunset or from low-mounted lamps during night skiing). Shadows and glints are very prominent, making for high contrast but distorted perception shapes. (Yellow, amber, persimmon, pink lens conditions.)

FLEXION - The shortening of the body by bending the joints.

FLOW LINE - See Fall Line, the same thing but a nicer, less scary term...

FOEHN WIND - From the German Föhn. A warm, strong and often very dry downslope wind that descend in the lee of a mountain barrier. In the European Alps normally from the south and are known for their rapid temperature rise and disappearance of snow cover.

FOOT STEERING - turning the skis primarily by twisting the feet and knee joints. Typically good for quick rotary movements of the skis when the ski bases are flat to the snow, but can place too much strain on the knee joints if the skis are on edge, or when skiing difficult snow conditions.

FORWARD LEAN ANGLE - The angle of the ski boot's Cuff in relation to the horizontal outsole of the Clog.

"FIX THE HEEL, FIX THE PROBLEM" - The alpine skier's retort to quasi-religious Telemark skiers.

FREE HEELERS - Telemark skiers.

"FREE THE HEEL, FREE THE MIND" - The Telemark skiing mantra.

"FREE RIDING" - previously known as "off-piste" skiing. A term coined by marketers from within the ski industry in the 90's which was prompted by falling ski sales as disaffected youths switched to snow boarding. In a bid to stimulate sales of skis and ski magazines, skiing was rebranded as being "cool" again and the unsuspecting public was bombarded with images of world class athletes hurtling down first descents with the implied message that you too can ski like this and have fun hucking cliffs but only if you have highly specialised (expensive) reverse camber, ultra fat skis with beefy touring bindings. To further increase sales you are now advised that you need a "quiver" of skis to satisfy every potential condition on the mountain and as a final insult to the intelligence of the ski consumer "signature model" skis were introduced with snazzy graphics.

FREESTYLE SKIING - Started in the 50's and was originally known at Hot-Dogging and progressed into becoming a recognised competitive form of skiing in the 70's. It differs from traditional alpine ski racing in that skiers runs are judged by a panel. Initially competition was composed of mogul skiing and aerial acrobatics performed after skiing off jumps. Has more recently expanded to include half pipe, big air and other events.

GATES - Are used in ski racing to define the line that the racers must follow. Two basic building blocks are used to construct courses: an Open Gate, in which the turning pole and the outside pole are horizontal to each other, and a Closed Gate, in which the poles are vertical. The following gate combinations are used in setting Slalom courses:

Delay Gate - aka Banana - An open and closed gate set in succession and vertical to each other designed to change the skiers speed and direction and move the line across the hill.

Hairpin - Two closed gates set in succession and vertical to each other which forces the skier to make two rapid turns, exit travelling in same direction across the slope as entry

Verticale aka flush - Three or more closed gates resulting in 3 rapid turns

Royal flush - 4 closed gates (or 3 + 1 open), resulting in 4 rapid turns (often set diagonally across the slope)



GS - Giant Slalom - An alpine ski race that involves skiing between sets of poles ("gates") spaced at a greater distance to each other than in slalom but not as great as in super G. The number of gates in this event ranges from 56 to 70 for men and from 46 to 58 for women.

GRASS SKIING - Downhill skiing on grassy surfaces using special "skis" with rollers and standard alpine ski boots.

GRAUPEL - aka snow pellets - refers to precipitation that forms when supercooled droplets of water condense on a snowflake, forming a 2–5 mm ball of rime ice. Graupel is both denser than ordinary snow and granular. The combination of weight and low viscosity makes fresh layers of graupel unstable on slopes, and layers of 20-30 cm present a high risk of dangerous slab avalanches. In addition, thinner layers of graupel falling at low temperatures can act as ball bearings below subsequent falls of more naturally stable snow, rendering them also liable to avalanche. Graupel tends to compact and stabilise approximately one or two days after falling, depending on the the temperature and the properties of the graupel.

