The Wicket: The Ski Turn Dictionary

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The Wicket: The Ski Turn Dictionary

Welcome to The Wicket, FREESKIER’s new bimonthly column and your home for ski culture, news and general buffoonery. Written by professional amateur ski bum and FREESKIER contributor, PaddyO, The Wicket is a celebration of all things skiing. Click in, drop in and get ready to get weird.

Header image: Jeff Cricco

Ya just gotta love that ski bum jargon.

We skiers are funny folks, and our terminology is case in point. We have endless words to describe snow conditions, styles and types of skiing, and all sorts of words and phrases to describe our favorite turns. I have a few favorites of my own, but in order to get a cornucopia of classifications, I asked for guidance from ski bums and professionals from throughout our community. Here is your Official Unofficial Glossary of Ski Turn Terms.

First, let’s acknowledge where we all came from and just how far we’ve come.

In the 1920s, Hannes Schneider invented The Arlberg Technique in the Austrian Alps. It’s the quintessential pizza-French fry beginner ski style, which is then progressed to the stem christie, or parallel turn, in a rather punchy, rigid motion. We all start here.

From there, in the 1950s, backcountry skiing pioneer Dolores LaChapelle made the Dipsy Doodle and the Double Dipsy famous. Alta’s famed Dick Durrance invented the turns. The single dipsy turn is when the legs move in a smooth pivoting roll while the upper body remains quiet. The double dipsy sees weight evenly distributed on both skis. They served as the foundation of the modern powder turn.

The Slarve is my favorite turn of all time and I try to deploy it as often as possible every day, though it is best used in deep powder snow… my favorite of all the snows. The Slarve is a sliding carve, or skid steer, where the tips pivot and the tails slide adjacent and wash out creating a deep angled crescent moon shape. It is lovely and makes my heart happy.

The Hippie Wiggle or The Noodle is another favorite of mine. Short radius, poppy turns where the legs and boots are as tightly zip-tied together as possible. It’s very old school, very beautiful and very reminiscent of the days when skis were as long as Lincoln Continentals.

Pro Skier and pro fisher McKenna Peterson can’t get enough Trenching. “I know, very Sun Valley. It’s when you lay your skis over so far that you are cutting legitimate trenches into the snow. A true ‘trench’ is defined as a slice from each ski that reaches at least 3.81 centimeters (1.5 inches) in depth. Extra points for releasing enough energy at the exit of the turn to levitate the skis off of the snow. The perfect terrain is steep. The perfect snow is fresh, cold corduroy.”

Henrik Lampert, FREESKIER’s former Editor in Chief, is in love with the Airplane Turn. “It’s executed by getting up to full speed and carving all the way across the hill. Long, swooping turns, rolling ever so slowly from edge to edge, skis always parallel. Arms are spread out, like wings. As the skier enters and exits each turn at the widest part of the slope, the butt may drop significantly, putting the skier’s weight into the backseat, sometimes causing uncomfortable pressure on the knees. But it’s OK because Wayne Wong taught us that if you’re not hot-dogging, you’re doing it wrong. And at this stage, the skier may lean into the hill and drag the uphill hand along the snow—much in the same way that a surfer may reach his or her hand into the barrel of a wave, mid-ride—making intimate connection with the elements, appreciating the speed and feeling wonderfully alive.”

Lampert in the midst of his Airplane Turn. Photo: Matt Power | Location: Snowmass, CO

Elyse Saugstad’s husband and skier of 50 super hard things, pro skier Cody Townsend, is in love with the to the Oh Shit Turn, when “the shit is millimeters from the fan but you miraculously divert it from its day-ruining blades.” But the Saugstad’s husband is mainly attracted to the Controlled Falling Turn, a.k.a. the Spine Turn. “It’s been said the best part of turning isn’t the turn itself, it’s the moments in between, those moments of weightlessness, of anti-gravity defying zero-Gs, of an act of controlled falling. It’s best exemplified on the steepest of spine walls in Alaska. It feels as if you’re spacewalking down a mountain, while the mountain peels around you in a torrent of cataclysmic slough raging all around you.”

Similarly, pro skier of vertical parking lots, Brody Leven has a kinship with the Hop Turn. “It’s hard to execute and impossible to master. It’s also a turn that ski mountaineers find themselves doing on anything over 25 degrees, whether or not it’s groomed. It is best done on steep terrain and firm conditions, but if you spend 99-percent of your time climbing mountains and 1-percent actually skiing down them, eventually, you find yourself jump turning on nearly flat groomers because you’re so afraid of speed. The relationship between a wedge Christie pizza pie turn and the most death-defying ski turn made above tremendous exposure is uncanny.”

