What a Beginner Skier or Snowboarder Needs to Know: A Snowsports Glossary


ChairliftChairlifts are a series of towers going up the mountain, with chairs attached to a cable.

The chairlift is what makes skiing and riding less work and more fun. Just imagine if you had to climb up the mountain each time you wanted to come down.

Chairlifts come in all sorts of configurations. Chairs that hold four people (rather like couches) are found at many larger resorts. Some resorts even have chairs holding six people. Two and three person chairlifts are also quite common. Many lifts have comfort bars that you can pull down in front of you after you’re safely seated.

Chairlifts are either attached, with a fixed grip on the cable or detachable and high-speed. High-speed chairlifts slow down to let skiers on and off. Fixed grip chairlifts maintain a constant speed.


Getting on and off a chairlift is easy, as long as you understand what you’re doing. If you’re in a lesson, your instructor will give you clear, simple instructions.

If you’re not in a lesson, and you have questions, watch the people in front of you and then ask a lift attendant for help. This is especially important if you’re getting on a lift with small children or other inexperienced skiers and riders. If necessary, ask the lifty to slow the chair.

In addition to chairlifts, you’ll find gondolas and trams at some resorts.

Gondolas hold 6-12 people, while trams are much larger. Take your skis off before loading and stow them in a rack on the exterior of the gondola or carry them into the tram. You sit down in a gondola and stand up in a tram.


Surface Tow/Poma/T-Bar/Rope TowLess common than they used to be, tow lifts pull skiers and snowboarders up the mountain with their skis or board on the snow.


Magic Carpet – Basically a conveyor belt, magic carpets are used for beginner lessons and on beginner slopes. Skiers and snowboarders stand on the belt with their equipment on and ride to the top. Lifties or instructors help everyone get on or off.


Maze – Before you get on the lift, you have to get in line. Look for a series of lanes marked off by rope. These lanes merge until they form a single line for boarding the lift.

Skiers and riders group themselves according to how many people will get on the chair. If it's a four-person chair, get into a group of four, and so on. The basic rule for going through the maze is for each lane to alternate, one group at a time, when merging.


Lifty – A lift attendant is the person who controls the chairlift and can help you get on or off. Lifties are there to help you. Ask if you have any questions and remember to always thank them – it makes their day!


RunsA run is a designated route down the mountain. Runs usually have names and are marked with trail signs that show both the name and the difficulty of the run.

Beginners should look for runs marked with green circles.


Trail SignsTrail signs are guideposts at the top of each run and at intersections that tell you where you are going. Match them up with the names on the map and you’ll never get lost.

In the United States, trails are marked with green circles (easiest), blue squares (intermediate) and black diamonds (advanced). Some resorts also use double black diamonds or EX (for extreme) to signify their most difficult terrain and trails.


Ski PatrolSki Patrol is a group of men and women who help ensure skier and rider safety on the mountain, as well as respond to emergencies, offer first aid and basic medical care and mark hazards (like rocks and stumps) on the runs.


Ski Patrollers usually wear red jackets with white crosses on them. You’ll see them on the mountain, doing things like setting fence around obstacles, controlling crowds in busy areas, helping skiers who are lost or unsure, and responding to accidents.

Ski Patrol has the ability to take lift tickets away from skiers and riders who are skiing or riding carelessly or endangering others on the mountain.

Patrollers work very hard to keep everyone safe and happy. They deserve your respect.


Patrol Gates/Fence/Signs/PolesWhen skiing or riding, you may notice gates, fences, signs and poles in the snow. These are placed on ski runs by Ski Patrol to control traffic and signify hazards and closed terrain. Pay attention to them!


Warming Hut/On-Mountain LodgeThese are buildings on the mountain where you can warm up, get something to eat or drink and use the restroom. Lodges are more full-service than huts.


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