Glossary for the French winter sports

Good preparation for your winter holiday in the French Alps is important. Do you know all the common words you need to know when going skiing or snowboarding? Did you also know that there are numerous words and expressions that can lead to confusion?  Do you know what a chasse-neige is? A tire-fesse? Une combinaison?

Les après-ski

The word "après-ski" has 2 meanings. We all know the first meaning: the celebrating and partying at the bottom of the slope. However for the French this word also has another meaning. In France people mean moonboots, in other words snow boots, when they talk about après-ski. This is because you put on your boots après (after) you have skied.  

La Station

Many will know that this is does not mean train station, seen as train station is "la gare" in French. The word petrol station, however, does include the word station. But we refer to petrol station as la station d’essence. So what does “La Station” mean in French? If a Frenchman sitting next to you during lunch asks: "Que pensez-vous  de la station?" he is asking you what you think of the ski village or the ski resort.

Le chasse-neige

Literally translated, this is a snowplow. But this word also means the plow bend of novice skiers, known to us as the "pizzapoint". The French also use the expression "le  chapeau  pointu", the pointed hat, when talking about this turn.

Le masque en le casque

You will come across both words whilst enjoying your ski or snowboarding holiday in France. Un  masque is the French word for ski goggles and le casque means the ski helmet.

Common words you may come across during your winter holiday in France

La station: ski resort, ski resort
Le  domaine skiable: ski resort
Le forfait de ski: ski pass
L'École de ski: ski school
Club Piou Piou: ski school for young children
Le moniteur de ski: ski instructor
La dameuse: the snowcat
Le chasse-neige: pizza point
Le débutant: beginner
La piste de luge: piste on which you can sledge

Hors-piste: off-piste
Les bosses: buckels
La poudreuse: powder snow (la  peuf)
La soupe: soft snow
Le risque d'avalanche: avalanche danger
Les remontées mécaniques: ski lifts
Le tire-fesses or le téléski: drag lift
Le télésiège: chairlift
La télécabine: egg lift
Le téléphérique: large cabin lift

Le casque de ski: ski helmet
Le  masque de ski: ski goggles
Les lunettes de soleil: sunglasses
Le bonnet: the hat
La crème solaire: sunscreen
Les après-ski: moonboots
Les gants: gloves
La combinaison de ski: the ski suit
Le vin chaud: mulled wine

Le tire-fesses

That's what the French call the "buttock puller", among themselves, this is a popular name for the drag lift in which you can be brought upwards. Officially, the name is of course "le  téléski".

Les remontées mécaniques or ascenseurs?

These are two words used in French for "elevator". The ascenseurs, the ordinary elevators, which are only in buildings. The remontées mécaniques is a collective name for the ski lifts. These can be distinguished in:

  • le télésiège (chairlift)
  • la télécabine (egg lift)
  • le téléphérique (large cable car)

Les Bosses

When a Frenchman says "J'aime les bosses" whilst performing wintersports, he is talking about a mogul slope, or a descent with many bosses (bumps, buckles). And if he speaks enthusiastically about the 'belles chutes', he is not referring to 'beautiful falls' but he is talking about the snow fall: chutes de neige. Which means he can start enjoying 'la  peuf', fresh powder snow.


You definitely need to have an Arva with you if you go skiing off pistes. An Arva is an avalanche clicker, something that could save your life if you were to get trapped in an avalanche.


Monter en canard

This has absolutely nothing to do with a duck. It describes climbing up a mountain whilst holding the backs of your skis together.

Monter en escalier

This is when you climb up a mountain by putting your skis parallel to the slope, it is as if you make your own stairs.

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