Snowboarding terms for beginners
(to sound like a pro)
Martina Russo, CEO & founder
25 March 2023
If you’ve ever strapped in on a board and surfed soft, fluffy snow or glided on perfectly groomed pistes, you’ll know that snowboarding is so much more than a sport. It’s a culture. A way of life that extends far beyond the slopes. But to be a part of the community, you need to know the lingo. You’ve got to talk the talk to truly walk the walk (or glide the ride).
At The Action Sports Translator, we’re translators by day and snowboarders by nature. We’re constantly creating and translating content for snowboarding brands, so we know a thing or two about the lingo people use across different cultures and languages. If you want to do more than look the part the next time you hit the slopes, here’s our list of snowboarding terms that beginners need to know.
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40 snowboarding terms you need to know
Want to sound like a snowboarding pro? Here are 40 terms to use next time you hit the slopes.
Air is the amount of height you get from a jump. Every snowboarder wants to get air when they take off from a ramp or kicker. The higher, the better! Just try not to crash land on the way down…
Après is what you do after a hard day’s riding. This can be anything from a couple of sunset beers to a full-on rave in a European bar. The beauty of après is you can go as hard or chill as you want to.
Also called off-piste or freeriding in Europe (but definitely not to be confused with freestyling), backcountry snowboarding is riding off the beaten track, searching for fluffy snow (powder). Splitboards are often used for freeriding. They look like a snowboard that’s been cut in half but they make uphill hikes so much easier. Backcountry routes are unmarked and unpatrolled, so they’re best left to the experts.
If you’re a beginner, you’re going to get very familiar with the term bail. It’s basically when you fall, crash or wipe out. Don’t worry – it happens to the best of us.
Bluebird days are what we pray to the snowboarding gods for – perfect sunny skies without a cloud in sight. Bluebird powder days happen right after it’s snowed loads, dumping buckets of fluffy pow for us to surf.
Bombing it down a slope is when you race from top to bottom at full speed in a straight line, overtaking everyone else on the piste.
Buttering is an old-school snowboarding trick where you put all your weight on the nose or tail of your snowboard but keep your normal riding position the same. Once you get the hang of it, you can move on to bigger tricks like spins.
When you carve, you tip on the edge of your snowboard as you turn to cut across the snow without skidding, leaving a smooth, clean line. You’ll move on to carving once you’ve nailed your basic turns.
Cruising is a relaxed style of riding where you take it easy all the way to the bottom of the piste. Basically, the opposite of bombing it.
Cut has a couple of meanings. Either you cut across the piste to get to the other side or you cut someone up on the slopes. You won’t be too popular if you do the latter.
The name really says it all – death cookies are frozen chunks of ice that get stuck under your snowboard, making it harder to control and causing all kinds of chaos.
When a trick is dialed, you’ve nailed it and have it locked down, ready to deploy with utter precision.
A duck-footed stance means your bindings are angled slightly out and away from each other. Many freestyle riders prefer it as it makes riding switch easier. (More on switch later.)
After a heavy snowfall – aka a dump – you’re in for perfect snowboarding conditions. Think thick, fluffy pow that makes you feel like your board’s gliding on air.
Pretty self-explanatory – this is when you fall face-first into the snow. Great fun on a powder day!
This is where you ride with the opposite foot in front. It’s basically another word for riding switch. (Seriously, I promise we’ll get to switch.)
Freshies means making first tracks through untouched snow. It’s what the most dedicated snowboarders get up at the crack of dawn for.
When something’s gnarly, it’s awesome or rad. Though a gnarly trick may still put you on a stretcher.
Goofy means riding with your right foot forward. It’s not too common – only about 30% of snowboarders ride like this.
Groms are up-and-coming riders who nail their snowboarding style relatively young. Many grow up to be Olympians and worldwide freestyle superstars.
Most slopes are ‘groomed’ by piste bashers once the ski lifts close. They remove lumps and bumps, leaving the snow looking like corduroy fabric.
Snowboarders say they’re going to hit a kicker, jump or rail when they’re going to snowboard on or down it.
Jib or jibbing describes a style of freestyle riding that involves jumping or sliding on objects like rails and boxes.
Kickers are purpose-made jumps found in the freestyle park.
Lifties are the backbone of any ski resort. They might not look like they’re having much fun, but they keep the ski lifts running in all conditions.
Ollie is a slang term borrowed for skateboarding. In snowboarding, it’s when you jump and get air on a piece of flat slope – no kicker needed.
Park rats spend ALL their time hitting jumps, rails and kickers in the freestyle park. You’ll spot these cool kids wearing long, baggy snowboard jackets from a mile away.
Short for powder, pow is what snowboarders call the fresh, fluffy, ungroomed snow found on off-piste routes.
Regular stance is when you ride with your left foot forward. It’s the most common way to ride.
Pretty much all snowboarders are shredders – from beginners to seasoned pros. Shredding is when you ride hard and to your fullest potential on the toughest terrain.
A confusing one for newbies, sick is what snowboarders say when something’s good.
Ski bums are skiers who work low-paying jobs in exchange for free lift passes and discounts on gear. They live by the mantra ‘there are no friends on powder days’.
Also known as boardercross, snowboard cross is a fast-paced event where four to six riders go head to head, racing down a groomed track. Think motocross on snow.
If you’re heading too fast towards a kicker or rail, you can slow yourself down by going into a heel or toe edge slide.
Spraying is when you turn 90 degrees on your snowboard and throw as much spray into the air as possible. You can also spray your fellow snowboarders by timing your stop just right. Whether you should is up to you and your bros.
The word steeze is a mix between ‘style’ and ‘ease’. You’re ‘steezy’ if you throw a massive trick and land it or just wear a cool outfit.
Stomping it is nailing a trick or landing a jump (and looking steezy while you’re at it).
Switch is riding backward on your snowboard, leading with the opposite foot forward.
Traversing is every snowboarder’s worst nightmare. We don’t have poles, so it usually involves unstrapping and hopping along the track to get across. It takes foreeeverr.
Whiteouts are almost impossible to ride in. During a whiteout, the clouds turn the same color as the snow, and you can’t tell up from down.
Before you hit the slopes…
Many of these terms are widely used by snowboarders around the world in English. For those new to the sport, they’re a great place to start. But if you’re planning to go snowboarding in the French Alps or Spain’s Sierra Nevada National Park, don’t be surprised if some of their terms get lost in translation.
For example, did you know that skiers refer to snowboarders as surferos (surfers) in Spanish? And in French, après-ski is less lingo and more literal description. Finding the right words – in all languages – is the real key to looking like a pro.
If you’re a snowboard or skiing brand who wants to speak to your loyal snowsports fans in their language, drop us a line. We’ve got you covered with translations for winter sports that are as fresh as your turns at dawn.
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Martina is the CEO and founder at The Action Sports Translator. After starting her career in marketing translation in 2010, she has been recognized as a Localization industry influencer multiple years in a row and has been working with some of the world's most exciting brands to bring multilingual marketing campaigns to life.
Co-founder and localization manager at Protect Our Winters Italy, she founded The Action Sports Translator to provide outdoor brands with a sports translation service that truly gets them. When she isn’t working, you can usually find her climbing a mountain or snowboarding down the other side.
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