GULLY - See Couloir



HARNESS - or Climbing Harness. Used by climbers and issued to clients by ski guides if skiing on glaciers with cravasse danger or short pitches of extreme exposure descending very steep slopes. Used to connect a climber, walker or skier to a rope, usually via a Carabiner. A strap around the waist is attached to two others passing around the base of the buttocks and up between the legs, joining together to be attached to the waist strap at the front (this junction is the normal place for attachments).

HARSCHEISEN - An Austrian or German term for ski Crampons

HERRINGBONE - Technique of moving uphill having the skis in a V-shape with the tips of the skis much wider apart than the tails. Named after the marks left by the skis when this technique is used.

HIP ANGULATION - A form of Angulation in which the legs are tipped more into the turn than the upper body. Generally used as a means of managing lateral balance (keeping or moving weight on/to the outside ski) whilst putting a ski on edge. Accomplished either by tipping sideways at the waist, or by facing the upper body towards the outside of the turn and flexing forward at the waist. Provides a safer and stronger body position for resisting turn forces than Knee Angulation.

HOAR FROST - Surface hoar forms as fern like crystals of ice directly on the surface of the snow, and other surfaces. See also Depth Hoar.

HOT DOGGING – A term from the 50's that described skiing whilst doing tricks, stunts and dangerous/intricate manoeuvres. Anything went and it was all about fun and showing off.

ILE - Inner Leg Extenstion - A Transition which is initiated by pushing down on the old inside (uphill) foot, and slightly extending the old inside leg. This extension disrupts the skier's state of balance, and causes the CoM to begin moving across the skis.

INCLINATION - The leaning movement of tipping the body into a turn to create Edge Angle, whilst keeping the joints in a straight line.

INERTIAL FORCE - When making a turn, the force that tends to pull the body to the outside of the turn.


INSIDE EDGE - The big toe side of either ski.

INSIDE SKI – During a turn, the ski that is innermost during the turn. For example, if making a turn to the left, the inside ski will be the left ski.

ISIA - International Ski Instructors Association - A global organisation of national level ski instructor associations. Sets internationally recognised standard levels for ski instructors and organises international conferences. For instance a BASI Ski Teacher is recognised as an ISIA level instructor.

JET TURN - A peculiar turn invented by Jean Claude Killy in the 70s and popularised by Martin Heckelman in the 80s, in which the ski tips "jetted" forward with the body weight going back and was meant as a technique for skiing moguls. Fortunately forgotten by most skiers and only mentioned here for completeness.

JUMP TURN - Any turn in which the skis leave the surface of the snow. Typically used in steep or variable snow conditions and/or to turn in a narrow corridor.

KATABATIC WIND - A wind that blows down a slope due to gravity whose force can be strengthened by a differential in temperature.

KICK TURN - A manoeuvre that allows the skier to rotate 180 degrees and change direction without losing altitude. Start in a static position with skis parallel and across the fall line with both poles planted uphill. Swing lower ski forward and up, resting the tail on the snow and close to the tip of the other ski. Rotate the lower ski 180 degrees, swinging the ski back to the snow so that the lower ski is facing in the opposite direction to that of the upper ski. Slightly shift weight to the lower ski. Lift upper ski and position it up, over and parallel to the old downhill ski. Both skis are now facing in the opposite direction to that at the start of the turn.

KNEE ANGULATION - A form of Angulation in which the lower leg is tipped more into the turn than the upper leg. Generally used as a means of managing lateral balance (keeping or moving weight on/to the Outside Ski) whilst putting a ski on edge. Accomplished by flexing the knee and rotating the leg towards the inside of the turn, whilst not turning the foot. As an Angulation option, it provides the greatest range of balance management potential, but also creates a weak and more injury-prone body position.

LDM - Looking Down Mountain, see also Skiers Right/Left.

