I recently went home to Alaska for a weekend and decided that it was time I learn how to snowboard, so off I headed to the closest resort to try my luck freeriding the powder (snowboarding on freshly fallen snow just for fun). In a small ski town in Girdwood, Alaska, two hundred young adults were gathered in a confined day lodge at the Alyeska Ski Resort. The air had the foul odor of wet, moldy shoes and my arms and legs still ached from my first attempt to make a run (to go down the course). As I tried to weave my way through the disarrayed chairs, tables, and groups of mingling teenagers, I realized that I could not understand anything they were saying to each other. I quickly found my friend, Adam, and asked him why everyone was talking in a way that I did not understand. The words they used sounded like street-slang sometimes, and at other times, were of such technicality that I could not even guess the meanings. Not only did I want to find out what they were talking about, I also wanted to discover where this jargon came from, what purpose it serves, and if snowboarders are labeled negatively because of it.
Adam is nineteen-years-old and has been riding for four-years and fills every spare second of his life sleeping, breathing, and sweating snowboarding. He grew up in Alaska and we have known one another for many years, although we have never been really close friends because throughout high school, we belonged to two different groups. Adam participates in many different, local big-air snowboarding competitions, where he gets judged on how well he can do certain tricks off of jumps. If he does well, then he pulled (executed, did) a flick, sometimes he’ll even tweak the tricks a little to add more style to them. Adam says that living in Alaska gives him a great opportunity to participate in these events, but for now, snowboarding is just a hobby that fills the cold, short, winter days. He does not try to be a part of the snowboarding sub-culture, he has just naturally become one of its members.
Despite the growing number of teenagers that are adding to this past time, Adam and his friends still remain part of a minority in their schools because many people fail to see snowboarding as a true sport. This is one aspect that Adam doesn’t like about riding and because of this, they cannot have any real future in it. As Adam put it, “We can’t get a free ride to ride.” There are no scholarships to college, no high school pep rallies, and unless they become good enough to become sponsored by a professional snowboarding company, there are no job opportunities. The only explanation Adam can think of for this is that snowboarders are often labeled as drug-users just as their brother sub-culture, skateboarding, was previously seen in the same way because they often act in similarly.
Many of the words that snowboarders use are either named after tricks also seen in skateboarding, such as rail slide and nose bonk, or they are named after people who invent the tricks, such as the Lien Air, named after skateboarder Neil Blender, or the Palmer Air, named after snowboarder Shaun Palmer. Other words or phrases that snowboarders use for things besides just tricks usually incorporate popular slang terms being used by many different groups and the rider’s own creativity. Many snowboarders watch the same snowboarding videos, and subscribe to the same snowboarding magazines, therefore certain words such as hella, mad, ride, and bust are heard no matter where one goes. Sometimes, a certain phrase in an area will catch on solely because a group of riders will faithfully spread their word around. Adam claims that he was the first in his group to say, for schweez, meaning “for sure.”
I found that upon interviewing him, much of what I learned about the language that he used did not only come from the questions I asked him, but also came from just being around him and his friends and our day of hittin’ the slopes. After I asked him to explain the snowboarding language to me, he just laughed and convinced me to take the tram up to the top of mountain with him, even though I was far too inexperienced to be riding the top. “Don’t worry about it girly, just chill and scope our mad steez.” Trusting my better judgment, I decided I had better find out what he meant by that before agreeing. He quickly explained to me that if I was to go “scope his mad steez,” that would mean that I’d be watching his friends and him doing a lot technical tricks and jumps, like sticking a sick rodeo seven (720 Air Rotation) or if they do that same trick riding backwards, than they would be riding switch and busting a hakkon flip. If they decide to rotate frontward while they are in the air, then they would be doing the trick frontside, and if they really want to drop a hammer, they’ll do they trick inverted, so that they are upside down, or maybe goofy footed, so their riding the snowboard with their right foot forward. As I glanced over my notepad and saw the different words for tricks, I realized just how difficult it would be for my inexperienced eyes to tell the difference between all of them. From what I knew so far, just one trick alone could be called a “switch, frontside, goofy, inverted hakkon flip.” Adam informed me otherwise by telling me that even though they have all of those different words for different tricks, when they’re put together, they usually come up with one name that includes everything that is incorporated into the whole trick. So instead of saying “switch, frontside, goofy, inverted hakkon flip,” he could just name that entire trick a “Jennifer” if he wanted.
Adam claims that snowboarding lingo serves an extremely important purpose. To him, the jargon used in snowboarding isn’t just useless slang, but it is absolutely necessary in order to convey all of the different technical terms for tricks and their level of difficulty. Snowboarding jargon does both of these things in a short amount of time, one word such as rodeo flip, can mean that a trick is inverted and a 540 degree rotation, all at the same time. This is especially useful when the riding is wack and the weather is so skank that one would rather uncover their mouths from their ski masks only long enough to say two words instead of four.
Fortunately, the weather near the top of the mountain wasn’t skank at all when Adam made me watch him do his tricks. Instead, the weather was so clear and it was so warm, that I decided to try a session of my own. After a little practice carving in order to make sharp turns, Adam determined that unlike the majority of riders who ride regular footed or with their left foot forward, I rode goofy.This discovery made staying upright much easier, so I made my way to the freshies to try my skills on the steeps. I was stoked at first, but soon found myself being the ridicule of all of the boys because of my sketching along the hillside, going as slow as possible without being at a complete stop and, every once in a while, I was accused of rolling down the windows. This is when I frantically rotated my arms in the air in order to prevent myself from falling.
