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alpine skiing

10 words you need to know for Alpine skiing

The 2014 Winter Olympic Games are underway, and we are celebrating this season of sport in the best way we know how: with words.

For the duration of the Games, we are featuring terminology from many of this year’s competed sports. Today’s wordlist primer focuses on:

Alpine skiing

Are you an avid schussboomer? Whether you get your thrills from whizzing down a snowy mountain on a pair of skis or your favorite part of skiing is sipping hot chocolate in the ski lodge, here are a few words you need to know to understand Alpine skiing during these Winter Olympics.

Alpine skiing is one of two categories of competitive skiing (the other is Nordic skiing) defined as “downhill or straight racing, and slalom racing round a series of markers.” It was first included in the Winter Olympics program in 1936, when the combined event was held in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Currently there are five events in the category of Alpine skiing, and here is a list of words you’ll need to understand them:

stem v. Slide the tail of one ski or both skis outwards in order to turn or slow down. 

The word stem comes from the German stemmen meaning to lift or brace.

snowplow turn/snowplough turn n. An act of turning the points of one’s skis inwards in order to slow down or turn. 

The snowplow turn is the most basic form of stemming, and is taught to beginner skiers.

stem christie n. A turn made by stemming with the upper ski and then lifting the other one parallel to it for most of the turn.

The stem christie (previously called a stem Christiania) was named after Kristiania, a former name of Oslo.

carve v. Make (a turn) by tilting one’s skis on to their edges and using one’s weight to bend them so that they slide in an arc. 

Carving typically involves making a series of Cs, or half circles.

fall line n. The route leading straight down any particular part of a slope.

A skier is said to be “skiing the fall line” if they are skiing a line with their skis pointing straight and down, rather than traversing the slope.

mogul  n. A bump on a ski slope formed by skiers turning.

A skier will keep as close to the fall line as possible when skiing over moguls to minimize the time it takes to get through the course. 

slalom n. A ski race down a winding course marked out by poles.

The Norwegian word slalåm means “sloping track,” which is where we get the English word “slalom.”

schuss n. A straight downhill run on skis.

The term “schuss” literally means “shot” in German, and the word “schussboomer” is found in the Oxford English Dictionary to mean “a fast downhill skier”.

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