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Frozen Phrases 

Demystifying the ski industry's ever-growing vocabulary and terminology

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Years ago, I was sharing some photos with my cousins and said, "This is me waiting for first chair on a late spring, bluebird powder day." Her response: "You just said so many things that don't make any sense to me." I then realized that I had been isolated for years, surrounded only by those who spoke my own language. All subcultures have their lingo, and skiers and snowboarders are no different.

First chair: Technically, if you're in the first grouping of people on the first chair after the bell rings at the day's opening, you get "first chair" bragging rights. Although generally, everyone in the lift line before the bell rings is in line for first chair.

Late spring: Really any day in March or April.

Bluebird: In the Inland Northwest, if you can see your shadow, or a patch of blue in the sky, it's considered a bluebird day.

Powder day: This term is relative to the season. Last year, a powder day might have consisted of 3 new inches of snow overnight. In a big year, we might get a little more particular about the amount of snow that qualifies the day as a powder day.

Après: My favorite among the ski lingo, après is the post-skiing or snowboarding celebration, even if all you did was put on skis and rode one chairlift — even it was from the parking lot to the village.

Shredding the gnar: Skiing or snowboarding to your fullest extent possible, in the most gnarly conditions, even if that consists of battling for your placement on the cat track during a holiday weekend.

Parabolic skis: This term no longer exists to describe new skis. The term has changed and now refers to the side cut. All skis are shaped, so to differentiate between old-school skis that are straight and the variety you can buy today, terms like "early rise," "rocker" and "twin tip" are current words and phrases to describe shaped skis.

Local: Usually self-proclaimed, once you've gotten vocal about all of the tourists shredding your line on a powder day during the holidays.

Hot lapping: Usually only occurs midweek, where no lift lines exist and you can make fast laps, without stopping, on your favorite runs.

Every day, I find myself having a conversation with someone who doesn't ski or snowboard. I know I've used one of the terms from the skiing and boarding subculture when their eyes start to glaze over and they're trying to translate what I'm talking about into "normal" terms. ♦


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