A Guide to Ski Lingo

Rocker? Playful? Off-piste? Jerry?? If you've ever found yourself confused by ski lingo, start here with our handy explainer by ski expert Matt Wood.

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Buying skis can be a daunting experience. Unfamiliar terms are littered through ski reviews with enough density to make them unintelligible. Just the mere thought of picking your way through all of that mumbo-jumbo is enough to give you a migraine. Take a deep breath. It will be ok.

It is common for ski lingo to confuse people. It is dense, it is technical, and it is often misused, making it impossible to decipher alone. I have compiled a few must know terms, a rosetta stone for the common skier.

Terms to Know

Rocker | synonyms: early rise, tip splay This term describes a ski’s shape when looking at it side-on. Rocker is a type of camber. Camber is the negative bend in a ski. It is designed to create pressure points on the edge, giving better grip in turns. Rocker is the opposite, a positive bend in a ski designed to make turn initiation easier, give smoother ride over bumps, and improve powder performance.

Sidecut radius | synonyms: sidecut, shape, radius Sidecut radius is the design that controls the turn shape that the ski makes naturally. A larger sidecut radius (18< meters) indicates a ski which will be more suited to higher speeds, but harder to turn quickly. A smaller sidecut radius (18> meters) will allow easy turns, but create instability with speed.

A skiier in a red and blue jacket makes their way down the hill

Photo by Lee Wood

Playful | synonyms: surfy, jibby, fun, buttery | antonyms: charger, hardcore, stiff, stable Playfullness allows a ski to be easily flexed, encouraging jumping, spinning, and playing down the mountain. Playful skis are not designed to go top speed in the worst conditions, but rather for playing around in any condition.

Damp | synonym: floppy | antonym: poppy, snappy Damp refers to the skis rebound when going over bumps. A damp ski will rebound more slowly, giving the ski a smooth “damp” property. This is a favorable characteristic in skis that are made for going fast in mixed conditions, and is typically associated with skis that are less playful.

Taper Taper refers to the skis’ tip shape. A ski with its widest point set back from the tip has a lot of taper. This shape is typically found in powder skis, though not exclusively. Tip taper is a design feature used to make powder skis nimble in deeper snow. It also allows skis to cut through bumps more easily when on edge.

A skier in a yellow jacket makes their way down a mountain through powder

Photo by Conor Hult

Bonus Terms

  • Piste: A groomed run.
  • Off Piste: Any terrain not groomed.
  • Jerry: Out of control skier.
  • Grom: A young skier just learning the sport.
  • Apres: The post ski party, generally at a bar on the mountain.
  • Puckered: Scared.
  • Glade: A stand of trees perfect for skiing through.
  • Ripping: Skiing well.
  • Line: A particular set of moves in a given area, generally off-piste. Like a run within a run.
  • Mogul: Bumps that form on steeper runs from skiers repeatedly making the same turns.
  • Jib: A terrain feature that can be tricked, manmade or natural.
  • Skiing: The most fun you can have with pants on.

Now that you have an inside scoop on key lingo for navigating the mountain like a pro, do you have all the right gear for you and your preferred skiing style? Chat with me or one of my fellow Ski experts anytime for free advice and gear recommendations.

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Written By
Matt M
Matt M
Ski Expert
I have been skiing since 2 years old, I grew up skiing in Colorado at Eldora Mountain Resort. There I joined the race team, where I learned to make proper turns. I persued racing until the age of 18 when I moved to Montana and began my career as a big mountain freeskier. I currently represent a numb...
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