“Dude, that course is swingayyy!!!”- Ski racer with swag

“That particular set seemed to have more distance horizontally than I would have liked.”- Ski racer without swag


Don’t forget your swag. Pick up the lingo.

Ski racers have an unusual amount of niche descriptions, acronyms, and, frankly, a fluency in a language that your average skier would hear as foreign. Below is a comprehensive list that should get you speaking with the pros in no time.

#hundiesmatter: First used by American Downhiller legend Daron Rahlves in reference to how races can be won or lost by hundredths of a second, “hundies matter” has become a term ubiquitous with ski racing culture in the United States. #hundiesmatter. It’s a big one.

Arcing: When skis are high up on edge, with minimal snow spray. This is #fast and #goals. Synonyms: dicing, knifing.

Fall-line: In the simplest of terms, the line that a snowball would take if you were to roll it down a hill, and therefore the line where gravity pulls a mass (a person in the case of ski racing) most down the hill.

Swingy: When a course set has lots of big turns. Underlying meaning: it’s difficult. Gates are set across the hill (versus more in the fall-line), usually forcing skiers to work harder to make it through the course. Synonyms: turny, offset.

Open: Opposite of swingy. Plentiful space between the gates. Usually means that a skier can handily make it through the course, as they have ample space between turns.

Tight: When the vertical distance between gates is minimal. Skiers have to move quickly from turn to turn, making it a difficult type of set. Tight courses can also be swingy (the hardest!).

Straight: When the gates are set relatively in the fall-line, requiring minimal effort to make it through the course. The distance between gates varies in a straight course, however are always set with minimal turn shape. Straight courses can also be open, the easiest and most boring (for most people) type of set.

Rutty: In general, when the snow is soft, ruts (grooves in the line of the course), are created as more and more racers ski down a course. They make for a bumpier ride and more difficult time dicing arcs. Not very fun but some people are crazy good at skiing them which makes us #jealous.

Groove(s): Indents in the snow created from skis. At times they are harmless, however on certain types of snow like when it’s soft or balled up from the groomers they can turn into ruts make for a bumpy ride. This makes it difficult for skiers to ski their desired line and at times throw skiers out of the course. Conversely, “finding the groove” can be the fastest way down a course when the snow is firmer as it give a racer more of a platform to push off of in the turn, generating speed because, as you already know, #hundiesmatter.

Shelf: The ultimate rut. When it gets rutted enough that a berm (the shelf) has been created on the inside line of travel. The line that skiers must now ski is in a hole much deeper in the snow than the preferred line that is closer to the gate. Not fun and can make it easy to fall if you are out of balance.

Soft Snow: BAD FOR SKI RACERS! Yes, crazy, I know. Soft snow doesn’t allow racers to effectively push against the surface to arc turns and generate speed (#hundiesmatter). It often makes for a difficult time balancing or getting power from the skis. We don’t like soft snow. Not in the race course at least.

Hero Snow: When you feel like a superhero and laying arcs is #easymoney, you’re probably on hero snow. You can pretty much get away with anything (like leaning in, bad technique, etc.) and your skis will still arc and make you feel like you’re Ted Ligety. Generally a buttery, soft, and effortless feeling. You’ll know when you’re on it. Most commonly found in Colorado.  

Bally: Can’t set an edge because it feels like you’re standing on marbles? Feel like you’re staring at a bottomless surface of ice balls? Fallen and scraped your face on shards of ice? Well, that’s what we call “bally” snow. #notfun #notcool and occurs when a groomer gets lazy and wants to finish his job a little too quick.

Injection: Ski racers like this. When a course has been injected, ski coaches and race organizers have suffered through dragging metal injection bars up to the top of the hill for the purpose of piping, or “injecting,” water into the snow. It causes the surface to freeze up like an ice rink and can be really fun to ski on if your equipment is tuned properly, if not, be prepared to suffer! Almost all NorAm, Europa Cup, and World Cup races take place on injected race venues. Sharp edges+injection=happy ski racers.

