February 28, 2010

Skiing: Slope speak

That last face-plant, those too-chic togs and more all have meaning if you know the latest ski lingo.


With any sport, there evolves a lingo, slang or code. It's good to know the internal expressions to sound knowledgeable and, well, cool. Otherwise you might be lost in a base-lodge conversation or worse, embarrass yourself.

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HEATHER BURKE is a ski/snowboard journalist from Kennebunk. She can be contacted at: heather@familyskitrips.com

I, for example, know nothing about lacrosse and made a complete fool of myself asking why fellow moms had ''lax'' stickers on their SUVs (I was thinking digestive system relaxant).

So let's shed a little light on some ski and snowboard terms floating about the slopes, so that you aren't caught being a complete ''joey.''

We'll start with that one.

No offense to those named Joey, but ''joey'' has come to define a skier or snowboarder to whom the sport does not come naturally. I am sure there are many ''Joeys'' in the ski world who are quite accomplished at alpine sports. I didn't make this expression up, but I have heard it enough on the slopes to report on the cultural phenomenon, so apologies to all those who fall under this idiom undeservedly.

Joeys do not carry their gear properly. Instead, they hold skis awkwardly crisscrossed, poles sticking out like skewers. Joeys don't know how to ride the lift and don't ask directions, so they inevitably fall while loading or forget to unload at the summit -- causing the entire lift to stop, eliciting groans from the more proficient skiers and riders now inconvenienced by the delay. Joeys ski trails way above their skill set, get going too fast and attempt a hockey stop before crashing, or they use their fellow joey ski buddies as human stopping cushions.

When joeys hit a jump, their weight sails off center, their skis and poles flail and their arms flap, but no amount of midair antics will save them from their messy landings. Still you have to cheer for these misfits on the mountains for having the chutzpah, or novice naivety, to just go for it.

To my knowledge, there is no female equivalent for ''joey.'' This is good news for girls. But there are ''snow bunnies''; I will get to them. Having traveled recently to western Canada, so-called joeys are ''punters,'' while in the U.S. Rockies, ''gaper'' is the common label.

A ''joey gap'' or ''gaper gap'' is a noticeable space between your goggles and your hat or helmet where your forehead is gawkily exposed. It looks uncomfortable, and is a telltale sign that you are awkward and amateur at snow sports, far from the stylish look in ski magazines.

A ''snow bunny'' is a cutely dressed lady who lacks great ski ability. Big hair, makeup, fitted snowpants and a furry hood are all clues. Some snow bunnies never leave the comfort of the lodge, recognizing that their lack of downhill skill could be detrimental to their looks, therefore ruining the whole facade. You will find other bunnies on the magic carpet, giggling at every cliché compliment their instructor bestows.

A ''pinhead'' is a skier on telemark equipment; this expression dates back to original telemark skis that affixed the boot toe piece to the binding with three pins allowing the heel to go up and down freely with the bending of the knee. As the telemark craze has grown, so has the jargon to include ''free heeler'' and ''knee dipper.''

A ''shredder'' is a snowboarder. ''One planker'' and ''rider'' are additional terms to signify that you snowboard versus ski.

''Hot dog'' sounds like lunchmeat served in the lodge, but it references the act of performing tricks on skis. Hot dogging has been updated over the decades, now called ''free skiing'' or ''free riding'' (on a snowboard). If you hang out in the terrain park hot dogging, you might also be called a ''jibber.''

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