Whether you’ve been watching the X Games since 1997 or are a newcomer to the gravity-defying world of freeskiing, the chances are likely that you’ve heard the announcers rattle off some mumbo-jumbo about a halfpipe or slopestyle stunt that might as well be in Swahili. With more than 30 tricks and a variety of styles, spins and axis positions to keep track of, it can be hard for the uninitiated to decipher what they’re seeing and hearing on their TV or computer.
To help you follow all the action and impress your ski buddies with some advanced trick knowledge, we comprised a quick and dirty X Games freeskiing dictionary.
- Center: Is located at the level of the navel, where the three axes intersect.
- Vertical axis: Runs from the head to the feet, through the center balance point.
- Horizontal axis: Runs from front to back, through the center balance point.
- Lateral Axis: Runs from front to back through the center balance point.
- Airs: A trick over the lip (top) of the pipe or jump.
- Flips: When a skier rotates along the vertical axis.
- Rotations: When a skier rotates along the horizontal axis.
- Hybrids: A trick combining vertical and horizontal axis.
- Normal/Forward: The skier is moving forward (down the pipe or jump) in a basic stance.
- Fakie/Switch: The skier is taking off or landing backwards. These tricks are considered more difficult.
- AlleyOop: The skiers spins uphill in the opposite direction of the fall line.
Watch Breckenridge skier Keri Herman walk through how to do a 360º Blunt Grab.
- Safety: The skier hand grabs the outside of ski/binding. The left hand grabs the left ski/binding and right hand grabs the right ski/binding
- Mute: The skier hand grabs the top of ski/binding and tweaks (pulls the ski close to the body) as much as possible on the front leg. The left hand grabs the right ski/binding and the right hand grabs the left ski/binding.
- Japan: The skier stretches out one of their legs and tucks the other leg behind the front leg. They grab the tucked leg under base of ski. Left hand grabs right ski and right hand grabs left ski.
- Tail grab: The skier’s hand grabs the tail of ski/skis.
- Blunt grab: The skier grabs the outside edge of the right ski with the right hand, but with the skis uncrossed.
- Shifty: The skier airs with or without grab, quickly swiveling or “shifting” their hips 90° and bending their knees before returning back to their initial body position.
- Illegal: The skier does a tail grab on the outside of the ski.
- Lui Kang: The skier kicks one ski out as far as possible and bends the other leg up to the knee and grabs the ski under the boot. Left hand grabs left ski and right hand grabs right ski.
- Critical: The skier grabs the inside edge of the ski with the opposite-facing hand.
- Zero Spin: The skier does a switch take off with no spin or rotation.
The Lingo of Spins
Watch Park City skier Tom Wallisch breakdown a Switch Cork 540º.
- 360º or “3”: The skier makes one full 360º rotation.
- 540º or “5”: The skier spins 360º with an extra 180º in the switch landing.
- 720º or “7”: The skier makes two full 360º rotations.
- 1080º or “10”: The skier makes three full 360º rotations.
- 1260º or “12: The skier makes three full 360º rotations with an extra 180º in the switch landing.
- 1440º or “14”: The skier makes four full 360º rotations.
- 1880º or “18”: The skier makes five full 360º rotations.
- Future Spin: A skier would have to spin 2016 degrees or more (six full revolutions). At the time of this post, there has been no recorded landings.
Watch Telluride skier Gus Kenworthy pull off a switch Triple Rodeo 1440.
- Caballerial or “Cab”: The skier begins fakie or switch, spins 360º degrees around the vertical axis and lands riding forward.
- Back flip: The skier does a backward rotation over the vertical axis.
- Front flip: The skier does a forward rotation over the vertical axis.
- Flair: The skier does a back flip with a 180º horizontal rotation.
- Rodeo Flip: The skier back flips with 540º or higher inverted horizontal rotation. Basically, it’s an off-axis flip thrown backwards with a spin (most commonly 540º or “Rodeo 5”).
- Corkscrew or “Cork”: The skier does one distinct off-axis or inverted horizontal rotation. At no point should the skier’s feet be above their head.
- Double Cork or “Dub Cork”: The skier does two distinct off-axis rotations.
- Triple Cork: The skier does three distinct off-axis rotations.
- Lincoln Loop: The skier does a single inversion, with no spin. Basically, a cartwheel, where the rider flips to the side in a barrel roll.
- Misty Flip: The skier does a front flip with a horizontal rotation 180° or more. An off-axis flip thrown forwards with a spin (most commonly 540° or “Misty 5”).
- Flatspin: The skier is completely horizontal, but axis of rotation is vertical.
- Underflip: The skier does a 90° spin off the lip, followed by a Lincoln Loop up the hill to another 90° spin.
- Screamin Semen: The skier starts off with a Daffy, kicking one leg forward and one back making sure not to bend their knees, and then crosses legs onto the opposite sides. To uncross legs for landing, the skier kicks another Daffy.
Watch Killington’s Rails 2 Riches competition to see a variety of rail tricks.
- Spin on: The skier spins around before landing on the rail, generally done in increments of 180° starting at 270° (e.g. 270°, 450°, 630°).
- Spin out: The skier spins at the end of a rail, generally done increments of 180° starting at 270 (e.g. 270°, 450°, 630°).
- Switch-up: While the skier is sliding a rail, the jump and turn 180° to end up sliding the rail in the opposite direction. Also called ‘swap’.
- Disaster: The skier gaps (jumps) over a kink on a kinked rail.
Whether you’re hoping to see the X Games in person or book a terrain park ski trip, our 65+ Mountain Travel Experts can help you get there. They provide free advice and booking services for all your trip components, including flights, transportation, lodging, lift tickets, rentals and park or pipe lessons—if that’s your thing. They’re standing by at 800-610-8911. You can also get started by filling out a form for your free custom quote.
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Originally from the icy trails of New Jersey, I moved West to pursue powder and a career in writing and editing. Now living in Aspen, Colo. and working for Ski.com as Director of SEO + Content, I've been able to combine a litany of skills, passions and interests. You'll find me skiing at Aspen Mountain or Aspen Highlands in the winter and mountain biking at Snowmass in the summer.