Hairpin:  Only found in slalom courses. A vertical combination of gates to mix up the rhythm of a course. Comprised of two gates set vertically on top of one another, racers must make two quick turns in order to navigate successfully.

Flush: Just like a hairpin but instead of two turns, contains three or more gates stacked vertically on top of one another. Tricky tricky!

Delay/Under/Banana (yes, banana): Another combination type and rhythm changer. When two gates are set to create an elongated turn, skied around on the same side. Can be found in courses across all disciplines and is often confusing for younger or less experienced racers.

Pitch: A steep section of a training or race venue. More difficult than the flats. Synonym: steeps. Pretty simple.

Flats: The opposite of a pitch, a flat section of a training or race venue.  

False Flat: A section of a venue that appears to be flat at first glance but is steep enough that racers can pick up speed while skiing it. Can lure you into thinking it’s easier than it really is. Be aware!

Flat Light: Commonly found on the East Coast. For Westerners, this is when the skies are overcast and the sun is nowhere to be seen. Flat light causes shadows to disappear so you can’t easily see the definition in the snow or bumps in the course you’re skiing through. Can be made better with blue dye on the snow sprayed by coaches in strategic locations.

Straddle: Usually occurring in slalom, straddling is the most common form of disqualification in ski racing. When a gate goes in between a skier’s legs. NOT ALLOWED.

Stivot/Stivvy/Stiv: A purposeful redirection of skis to control speed or a racer’s line. A very strategic move only appropriate in specific situations. When done right it happens above the gate, followed by arcing your skis in the fall-line. This allows skiers to maintain an aggressive line and pressure their skis at the appropriate time, all while controlling their speed in a particularly steep or difficult section of a course. When done wrong, you’ll slow down way more than you want to. Experts only!

Knuck-dragging: When a racer dices arcs and lays their skis up on edge, they are often low enough to the ground that their inside hand drags on the snow. Also a telltale sign that you’re probably leaning in, especially for younger or less-experienced racers. Keep that inside shoulder up! Most visible at the bottom of a course when gloves are dyed blue from the dye on the course.

Hip-dragging: Along the same lines as knuck-dragging (see above), when a skier is low enough to the ground from laying it over and their hip drags on the snow a la Ted Ligety. Looks cool, usually not fast though unless you really know what you’re doing.

Hipped out: A negative result of hip-dragging or losing pressure on the outside ski. When a skier loses balance and they slide out on their hip. To be avoided at all costs.  

DNF: MUST KNOW. Did Not Finish. Often used as a verb. “I DNF’d”. Happens more than we would like, unfortunately, and especially after you hip out.

Blew Out: Not finishing the course. Can be used in many ways like after crashing, hipping out, etc. However, it is usually in reference to going too straight at a gate and being unable to make the next one.

Hike/Hiked: Allowed in slalom, NOT in any other event. After missing a gate because of hipping out, straddling, getting off balance and thrown out of the course, skiers have the opportunity to hike up the hill to the point where they missed the gate. They can then continue their run. Racers will often do this to ski their second run because not finishing the first run prevents you from skiing the second.

DSQ/DQ: Disqualified. Often used as a verb. “I was DQ’d.” An infraction of the rules causes you to be disqualified by the race officials. Most commonly seen when a racer straddles or misses a gate and crosses the finish line without hiking.

DNQ: Did not qualify (for a second run). This happens when you don’t finish in the top 60 in a continental cup or top 30 in a World Cup after the first run and aren’t given a second.

DFL: Not where you want to finish after your run. Dead F#%&ing Last. Sad!

Penalty: The number value which reflects the difficulty of a race based on its competitors and venue, and thus determines a racer’s point result after the conclusion of the race. The lower the better!

Inspection: A period of time before the race where athletes are allowed to slowly slide through the course and get an initial look. Racers use inspection to scope out the placement of the gates, their line, the terrain, any rhythm changes, and get a plan of action before their run.

The Seed: A name for the top 15 ranked point-holders in a given race. Their start order is shuffled for the first run.