But wait, friends, there are more ways to bound down a mountain. The Boot Doctor herself, Galena Gleason skis like a unicorn riding a puma on the back of a dragon, that is to say really frickin’ majestically, most notably while deploying The Frog Hop. “When skiing steep lines in no-fall zone terrain, this is a critical skill. Though many North American skiers such as Scot Schmidt, Chris Davenport and Eric Hjorleifson have mastered this turn, no nationality does it better than the French. It seems like a birthright to those born with a cigarette in-hand and baguette in the backpack. Perhaps because the French Alps are chock full of some of the most harrowing, consequential ski lines in the world. Or perhaps because the word technique is, indeed, French. Regardless, I’ve seen Savoie toddlers and grandmothers alike nail this turn better than many self-proclaimed pro skiers.”

The San Juan Smiler, Katy “KitKat” Kirkpatrick has a romantic comedy-level adoration for the Jump Turn. “It’s most often executed in horrendous survival skiing terrain, but most fun in face deep pow. It’s about being a little loose, a little wild, and coming up for air between each turn. It’s the only turn that’s truly half skiing, half flying. When linked together nonstop down a celebrity run, it makes you feel like a mythical ski god capable of anything.”

The Slice Hop has made it to the top of the ski turn list for Telluride’s Ryan “Roooon” Dohnal. “I like to take a hard slalom turn just before an obstacle so I’m almost at a dead stop, skis pointing almost laterally, plant the pole, and hop over the roller, turning the skis in the opposite direction. Just a tiny bit of air involved. It feels death-defying on steep, rolling terrain.”

The legend Chris Davenport has made many a turn look pretty, but his go-to is the Downhill Dive. “Basically you load the downhill ski with a little feather on the uphill, let ‘em run fast across the fall line and then, with a little extra pressure, carve slightly back up the hill. While your lower body is doing this, your upper body is square to the fall line and the motion is continuing down the hill. It literally feels like your skis are above your head as you dive down the hill.”

The man, the myth and ultimate ski bum, John Shocklee, is in love with Going To The Tele White Room. “It’s a pure and simple turn that is enjoyed by few! In a slope of deep pow, there’s nothing better than going fast and droppin’ the knee in a perfect tele turn or a hundred tele turns.” Essentially, this is a genuflecting disappearance of a telemark skier in a sea of white.

Aspen has a ski gang called the Flying Monkees, and that ski gang’s Chief Executor of Stoke, pro skier Colter Hinchliffe, is a big fan of the Bounce and Pounce. “I don’t simply ski through the pow and let it have all the fun. I pounce like a kitten pounces on a ball of rainbow yarn, except I have the satisfaction of bouncing out of that pounce with snow ejaculating around me as I climax from the bounce into my next pounce. Ski pow like you mean it. Like it matters. Don’t be boring and vanilla on the best days of your life.”

Telluride’s perma-pigtailed shred queen Heidi Lauterbach had a hard time picking just one favorite ski turn but landed on the Whale Breach. “Ya know the one… you go in for a casual powder turn and it’s way deeper than you anticipated. While in the white room you have time to think about what you might have for lunch, dinner and depending on depth, you may even have time to think about sending a card to grandma. When you finally see daylight again, you feel like a whale breaching the ocean’s horizon. It’s best to picture this turn in slow motion.”

Aspen’s Xanthe “Side Pony 4 Life” Demas has perfected the Tits/Teeth/Tongue Deep Turn. “Is that appropriate? It’s my favorite pow day turn. Maybe it’s not very original, but when you can feel the pow just blast you in the chest, preferably in the teeth and mouth, and you just get physically and metaphorically buried… I literally live for that shit.” Demas also is devoted to the Mogul Masher, which is of course “literally just crushing bumps. Preferably with lots of speed.”

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Katie Lee disciple and proprietor of powder, pro skier Kalen Thorien, has deep adoration for the Tasteful Schnoods. “It’s the modern version of the Wasatch wiggle, a combination of slashing and noodling. This is best done touring when you have a long, untracked line, but can be accomplished at the resort as well. The goal is to have a series of noodles followed by a forceful yet graceful slash of the skis, ideally on a sparkling patch of snow to create a magical moment of glittery goodness, and bonus points if the slash is done near an object or exposure to really showcase your dexterity. This is then followed by high fives at the bottom and multiple comments of ‘Damn, those were some tasteful schnoods,’ I’m all about the schnoods.”

