Word Diggity

By: Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

Sure, you know how to ski. You may even board. And if your knees were better, you could probably even shralp like a young person. But can you talk like the youngsters?

If you’re having a hard time interpreting the dudes sitting next to you on the lifts (as I sometimes do), you can

a) ask them what they’re talking about and look like the old fuddy you are; or

b) do some research on the Internet; or

c) figure it’s probably for the best you don’t know what’s being said, especially if it pertains to you.

“I don’t know what they’re talking about,” says Diane Adelson, who has been skiing Telluride for about 30 years. Doesn’t bother her. She’s up there for the snow.

Heli-ski guide and backcountry ski enthusiast Brian “Speed” Miller concurs. He’s been skiing Telluride since 1976 and says, “I ski with some of the kids, ’til they leave me in the dust in 500 yards, but I don’t really talk to them.”

Let’s say that you want to know what words are up to—then the ski area makes for a fabulous linguistic playground.

To start with a decoding project, I looked up some sites, such as www.abc-of-snowboarding.com, and compiled a list of words I thought were entertaining, if not useful. It turns out, after conducting local research, that what’s said on the ’net ain’t necessarily what’s said in Telluride. That’s why I recommend option a): Pin down a local snowboarder (if you can catch one) and ask for translations for any words you don’t get. (In fact, I still don’t understand how to use dank sauce or weak sauce, a favorite amongst some of the high schoolers I spoke with. Lemme know if you get a lucid answer on this one.)

I did manage to catch up (on the Internet, not on the slopes) with Conor Intemann, who ran the terrain park for three years, worked in it for five and now builds rails for people in their own backyards. He was happy to define boarder language for me.

To make the terms easier to access, I’ve broken them down into a few categories:


Gnar, gnar gnar, gnarly: sick, really good

Slash/slay: what you do to powder or the walls of the pipe

Steeze, steezy, mad steeze, fresh steeze, sick steeze: good style, a blend of style + ease, suggesting that someone pulls off a trick making it look as if it were no effort at all

Tight: a term used to express extreme satisfaction. “That crail (a snowboard trick) was tight.”

Not So Positive

Huck:: Someone flailing on a trick—arms, skis, hands and poles all over the place

Huckfest:: a bunch of people with bad style who are sessioning a jump

Lame:: when something sucks

Wack:: Not good. “It’s wack that my board broke in half.”

Gaper:: a tourist who wears a one-piece snowsuit and doesn’t really know what he’s doing


Charge: To go for a trick with all that you’ve got. “Dude, you’ve just gotta charge that jump.”

Shralp: to ride aggressively, to shred

Shred: The high schoolers insist that only snowboarders can shred—sorry, two plankers (it’s a passé term for skiers)

Falling & Wiping Out

Beef: A wipe out, a biff. “Dude, I beefed that one so bad.”

Rolling up the windows: a phrase used to describe when someone is caught off balance and they rotate their arms wildly in the air to try and recover

Scorpion: when a boarder catches a toe edge and falls forward, slapping the ground quickly and forcefully, often resulting in the board hitting the back of the head

These terms may sound foreign to you, but for many Telluride kids, they’re part of daily speech. One of the students I spoke with told me, “I don’t speak any different when I’m snowboarding, I just talk normal.”

But what’s normal in Telluride is not necessarily normal anywhere else. There’s a slice of lifestyle here that revolves around boarding, “and those that are living the lifestyle don’t change when they put on their skis or board,” says Intemann. “That’s why you see street style on the mountain. They’re wearing their style all the time and use the same language on and off the hill. Someone who ‘rocks all the fresh gear’ on the slope and then is seen on the street dressed like a cowboy is wearing a costume and playing a part.”

And here’s the point. It’s not what you say, it’s what you do. “That’s why gapers can’t pull off steezy tricks or clothes or language,” says Intemann. “You have to back it all up with how you ride. The best kids in the park have earned the right to wear what they do and can get away with wearing loud outfits because they make it look good. It seems to be a trickle-down effect. Once the gapers start copying, the [true boarders] will evolve and set a new trend. When common culture starts using these slang terms, they will be years behind and laughed at for trying. For example, the completely beaten phrase ‘bling, bling.’ If Martha Stewart says it, then run as fast as you can from that saying.”

It’s not just the gnarly shredders who have their own languarge on the slopes. Most anyone who skis regularly would recognize these terms offered up by the Plantz family—Mark and Melissa in their 40s, Will and Jack in their preteens.


Death cookies: hard clumps of snow created when the snowcats are grooming

Deep pow pow: lots of powder snow

Iron Maiden: what Misty Maiden feels like when it’s only man-made snow after many days of sunshine

It’s Ophiring outside: Ophir, the small town to the south, is known for its intense storms Pungie: a stick poking up through the snow

White room: dumping snow and face shots

Falling & Wiping Out

Over the bars: launching into a fall by flying forward over the skis Slide for life: often starts with a fall at the top of an icy slope and just keeps on going Superman: see “over the bars” Yard sale: when you fall and all your equipment scatters across the slope

And then there’s the term that every local wants:

Powder clause: a (most likely) unwritten clause in your work contract that states how many inches of powder it takes to have the morning off to go skiing

Well, that’s a primer. And if you find you still can’t understand what the folks around you are saying, whatever you do, don’t be a gaper. “Come into the park, stay to the side out of the way of the riders, and enjoy watching them pull some incredible tricks,” says Intemann. “Observing the culture will gain you a lot more respect than pretending to be a part of it.”

And, as the kids might say, chillax (a combined “chill out” and “relax”). It doesn’t matter if you shralp. What matters most is that you’re out there having fun.