LEG STEERING - aka Thigh Steering or Femur Steering - Turning the skis by holding the hip joint still and moving the femur across the body. Usually used to get the skis tips to move to the inside of the turn and increase Edge Angle on both skis.

LINKING TURNS - Making several controlled turns in succession, without stopping between turns or resorting to long traverses across the slope.

LUM - Looking Up Mountain

MOGULS – aka Bumps - Small hills/hummocks of snow that develop on a slope over time, and are caused by skiers turning. Also a competitive freestyle discipline.


MOUNTAIN GUIDE - The only professional that can take clients on to un-pisted glacial terrain or into areas where the use of ropes and harnesses may be necessary.


The International qualification for mountain guides is the UIAGM (Union Internationale des Associations de Guide de Montagne). It is also known as the IFMGA (International Federation of Mountain Guides Association) and the IVBV (Internationale Vereinigung der Bergfuhrerverbande).

It is recognised in Austria, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, Japan, New Zealand, Peru, and was joined early by the Canadian ACMG (Association of Canadian Mountain Guides) and recently by the Guides from the USA - the AMGA (American Mountain Guides Association). The BMG (British Mountain Guides) are associated

UIAGM members are qualified to guide skiers and ski tourers (on and -especially- off piste and on glaciers), walkers, climbers, including ice climbers, mountaineers and ski mountaineers. As well as formal study they follow a long Apprenticeship when they are known as Aspirants. The qualification includes guiding, skiing and snowcraft skills as well as first aid, mountaineering, rescue, including crevasse rescue, and ropework skills. Only certified mountain guides are legally qualified to lead clients on glaciers or places where ropes are necessary.

NASTAR - NAtional STAndard Race - A ski racing programme in the USA which allows skiers through a handicap system, a way to compare themselves with one another and with the national champion, regardless of when and where they race.

NORDIC SKIING - Skiing using equipment in which the heel of the ski boot is not fixed to the ski and allows the skier to go uphill and downhill. Includes Telemark and cross country skiing.

OLR - Outside Leg Relaxation - A Transition which is initiated by relaxing the old outside (downhill) leg. This relaxation disrupts the skier’s state of balance, and causes the CoM to begin to move across the skis.

OUTSIDE EDGE - The little toe side of either ski.

OUTSIDE SKI - The ski that is on the outside of the turn, during the turn. For example, if making a turn to the left, will be the right ski.

PARALLEL TURN - A turn in which both the skis are matched (without Tip Lead) and parallel to each other for the duration of the turn, and both of the Inside Edges (EU definition) are engaged. Parallel turns in which the skis are fully engaged and not skidding, are known as Carved Turns.

PARK and RIDE - Term used to denote skiers making turns which are carved, but which lack continuous dynamic movement through the turns.

PHANTOM FOOT - A common ski injury to the knee, termed the Phantom Foot because of the leg and foot being rigidly attached to the ski, thus effectively increasing the overall length of the whole limb. Phantom Foot injuries can occur when the tail of the downhill ski, in combination with the stiff back of the ski boot, acts as a lever to apply a unique combination of twisting and bending loads to the knee and typically results in a torn ACL during relatively slow falls or movements.

Three types of situations typically lead to Phantom Foot injuries:
attempting to get up while still moving after a fall;
attempting a recovery from an off-balance position;
attempting to "sit down" after losing control.

PIVOTING - Twisting of the skis/feet in between turns, while the skis are unweighted (see Unweighting).

PIVOT SLIP - See Braquage.

PLOUGH TURN - See Snowplough Turn.

PLOUGH-PARALLEL TURN - A turn that starts as a Snowplough Turn but, as the turn finishes, the Inside Ski is rotated about centre of the foot so as to be parallel with/match the Outside Ski and to remain parallel during the Transition to the next turn. To start the next turn, the skis are rotated about centre of the foot so as to bring the tips inwards and the tail outwards, reforming the plough shape as the skier progresses into the next turn. Balance is then established on the (new) Outside Ski, so as progressively to build pressure through the turn.