The Flip: After the first run of slalom GS, and combined, the top 30 finishers run in reversed order for the second run. Therefore, the racer that finished in position 30 after run 1 will run first, and the racer who won the first run will run 30th. You always want to make the flip!

Bibbo: A prestigious, yet often unofficial, title awarded to the racer who moves up the most in the ranks in a given race. Sometimes given an award, most of the time not. We think it deserves a spot beside the podium though. Bib 95 finished top 15?! This athlete has some grit.

Wooden Spoon: For the athlete who finishes in fourth place, just off the podium. Bummer!

Split/Intermediate Time: Sometimes races have a time check between the start and finish. Serves as a strong indicator before a racer finishes on where they’ll end up in the ranks. Or how a run was going before a mistake or a DNF. 

Pinching: Description of poor tactics. When an athlete travels too directly from gate to gate, failing to give themselves ample room above the gate in order to pressure in the fall-line, they are “pinching” their turns off. Not fast!

Hooky: Another description of poor tactics. “Hooking” is when a skier has begun their turn too late and must pressures their skis too far across the fall-line or even up the hill to complete their turn. Their line looks similar to a fish hook. Also not fast!

Late: A feeling as a result of poor tactics. Feeling late is when a racer is struggling to remain in the course and a majority of their pressure is below the gate. If you are pinching or hoking your turns, you probably feel late. Not fun or fast.

Depth: The primo combination of technique and tactics for pressuring in the fall-line. The skier enters neither too low or too high above the gate, and points their skis away from the gate, towards the outside of the turn, and gradually builds pressure to smoothly arc to the next gate. The best racers are really good at skiing with depth. Synonym: Arcing Out.

Visualizing: A psychological tool many athletes utilize before their run where they picture themselves skiing the course they just inspected.

31’s: Referring to the diameter (in millimeters) of a slalom gate. A thicker gate for the big kids.

27’s: A thinner type of slalom gate. For the little guys.

30’s: 30-meter radius GS skis. Used to be only for women, however are used by both genders now in FIS racing.

35’s: 35-meter radius GS skis. What the men used to use in FIS racing. A thing of the past… for now.

Live-Timing: The website racers, coaches, and fans use to view results in real time. Swipe… up? Hopefully not too far…

Jerry: Someone who has got it, well, wrong. Simply, one lacking experience with skiing which often results in poor decision making. Whether it’s using equipment wrong, confidence on terrain, or anything in between, Jerrys can be dangerous. Don’t be one. Synonym: Gaper or Joey.

Goggle Gap: The most classic indicator of a Jerry. When the space between your goggles and the edge of your helmet doesn’t touch, and there is visible forehead between. Not the move.

Top Sheets: The part of your ski you can see while chillin’ on the charilift or cruising down the hill.

Bases: The part of your ski you can’t see while chillin’ on the chairlift or cruising down the hill. Your bases need to be cared for and protected!

Edge: Debatably the most important part of the ski. Your edges are the sharp metal strips on either end of the base. Edges also need to be maintained frequently! Best when sharp.

Sidewall: When looking at a ski on its side, the section of material between the top sheet and edge is the sidewall. Fastest when smooth.

Soft Ear: A type of helmet that many ski racers use for skiing outside of training or racing (freeskiing). Not FIS Legal for GS, super-G, or downhill but can be used in slalom races.

FIS Legal: Equipment that meets FIS standards.

Speed Suit/Race Suit: A ski racer’s outfit for competition. Made of stretchy fabric and meant to fit tightly for aerodynamics.

Bib: The other part of a racer’s competition outfit. Has your assigned start number printed on it and identifies you to race officials, coaches and other racers on the start and results sheets.

Chin bar: A protective measure for slalom racing meant to protect your face from slalom gates. It consists of a piece of plastic or metal attached on either end of a helmet.

Stealth: A padded top worn under a speed suit for protection from gates.

PTST: Post Training Snack Time. Okay, maybe we made that one up. But we think it should be a thing.