Pro unicorn Lynsey Dyer can’t get enough Schussing, “It’s casual, a time to be had amongst friends, probably on the resort after brunch. The sun is shining, the snow is soft, good feels are to be had. So much of life as a pro skier means being scared and having to perform, often at great risk to yourself. It’s high risk and high stress. Any chance to chill and practice why most people go skiing is always a welcomed balance and reminder to play.” ‘Nough said.

Telluride local and young Einstein lookalike, Wiley McCreedy can’t pick just one turn. “I love to Slash Pow, duh, by throwing that hard deep turn in after picking up some speed. Makes you feel like you just sliced the mountain in two while Mötley Crüe plays Kick Start My Heart with the dial cranked to eleven. I love Bonking inanimate objects with my skis; trees, rocks, your bros. I love Carving Corduroy with sharp edges and the right skis because it makes you feel like you’re flying an F14 with Mav and Goose on your wing. I love Butt Swishing on gaper day because if you’re not having fun while you’re skiing, you’re doing it wrong. I love Schralping the Gnar, which I can’t really put into words. But if you know, you know” 

The Roaring Fork Valley Silver Fox Penn Newhard is all about Schralping. “It’s not a particular singular turn but the embodiment of stoke plus action. It is the feeling you get in the afterglow of perfectly linked turns down a backcountry face. You can schralp the steeps or fresh pow, or apres at the bistro. Schralp on!”

Both pro skier Marcus Caston and FREESKIER’s Editor-in-Chief, Donny O’Neill, are No Turn zealots, but describe it differently. Caston calls it the Zero Turn. “It’s more of a hop down the hill, like a jump turn but without the turn. Your tips stay facing the same way the whole time as you lift your downhill foot off the ground and hop off your uphill foot. 

Caston deploys this while flying over rocks, trees, stumps, ice or his mustache sheddings, but O’Neill is all about powder. “When the snow is so deep it slows your momentum enough that the only change in direction needed is the subtle shift in the hips, each slight pivot compelling waves of snow to billow up into your face and over your head. There’s no need to worry about anything other than what’s happening in your tiny little powder orb—it’s not like you can see anything but snow flying up into your face, anyway. And when you finish your descent, there’s nothing to do but look back from which you came and laugh with an uninhibited intensity that only the turn that requires no turning provides.”

O’Neill, in the midst of the No Turn. Location: Retallack, BC

The Hulking Hoosier, Scotty Pittenger needs just two things for a Popcorn Turn—air and powder. “It’s pretty simple: find deep powder, initiate the turn, flex skis, glutes, hammies and calves to pop out of the pow. Then, while enjoying the terrain of the birds, recoil the lower body and prepare for an angled reintroduction to fluffville. Then, reenter powderberg and arc the second half of the turn, or enough to get a face shot, and repeat as many times as humanly possible.”

For Dr. Stokenstein, pro skier Michelle Parker, the answer is easy. “Hands down the McConkey Turn! Best if using water skis as your devices for sliding on snow. It’s that long drawn out power slide. It looks like fewer turns and more face shots and is commonly used to create the illusion of more snow flying and slightly slowing down without making more turns. Basically, it looks better on film. Great for blind rollovers to check and make sure you are in fact in the right place before sending it.”

Like a putty knife wiping cream cheese on a bagel, Carbondale, Colorado’s Patrick King uses his rotund back porch to Schmear.  “It’s essentially the opposite of carving. It’s less about engaging your edges, more about letting them slide over a patch of snow, with just enough pressure to keep you engaged in the turn, but free enough to elicit a feeling of floating. Shmearing works in untouched snow, dust on crust, even chopped up mank in Highlands Bowl two days after a storm.

King is also a fan of basic terminology, the Right-footer and Left-footer. “Sounds more like a surfing term, but they definitely apply to skiing. As in, ‘past those trees, there’s a patch of untouched just asking for a hard right-footer.’ Or, if you’re trying to nail the shot, these come in handy, ‘put a left-footer down on that pillow.’

Whatever you choose, as long as you’re turning with a smile on your face you’re doing it right. And if your favorite turn isn’t on this list give us your definition and description in the comments below. Happy wigglin’, friends.