PMTS - Primary Movements Teaching System - aka Direct Parallel Teaching System - A ski teaching system founded by Harald Harb in the USA, on the premise that the new shaped skis require a new method of teaching, and which continually references high end skiing (eg racing) as a model to which to aspire. One of the characteristics of this system is that a Snowplough Turn is not utilised.

POMA LIFT - See Button Lift

PRE-RELEASE - A term used when the binding releases the ski earlier than expected.

PRESSURED SKI - aka Weighted Ski - when the ski is in contact with the snow and is taking some or all of the skier's weight. To illustrate: if you are standing still on a flat surface and you pick up one foot slightly the ski on which you are standing and which is supporting you, is 'weighted' or 'pressured'.

PRUSIK - A loop of thin cord, itself looped several times around a thicker rope. Used by climbers to attach themselves or anything else to a rope via a carabiner in such a way that it can be slid along the rope but, if weight is put on it, it locks in place through friction. Also verb: to climb up a rope using 2 prusiks alternately, one attached to the climbers harness, the other to a loop to support his/her foot.

PSIA - Professional Ski Instructors of America - A membership group that provides training to ski instructors in the USA.

Q-ANGLE - aka Quadracepts Angle, the angle that the femur (thigh) makes with the knee joint. Overly large Q-Angles can cause problems for skiers manifesting in A-Framing or knock knees and these weak body positions can be injury prone. Problems with excessive Q-Angles can be minimised if the ski boots are fitted and properly aligned. Women typically have larger Q-Angles than men due to wider hips.

RAILING - An exercise in which the skier tips both skis on to their edges and the turn is made by letting the Side Cut of the skis dictate the turn radius. The desired turn, with little or no skidding, should leave narrow tracks resembling rails in the snow.

Also used to signify the bad trait of a skier who is trying to Carve a turn, but is only using Edging and is not actively Pressuring the skis.

RAMP ANGLE - The angle of the boot's Zeppa in relation to the horizontal of the outsole of the Clog. Many confuse this with Forward Lean Angle.

RANDONEE - See AT, a French term for Alpine ski touring.

RETRACTION - A Transition in which both legs are relaxed, and the skis are allowed to pass unrestricted under the body.

REVERSE CAMBER - As pressure is applied to a ski, it will bend from its normal camber into a reverse camber, in which the tip and tail sections are bent upwards. This stores energy into the ski and reduces its effective turning radius, thus allowing for tighter turns and making carving easier.


RISE LINE - The opposite of Fall Line. The Rise Line is an imaginary line running directly uphill from any point on the slope. This term is typically used to define a point above a racing gate at which a turn should begin. How high up the Rise Line a turn should begin is dependent on slope steepness, snow conditions and the location of the next gate. It is also dependent on how skilful the skier is, as the faster racer will typically turn closer to the gates

RISER PLATES - aka Binding Lifters - Flat plates which are mounted between the tops of the skis and the bindings. Riser plates have two functions, first to transmit the load from the skier's boot more evenly, thus producing a more consistent flex within the ski. Secondly, when a ski is tipped on to one edge, the point of contact with the snow is off-centre in relation to the centre of the skier's ankle. By increasing the distance of the skier's ankle from the snow with a Riser Plate, the line of force transmitted from the ankle through to the surface is nearer to the edge of the ski in contact with the snow, thereby enabling the ski to hold its edge more effectively.


ROTATION - Rotation is a twisting of the joints and is one of three fundamental elements employed by the skier to turn the skis, the other two elements being Edging and Pressuring. In Foot Rotation, the feet and ankles are twisted into the turn with the skis staying relatively flat to the surface of the slope. A good example of turning using only Rotation is the Braquage drill.

