Skiing slang to take with you to the slopes

Do you love good pow pow, but hate chocolate chips?

Maybe you’re hitting a freshie with your fatties, hoping not to eat wood?

Over the years, skiing has developed its own unique set of strange terms, which look confusing to the uninitiated.

Here at Virgin Travel, we love a good skiing holiday, and equipping our customers with the right tools to enjoy their time. For us, that means offering the Snow Pack alongside our Virgin Travel Insurance policies, which can help protect you against a wide range of possible problems.

For now, it’s sharing the following curious, fascinating and often hilarious skiing terms for you to learn before you leave.

Apres ski

Apres ski is French for ‘after skiing’. It refers to the nightlife of larger ski resorts, which offer numerous club, bar and other apres-ski facilities.

Avalanche Beacon

Safety is important when you’re carving up the slopes, especially when you’re venturing off into backcountry (see below). Avalanche beacons transmit a signal that can be traced to find your location, should the need arise. Most ski shops should sell them, though buying online is also an option.


Only for experts. Backcountry is the area of a mountain not patrolled or groomed (see ‘Grooming’ below) by the local resort. The snow is often untouched, but it comes with a risk of avalanche.

Black diamond

One of the most challenging (and usually steep) courses, denoted by a black diamond symbol. Sometimes they are not even groomed! Double black diamonds are even harder.


An out of control person going downhill at great speed.

Brain bucket

Your helmet.


Using the edge of your skis to perform a series of turns, with little skidding or slipping. These turns can be both quick and tight, or large and arcing.

Champagne powder

Soft, light and reasonably dry snow. Very good to ski on, especially for beginners who need the padding for falls.

Chocolate chips

Clusters of rocks sticking out of the snow. More common towards the end of season when snow begins to melt.


A type of skiing trick. In mid-air, you stick one leg in front of you and the other behind, creating a sort-of V shape with your skis.

Death cookies

Small, solid chunks of snow that sometimes form due to poor snowmaking or grooming. Watch out for these! They are a hazard.


Also known as a spread eagle, this trick involves spreading your arms and legs wide open mid-air, and closing them before landing. states this trick gets its name from the famous jump of Eddy ‘The Eagle’ Edwards at the 1998 Winter Olympics.

Eat wood

The term used to describe a skier who has just hit a tree. They “ate wood”.


A type of extra-wide ski, perfect for pow pow snow (see below).


Snow that is untouched by any other skiers. This is very valuable snow.


Most runs on a ski slope are regularly groomed by ‘Snowcats’ – large vehicles with tracks. These machines pull a large rake, which helps keep the snow in good condition for skiers, and weeds out the bumps that are carved over the course of a day.

Indie grab

Another neat trick. In mid-air, reach down and grab the outside edge of your skis.

Milk run

The inaugural run of the day, and it’s always a freshie. You’ll have to be early to get this!

Mashed potatoes

Imagine skiing on mashed potatoes. This is heavy, damp snow – not pleasant to ski on.


If you are off-piste, you are no longer within the boundary of the resort. Refer to ‘backcountry’.


Piste refers to groomed and/or patrolled trails.

Pow pow

Pow pow is short for ‘powder’, which is the ultimate type of snow: Fresh, fluffy and easy to carve through.


A quad is a four-person chairlift. Other types of lift include a magic carpet (similar to a conveyor belt, but for skiers) and a pommel tow or T-bar (where you grab a hold of what looks like a flying fox and it pulls you up the mountain).

How good is your skiing lingo?

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