Every region has its own expressions, its words, a particular accent… The same is true of the Savoie region of France, and even more precisely, the Tarentaise. You’ll hear a gentle mix of local patois mixed with ski jargon which has become integrated into our language over the years, through the various activities on offer in the mountains. To understand the conversations you overhear on the Aiguille de Fruit chairlift, in the bar in Le Praz or on the slopes with your instructor, let us fill you in on the essentials of the dialect “bien de chez nous”, as we say here (meaning, “from around here”)!
If you hear these French words, here are the meanings:
Amont / Aval
Amont = up the mountain, Aval = down the mountain So if you hear “attention au skieur aval”, watch out for the skier below you!
local dialect for “au revoir” or, in English, ‘farewell’, you might hear this word from one of the lift operators when you head into the next valley.
The name for an avalanche trigger system which carries explosives on a cable system above the area to be blasted (and therefore prevent an accidental avalanche). You might see these around the summits, for example, Chanrossa.
Chamois qui fume la pipe
‘A chamois smoking a pipe’ is a local way of talking about the effect of a wind on the summits which makes the snow fly around. It’s often seen above the Grand Bec, the very high peak on the far left as you look up the mountain.
this borrows the English word ‘carving’ which means pushing your ski edges firmly into the snow, putting pressure on the ‘aval’ (downhill ) ski. If you can achieve this and make lovely carving turns in the freshly-groomed snow, you’ll be the envy of all your mates!
a small bird with a yellow bill which will come and peck at the crumbs of your savoyard lunch; they are often seen flitting around the picnic benches at the top of Signal or Biollay.
Dré dans l'pentu
local expression for "droit dans la pente”, meaning "straight down the slope”.
transceiver or beacon transmitter equipment which you wear around the body. It is for detecting avalanche victims and is obligatory for off-piste ski trips, no question!
A wind from the south. From a skiing perspective, on a Foehn wind day, you are better off staying in the Courchevel valley, and not heading over to Val Thorens, which is significantly affected by this type of wind.
the big, curved metal tubes which stick out from the ground. This is part of a system of triggering avalanches via an explosion set off within the tube. The shock wave destabilises the snowpack. The trigger is coordinated from our offices in Courchevel 1850, by pressing a simple red button.
linking tight turns. A fashionable way to ski in the 1970s, it is perhaps a little outdated now but still looks impressive when done well!
A meteorological phenomenon where the mountains turn white and there’s no difference between the snow and the sky. On a ‘jour blanc’ it’s better to stay lower in the ski area and take the tree-lined slopes in the direction of Le Praz and La Tania.
In English, a ‘kicker’ is a mound of snow found in the snow parks, from which daredevils will try to take off! The more cautious will be content to watch the local "riders" show off their skills on the kickers, doing tricks of all kinds: spins, flips or links.
Abbreviation for ‘télésiège débrayable’ or detachable chairlift.
‘Tél écabine’, known as ‘gondola’ or ‘bubble’ lifts in English.
‘Téléphérique’ or cable car.
what freestyle skiers and snowboarders do to impress their mates! The French use the English word for this.
or ‘skins’ in English. These are long strips which are furry on one side and sticky on the other. They stick to the bottom of your ‘touring’ skis to enable you to stick to the snow and walk up without slipping backwards. Magic! The shorter and thinner they are, the more expertise their owner has…
Powder! Or ‘powpow’ = fresh snow, which is the holy grail of skiing, whether on or off piste.
the abbreviation for a preventative avalanche triggering plan, often deployed by the ski patrol between 6am to midday after snowfall, who set off explosions manually or via Catex or Gazex systems to secure the slopes for skiers. BOOM!
Purée de pois
‘A pea-souper’ – nothing to do with industrial fog in 19th Century London, but an intense natural fog which means it’s best to stay lower in the ski area, where the trees help to improve visibility.
no, it’s not a train track, although it is often made of metal! This long steel bar is mostly seen in snow parks. You can try and slide along it on skis or a snowboard, just like a skateboarder would in the skate park.
An electronic device which helps locate a buried avalanche victim. It requires specific equipment. Definitely not a replacement for the ‘DVA’ or transceiver!
‘Risk 4’ – quite simply: do not go off piste!
another anglicism, ‘fat skis’ are for skiing powder, and are used for downhill skiing only as they are too heavy for ski touring.
just like a lot of the freestyle lingo, the English word is the same, and it means ‘skiing backwards’. Also works for snowboarding but it’s less easy to tell that you’re going backwards, so people won’t necessarily realise what an expert you are!
a touring ski for snowboarders! The board splits in two which means the boarder can attach skins and walk up the slope.