The term is also used to signify the rotation of the skier's upper body, with over-rotation generally seen as a bad habit of early stage skiers, who attempt to steer the skis by turning their shoulders into the inside of the turn. See Counter for a description of under-rotation.

RUNOUT ZONE - The portion of the avalanche path where snow slows down and comes to rest.

SCHMEAR TURN - A turn which involves dropping the inside hip right into the snow so as to act like a brake, invented by Scot Schmidt, star of the 80s ski film 'A Blizzard of Aahs'.

SCHUSS – a fast, straight, downhill run on skis, without slowing down or turning.

SCISSORING - When viewed from above, the position of the skis during a turn in which the skier's Inside Ski is ahead of the Outside Ski, with its tip diverging away from that of the Outside Ski.

SEPARATION - Utilising the skiing joints (lower joints comprising ankles, knees and hip sockets) independently of the upper body.

SERAC - A large block of ice, generally taller than broad, formed at the intersections of crevasses. Most commonly found within, or at the edges, of a glacier or ice cliff. Seracs are very dangerous being unstable and prone to toppling over.

SIDE CUT - The curve (viewed from above) of each edge of a modern ski, as a result of its having a wide tip and tail, but a narrow waist. The greater the degree of Side Cut, the easier it is to achieve Reverse Camber without the necessity of excess pressuring and thus to carve a turn.

SIDE CUT RADIUS - The measurement (in metres) of the radius of the imaginary circle of which the Side Cut forms part. The lower this figure, the more the ski is designed to make tight short turns.

SIDE SLIP - A way to lose height whilst travelling straight down the Fall Line of the slope. With both skis pointing across the Fall Line and the edges engaged, the Edge Angle is reduced by tipping the edges downwards. This will start a controlled side slip, which can then be stopped by re-engaging the edges with the snow.


SKIDDING - The sideways travel of one or both of the skis across the snow, without the ski edges being engaged . Skidding can be an effective means of speed control.

SKIERCROSS - A race in which all skiers start at the same time and race down a course consisting of banked turns and jumps.

SKIERS RIGHT/LEFT - A term used when giving directions to imply right or left when the skier is looking down the mountain.

SKINS - A device used to enable ski mountaineers/randonneurs/touring skiers to hike/slide up snow-covered mountain slopes with their skis on. Originally made of seal skin, now manufactured using a combination of synthetic and natural fibres, they are affixed to each ski base: the surface of the skin in contact with the snow has protruding fibres, and the other surface a sticky substance, allowing the skin to be affixed to and removed from the base of the ski as necessary. The protruding fibres have a "direction" retracting and flattening to the base of the skis, allowing the skins/skis to glide on the skier's uphill stroke, but extending and biting into the snow when the skier is stationary, so that the skier does not slip downhill. Thus skins enable progress one uphill step at a time. They should be removed when commencing a major descent, but can be left on for short downhill traverses.


SLALOM - TBD aka Special Slalom

SLOW-DOG NOODLE - The slow-dog noodle turn was invented by Robert "Boogie" Mann in the early 70s and popularised by Wayne Wong, and is also known as a Wong turn. The term combines Hot Dogging with slow speed and apparently 'floppy' dynamics of a wet noodle.

It is a Retraction/Extension turn in Bumps done at an incredibly slow tempo. The really slow/noodle part of the turn is where the skier's legs seem to collapse as the skis ride up the back of the bump, and the knees come right up to chest level with the torso first folding forward, then because of the leverage on the pole, being left quite far behind. The skis almost come to a stop, then pivot over the crest and start down the hill while the torso extends forward to prepare for the next absorption. If done well the pole is forward at the plant, but stays in the snow for so long (holding the skier up and acting as a fulcrum point) that the hand and pole end up quite far back at the end of the turn.

SNOWPLOUGH TURN – aka Wedge Turn - A turn in which the tips of the skis are together, the tails are apart and both Inside Edges (US definition) are engaged with the snow.