I was most surprised by how many names for falling and wrecking they used. At one point, a friend of Adam’s was railing down the freshly groomed snow, or corduroy, and when he fell, Adam shouted out, “He ate it hard!” Yet at the same time, some one else yelled, “He bit the rail!” One of the most interesting terms I heard was when one guy crashed and an unknown rider told us that it was an especially hard wreck, therefore, “He went to Dude’s House.” When I asked for a more in depth explanation of “going to Dude’s House,” the rider just told me that the person who wiped out was attempting a, “Hella wizard Nose Grab Air and instead of boning it out, he cratered into the side of the half-pipe.”
It really grabbed my attention that upon asking for a more in depth explanation, a.k.a. something I could understand, I instead received an explanation containing even more words that I did not understand. Just as it was talked about in Anthropology class, I realized that people in sub-cultures often do not even realize that they have their own vocabulary. If I were to have just asked him, “What words for crashing do you use?” he would not have been able to think of anything, but when I just observed him talking about it, he incorporated all of those phrases without even stopping to think about them.
As the sun started to set, I found myself underneath the gigantic light poles overhead, getting ready for some night boarding before we ate dinner. The chocolate-chippety terrain loomed in front of me, all of the rocks staring back up at me as if daring me to even try to make it down the slope unharmed. “This is definitely beat for you, Jennifer. Don’t trip though, we’ll just take our boards off and walk down if you want to.” As Adam, his friends, and I made our way down the rocky pass, I realized that on any other day, they would probably be stoked to get a chance to bust some tricks off the rocks, so I felt a little bad that I was keeping them from their fun. Adam was offended that I would even think that they did not have manners, “What’s up? Do you think that just because we’re snowboarders, we aren’t polite? Just because we don’t talk in proper grammar, doesn’t mean we aren’t proper guys.”
I was quick to agree, but after going over his statement for a while I wondered if others would think the same way. Does speech and word use influence the way society views a group of people? Of course. This can be seen in other sub-cultures such as people in the south talking slow or with a drawl, therefore there are sometimes viewed as lazy or dim-witted or African-American ethnic groups talking in ebonics, therefore they are sometimes thought of as less intelligent. Both of these ethnocentric views are from the truth, yet many people still hold these prejudices, and just as those sub-cultures, it is not any different from viewing snowboarders as druggies or delinquents just because they might use funny sounding words and phrases that other people have not heard before. So even though one might hear a boarder say, “In the sticks we bombed the backcountry booter and bombshelled the landing in the cherry cherry pow pow,” it doesn’t mean they went to the country and did drugs.
1. How long have you been snowboarding?
2. Have you realized that snowboarders often have their own lingo? If so, do you and your friends talk alike?
3. Why do you think this type of jargon came into being (just for fun/creativity, or purposeful)?
4. Has snowboarding been influence by other sub-cultures?
5. Do you have any future plans for snowboarding?
6. What do you like most or least about it?
7.Do you think other people judge you because of how you talk?
8.Do you ever confuse the different names of tricks with each other?
1. Freeriding the Powder- snowboarding on freshly fallen snow just for fun
4. Riding- snowboarding or rider (snowboarder)
6. Pulled- executed, did. Also, see bust
8. Tweak- to straighten legs to add style to a trick
9. Rail Slide- to slide the rails of the snowboard onto almost anything, other than a flat slope
10. Nose Bonk- to hit an object with the nose of the snowboard
11. Lien Air – The front hand grabs the heel edge and the body leans out over the nose. Named after skateboarder Neil Blender.
12. Palmer Air – A kind of method where the grab is near the nose, the board is pulled across the front of the body, and the nose is pointed downward. Named after Shaun Palmer.
17. Hittin’ the slopes- snowboarding down the course
19. Scope our mad steez- watching technical jumps and tricks
20. Stick- used to describe making a good landing
21. 720 Air Rotation (a.k.a. seven)- The snowboarder rotates 720 degrees in the air and lands riding forward.
25. Rodeo- an inverted frontside 540
27. Drop the Hammer- perform your best tricks
28. Inverted- doing a trick upside down
29. Goofy Footed- riding with right foot forward
30. Wack- something that is not good.
32. Session- a name for a period of time when one snowboards
33. Carving- turning using the edges of the board
34. Regular Footed- left foot forward
37. Stoked- psyched, to be excited
38. Sketching- riding slowly, almost falling
39. Rolling down the windows- being caught off balance and rotating arms in the air to not fall
40. Railing- used to describe making fast and hard turns
41. Corduroy- freshly groomed trail
44. He went to Dude’s House- phrase when someone crashed
46. Nose Grab Air- the front hand grabs the nose of the snowboard
47. Boning it Out- making a trick look nicer, harder to do
48. Crater- used to describe a crash
50. Chocolate-Chippety- rocky terrain
51. Beat- used to describe something that is not good
53.In the sticks we bombed the backcountry booter and bombshelled the landing in the cherry cherry pow pow- jumped a big jump and left a big crater in the landing in the powder