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Snowboarding for beginners: With our slang guide, you won’t look like a newbie

Learn your snowboard slang this winter and know the difference between a tomahawk, a taco, and a scorpion bail

Snowboarding is more than a sport. In fact, without being too transcendental, snowboarding is a culture; it’s a way of being. Snowboarding for beginners is about more than just learning the complex skills involved in a new sport. Sure, that means you need to have all the right snowboard gear to look the part — without going overboard and being labeled as having all the gear but no idea what you’re doing — but you also need to learn the lingo.


I appreciate that simply by using the word lingo, I’ve outed myself as being well above the age that most people would consider appropriate for slang. Fortunately, snowboard slang doesn’t have an upper limit. Besides, let’s face it — when we’re all geared up in our snowboard helmets and goggles, who can tell anyway?

This is your slang for snowboarders dictionary to help you sound the part this winter.

Snowboarders Walking
Background expert / Shutterstock


Air — We’ll start off easy. Getting air is when you take off from a jump. Gettin’ air is the park rat’s idea of heaven — see further down for park rat. Whether you’re just taking flight or hitting huge kickers, you’re still getting air, my man.

Aprés — Literally meaning “after,” this European concept has come over the pond and is a huge fan favorite. Aprés can be anything from a session over beers as you tell your buddies amped-up stories of your riding, a massive party with blasting European oompah music, a chilled-out evening around a fire, or a meal out with your buddies. However you aprés, the day doesn’t end when the slopes close.

Backcountry — Any area that is outside the ski boundary. This is unblasted and unmanaged, so it’s not to be taken lightly.

Bail — A crash, a wipeout, a fail, a bail. Whatever you call it, we all have ’em. Just try to avoid everyone else when you do.

Bluebird Day — Not a cloud in the sky, perfect visibility, easy cruising. Bluebird days are every day in some ski resorts, while at others, they’re rarer than rocking-horse poop. Take them while you can.

Boardercross  Taken from motocross, where four riders race down a track side-by-side, boardercross is an Olympic-level sport. This probably isn’t the best idea down a packed groomer, but if you find a boardercross track at your local terrain park, get some buddies and race it out.

Bomb — To race downhill at full speed. Snowboarders who do this usually tuck in to reduce their drag and sway, making them look like a bomb or missile — apparently.

Brain bucket — Helmet.

Bulletproof — When the snow is so rock solid that you can barely get an edge in and ice skates are probably more appropriate.

Butter — One of the first freestyle tricks snowboarders usually learn, buttering is when you lean all your weight on the nose or tail of your snowboard and flex the other end high off the ground. This can be converted into 180s, 360s, and tripods.

Bro Your mountain buddies, your crew, your pals. If you’re telling a story about how gnarly your day was, be sure to start every sentence with the word “bro” so that people know you’re a true snowboarder.

Carving — The cleanest turn you can hope for. Carving uses the board’s edge for a long, sweeping turn downhill that leaves a clean line behind.

Corduroy — Freshly groomed runs that look like your uncle’s old pants.

Cruise — Sometimes we don’t want to work hard; sometimes, we want to cruise down the slopes and take it easy with our crew.

Death cookies — Small chunks of ice dislodged from the edge of the slopes by groomers or other riders that get under your board and make it almost impossible to control.

Dialed — When you’ve nailed a trick. When it’s in your locker, ready to be deployed with devastating certainty. That’s when it’s dialed.

Duck footed — The usual snowboard stance of a freestyler and many beginner cruisers. Duck footed usually refers to a +15º, -15º stance, which opens your body up for riding fakie, and both frontside and backside spins.

Dumping — Not your post-coffee performance, but the perfect pre-bluebird night. When it’s dumping with snow, you get the best underfoot conditions, especially if you’re a true powder hound.


Face shot — I cannot stress this enough: Do not go looking this one up. Ever put in a turn in fluffy champagne-style powder and had it ride up over your head like a tidal wave so you can’t see? Those days you’re glad you have goggles and are tempted by a snorkel? That’s when the face shots happen.

Fakie — Another word for riding switch, this is when you ride with your wrong foot forwards. See “goofy” and “regular.”