SNOWPIT - Holes dug in the snow to examine the structure of the snow pack to help identify avalanche prone slopes. Adjacent layers of snow of widely differing hardness, or layers of depth hoar are particularity significant. Snowpits should always be filled in after digging as they can be dangerous to unsuspecting snow riders.

SNOW PELLETS - See graupel.

SPEED TEST - See Euro Test.

STACKING - aligning the joints so that they are in the best position to resist the forces to which the skier is subject. Stacking is accomplished by utilising the skeletal frame to maintain a position which minimises the use of the muscles.

Example : imagine a weightlifter trying to lift a bar, he tries to position his body so that the load is transmitted to the ground directly through his skeleton, rather than using his muscles.

STEERING - Twisting of the skis/feet while the skis are pressured/weighted. See also Waist Steering, Foot Steering and Leg Steering.

STEERING ANGLE - The angle formed between the longitudinal axis of the ski and the direction of travel of the skier. A ski with Side Cut will produce a greater steering angle than a straight ski.

STEM CHRISTY TURN - The term "Christy" derives from Christiania (now Oslo) where the turn was developed. The skier initiates a Stem Turn from a parallel traverse by "stemming" or brushing the tail of the Uphill and new Outside Ski up and into the Snowplough, with the ski tips staying at a consistent degree of separation, and completes the turn by retracting the other ski to a parallel position at the end of the turn. Rather old-fashioned way of skiing, more commonly used with straight skis lacking Side Cut. The modern equivalent is the Plough-parallel Turn where the skier does not brush out the heel, nor lift the Inside Ski but rather rotates the skis about the centre of the foot instead of the tip of the skis.

STEM STEP TURN - A turn made by picking up the Outside Ski off the snow and stepping it out, so as quickly to form a stable plough shape. Is used primarily in difficult snow conditions such as Breakable Crust.

STEM TURN - Similar to a Snowplough Turn, the difference being that the plough shape becomes narrower/more parallel during the Transition to a new turn and, when entering the next turn, the Outside Ski is brushed outwards. The next stage in this type of turn would be to get the skis fully parallel at the Transition and make Stem Christy Turns.

STOKED - adjective - to be "stoked" is to be completely and intensely enthusiastic, exhilirated, or excited about something. those who are stoked all of the time know this; being stoked is the epitome of all being. when one is stoked, there is no limit to what one can do.

STUBBIES - Short poles used to set out training courses for ski racing. Being shorter than full size poles, Stubbies help the ski-racing athlete to get used to skiing closed race courses (see Gates) without having to block? poles out of the way.

SUPER G - Super Giant Slalom - An alpine ski race with courses that are longer and faster than in GS but shorter than in Downhill.


TELEMARK SKIING – aka Free Heel Skiing - A type of skiing which uses the Telemark turn. Unlike alpine skiing equipment, the skis used for Telemarking have a binding that connects the boot to the ski only at the toes, just as in cross-country skiing. Telemark turns are led with the heel flat on the Outside Ski, while the Inside Ski is pulled beneath the skier's body with a flexed knee and raised heel. The turn incorporates Tip Lead, but the skis are parallel, and 50-80% of the body weight is on the Outside Ski, depending on snow conditions.

TERRAIN TRAP - A part of the mountain where due to the natural features the consequences of even a small avalanche would be potentially deadly. Typical terrain traps are cliff edges, lake edges, gullies, sharply concave runouts, and any other terrain that would result in a deep burial in the event of an avalanche.

TEST TECHNIQUE - A timed slalom race that must be passed by anyone wishing to enter the French ENSA instructor training programme or to teach in France with an ISIA level instructor certificate from another country. A pacesetting instructor runs the course and his time is adjusted using a handicap reflecting his skill level. The adjusted time is meant to be equivalent to the current fastest French Ski Instructor as determined at an annual national challenge race. Males must get within 20% (females 25%) of the adjusted time to pass.

THIGH STEERING - see Leg Steering.

TIP LEAD - When one ski is leading the other but the skis are parallel to each other. Inner Tip Lead is when the Inside Ski is forward of the Outside Ski and vice versa.

TRANSITION - The period of time, and the manner in which, one turn is brought to an end and a new turn is begun.

TRANSCEIVER - An electronic beacon which emits and detects a signal. When skiing it is worn on the body and switched to emit a signal. All transceivers can be switched into a detect mode and used to locate an avalanche victim wearing a transceiver in emit mode.


UPHILL - when skiing,refers to the side of the body which is facing the uphill side of the slope.

UNWEIGHTING - Reducing the amount of weight on the skis to manipulate and control pressure. There are four ways to 'unweight':
UP-UNWEIGHTING - A rapid upward Extension of the body, typically used at the end of a turn to aid the Initiation and Transition into the next turn.
DOWN-UNWEIGHTING - Produced by a rapid downward Flexion of the body.
REBOUND-UNWEIGHTING - produced by the skis decambering and returning the energy at the end of a turn.
TERRAIN-UNWEIGHTING produced by using the terrain to help unweight the skis.

WAIST STEERING - A method used to turn the skis, by engaging core strength to twist the body below the waist so as to tip the skis on edge and power the Outside Ski and outside half of the body through the turn, while simultaneously establishing an efficient and strong stance to serve as a stable base and facilitate Countering/Angulation as necessary.

WEDELN - An old-fashioned way of sking from the 50s in which a skier rhythmically swings the rear of the skis from side to side while following the Fall Line, with the skis very close together.

WEDGE TURN - See Snowplough Turn.

WEIGHTED RELEASE - formerly called the White Pass Lean - A Transition made famous by American ski racer Steve Mahre in the early 1980s. The old outside (downhill) leg carries all the skier's weight through the entire Transition, and the new turn is initiated by simply rolling that ski over on to its downhill edge and starting the new turn on that same ski. Weight is transferred to the other (new outside) ski somewhere around the apex of the new turn.

WEIGHTED SKI – see Pressured Ski.

WHITE OUT - An atmospheric optical phenomenon that severely restricts visibility in which the observer appears to be engulfed in a uniformly white glow as a result of a lack of contrast between a sky obscured by snow, fog or cloud and unbroken snow cover. Neither shadows, horizon, nor clouds are discernable; sense of depth and orientation is lost; dark objects in the field of view appear to "float" at an indeterminable distance.

WHITE PASS LEAN - see Weighted Release

WIND SLAB - A potentially dangerous cohesive layer of snow often found on the lee slope of a hillside. Formed by the wind and common below ridges. When formed on slopes over 30 degrees they are particularly prone to avalanche.

WORM TURN - A turn where the skier drops to the snow and rolls his body in a worm-like fashion (or a barrel roll) and then gets up and proceeds in the opposite direction. For example: start by traversing across the slope left to right, lie down on the snow on your uphill hip, roll your right shoulder under your body and stop rolling when you are on your back and get up going in a right to left traverse.

ZEPPA - Italian for Footbed - aka Baseboard - The part of a ski boot that fits into the boot's Clog, providing the foot with a flat platform. This is a wedge shape, thinner at the toe end and deeper at the heel, pitching the foot and skier forwards.


BRAQUAGE - A turning exercise whose objective is to maintain a descent directly down the Fall Line whilst turning the skis back and forth across the Fall Line and using little or no edging. Also known as a "pivot slip" in North America.

Illustration of a skier performing braquage as seen from above.

CHARLESTON TURNS - A drill where the skier performs a series of short radius turns on the Inside Ski while keeping the Outside Ski off the snow. When done well, it is very rhythmical and looks like the Charleston dance step.

CHOPPER DRILL - The skier stands facing across the Fall Line and balances on the uphill edges of both skis. The skier makes a lateral jump down the hill and lands cleanly on the same edges. Progression is to do 3 jumps, then without poles, then do jumping with and landing on one leg and alternate as you go down the hill. Helps develop edge control and a good stacked position.