Freshies — Fresh, untracked lines in powder. You can find these several days after a dump if you know where to look.

Gaper — Also known as a Jerry (though more commonly in ski slang), a gaper shows a complete lack of common sense. This isn’t some unfair term to pick on beginner snowboarders; it’s more about those who do things like wear their goggles upside down or put their wrong foot into their front binding for a one-footed scootch.

Gnarly — From surfer slang, meaning extreme, awesome, or anything all the way to “I think that trick has left me needing an ambulance.”

Goofy — Riders who ride with their right foot forward.

Grom — A young shredder. Those kids who rip it on a snowboard. The cool kids.

Jacket flapper – Going so fast on a snowboard, your jacket flaps in the wind.

Jib — Freestyle riding, playing on the mountain, hitting boxes, spins, tweaks, and anything else that goes beyond cruising around groomers and glades.

Kicker — A purpose-made snowboard jump, usually found in the terrain park.

Laid out — A slow trick done at a leisurely pace, most commonly attributed to a fully extended — laid out — backflip.

Lifties — The lift-swinging, cheer-spreading, tune-pumping, snow-sweeping kings and queens that spend all winter outside and look like they wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world. These guys and gals keep the mountain running.

Ollie — From skateboarding slang, an ollie is where you jump your board without the help of a kicker.

Park rat — Why would you want to spend all day waiting in lift queues when you can spend the day hitting the park? The true park rat can be found hitting jumps and rails — or talking about it — whatever the weather.

Pow — Short for powder.


Regular — Riding with your left foot forwards.

Scorpion — This one hurts. A scorpion is a crash where you end up faceplanting with your legs up over your back — like a scorpion’s sting. We’ve all been there, and it sucks; just hope you got it on camera.

Shred — What we all love to do. Whether you’re a beginner snowboarder or ripping powder runs, you’re a shredder. Shredding is riding and riding hard, and it’s having a great time doing it.

Side hit — Side hits form at the side of the groomer, where riders heading off-piste regularly form a jump. These aren’t groomed but are ridden in and become established features over the course of a season. Some of these become the best features in the resort if you know where to look.

Ski bum — They live for the winter, shirk responsibility for jobs, somehow pay their rent, and party into the night and wake up ready to rip in the morning. The true ski bum has no friends on a powder day, though this might be because they do their laundry only when conditions aren’t worth going out in.

Slide — Going out for a slide is the snowboarder’s invite.

Speed check — Put in a quick heel or toe edge slide to slow down and scrub some speed without turning your snowboard. This is usually done before a jump if you’re coming in too hot.

Steeze — Your style on the mountain. Steezy riders make the mountain look like a playground with effortless jibbing and tweaking. Then there’s the baggy clothing and carefree attitude. We all longed to be like them once upon a time, but few people exhibit true steeze.

Stomp — When you land a jump and nail a trick, you’ve stomped it.

Taco — Almost as bad as a scorpion, a taco is when you crash and fold yourself over a rail, resembling a taco shell.

Tomahawk — When someone crashes and they rag-doll down the mountain like a thrown tomahawk spinning end-over-end. It often looks worse than it is, but it doesn’t look good.

Tracked out — When you get to the top of a run and see that there are no more fresh tracks to be found. Sure, you can still ride, but the freshies have been and gone. Maybe you should have turned up earlier.

Traverse — If there’s one thing snowboarders want to avoid, it’s a traverse. Riding across the hill, following your skier buddies to reach runs only accessible by sticking in a traverse track is never fun. Once you nail the traverse, you can reach some real hidden gems.

Trays — Another word for a snowboard.

White-out — When the cloud comes in and it’s the same color as the snow on the ground. A white-out is hard to ride in and leaves you snowboarding by feel rather than being able to see what’s coming up.

Window winder — When you see a snowboarder hit a jump out of control and wave their arms around, it’s called winding down the windows. Don’t be this guy.

Yard sale — A proper bail, where you lose items as you tomahawk down the mountain. Goggles, helmets, gloves, it can all come off. Yard sales are more spectacular with skiers, but they can still happen to us.

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Tom Kilpatrick
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