CLOUDBURST DRILL - A very high end drill to develop the ability to influence the radius of a carved turn. At the end of a carved turn, the skier rotates the skis downhill at 90 degrees to the path of the turn, creating a side slip across the slope. The skis are then brought back approximately 60 degrees on to the new carving edge, to start the next turn. When coming back 60 degrees, skis should stay on the same edge and not revert to the previous turn. ISTDs should be able to do this drill on a red run.

COWBOYS - aka John Wayne turns -


GARLANDS - A series of half turns across the slope. Commence in a traverse, make a half turn, continue in same direction as initial traverse, repeat.


HOPPSVING DRILL - Skier performs small two-footed hops, off-centre of skis, around the entire arc of the turn, while maintaining a strong upper body position. Skier should remain balanced towards the Outside Ski, even though hops are performed off both skis and skis are parallel to the snow surface during the hops.

HOURGLASS DRILL - aka Crazy Legs – Alternating carved turns, first on both Inside Edges simultaneously and then on both Outside Edges simultaneously, for lateral flexibility in legs and hips.


JAVELIN TURNS - A drill which is performed by completely lifting the Inside Ski from the snow and pointing it across the Outside Ski. The Inside Ski is lifted off the snow upon or before the edge change of the new Outside Ski. At the end of the turn, the Inside Ski is deliberately placed back on the snow and then becomes the new Outside Ski.







SCHLOPY DRILL – see Teapot Drill - An exercise to help improve Angulation. Place your outside hand on your outside hip and very subtly and progressively push your hip toward the inside of the turn to build edge angle. At the same time hold your inside arm straight in front of you at shoulder level, pushing the inside hand and shoulder forward. Attempt to keep shoulders level.

SHORT SWINGS - See Speiss Drill

SPEISS DRILL - aka Short Swings - Skier performs small jump (with ankles) to turn the skis perpendicular to the line of travel while keeping hips, shoulders facing down the Fall Line. Upper body is stabilized with a pole plant.

Swedish (or is it Swiss ) turns

TEAPOT DRILL - An exercise to help improve Angulation. Place your outside hand on your outside hip (the handle of the teapot) and very subtly and progressively push your hip toward the inside of the turn to build edge angle. Attempt to keep shoulders level during the turn. To finish your turn, return your inside hand (the spout) to your inside hip, allowing your skis to roll off edge. Pause. Start a new turn by reversing the roles of your hands.

There are different versions of this drill:
DOUBLE TEAPOT - both hands on hips in a teapot handle fashion alternating pushing your hip towards the inside of the turn.
SINGLE TEAPOT - as explained in the main definition above but pointing the spout (inner arm) towards the inside of the turn.
SCHLOPY - aka Saturday Night Fever drill – similar to Single Teapot but with the inner arm pointing more downhill in the direction parallel to the skis

THOUSAND STEPS - A drill consisting of executing turns by rapidly linking a series of diverging skating steps.

UP-AND-OVER DRILL - The skier traverses across the slope and every few metres extends the uphill leg and rides purely on the little toe edge of the uphill ski. The leg should be fully

Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Thu 22-10-09 9:16; edited 139 times in total
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Please use for any discussions and posting of new terms
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Helen Beaumont, Big fat applause to Skimorethanabanana. Great work. And keep it real Trainspotters. Twisted Evil
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 You need to Login to know who's really who.
You need to Login to know who's really who.
Plus there is no 'X,Y or Z' any ideas? Cool
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Just looked back at this after a year orso. Looks good - but where are jump turns, used on steep slopes (especially narrow places)? Or do they have another name now?
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 You'll need to Register first of course.
You'll need to Register first of course.
Love the terms - Single 'teapot' drill, Double 'teapot' drill... and also 'Schlopy'!
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