EXPLAINER: ‘Grip’, ‘chatter’, other Olympic ski racing lingo
A day earlier and 800 meters away, on “The Rock” course at the Yanqing Alpine Ski Center, Italian Elena Curtoni offered an evaluation after the first women’s downhill training session entirely in her native language. , with the exception of this English word: “Seize.”
When asked if there was an equivalent for that term in Italian, she shook her head. “Actually,” Curtoni explained, “we use ‘grip’.”
“There’s a lot of terminology about how skiing feels when you’re on a course. If a course “pulls”, it gets you to the door ahead of schedule. If the snow is “reactive”, it means that it is easier to turn. There are subtleties that you learn along the way,” said Ryan Cochran-Siegle, whose silver in Tuesday’s men’s super-G is the only alpine medal for the United States so far in China. “That’s where you learn them: when you’re with your friends and learning to ski. Sometimes you create your own jargon. But there is a common understanding.
WHAT ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT?
Let a few American ski racers explain what some of these things mean:
Grippy: “Dry, hard snow. We call it “grippy” because it really grabs your edges. So it’s really easy to light. Sometimes it’s easy to get knocked over. But he can also be ruthless with mistakes. You can easily catch the edges. Grippy snow is your classic Colorado snow. It doesn’t have to be man-made, but often it is man-made. (Breeze Johnson)
On the edge: “Almost all of your weight rests on a single edge of your (ski). …(Or) if you make a mistake, the game will be over. (Bryce Bennett)
Chatter: “When your ski vibrates a little. …like soundtracks on the highway. (Cochran-Siegle)
Bouncing: “When your ski hits a bump, then it knocks you off the line. It’s not like a clean turn. You’ll hit a bump, then you’ll be offline and in a different place than you’d like to be. (Bennett)
Sugary: “It’s soft snow but that’s nothing new. Just very soft. Sometimes at the bottom of the ski slope, if it’s a bit warm, but dry, then at the bottom where people are walking around with their boots on, it’s sweet snow. … There is no buying on sweet snow. You try to turn it on and you sink and it’s not much fun. … We hate sweets. (Johnson)
Rattling: “When there are small micro bumps in the turns and it’s not smooth. It’s bumpy underfoot. (Bennett)
WHY ARE THESE WORDS IMPORTANT?
They allow skiers to understand elements that can change their way of approaching a race.
Often these terms are used in course reports that coaches or competitors pass on to those who have not yet gone down the hill.
“They represent real things. It’s not just about slang and the “Oh, I was shredding!” They’re really key to understanding the circumstances that you’re trying to convey to others,” said Bode Miller, whose six Alpine Olympic medals are an American record. “It is … specific and precise terminology, because there is a big difference between ‘chalky’ and ‘clingy’.”
Johnson, a finalist in three World Cup runs this season and seen as a strong medal contender in Beijing until surgery kept her at home, broke down the lingo into two basic categories: snow conditions and surface conditions.
“You have ice, grip, sweetness, sweetness, sugar and mud. Those are the top six snow conditions,” she said. “And then you have the surface conditions. Chattery, bumpy, smooth, I guess, are probably basically your three there.
DOES IT STILL MAKE SENSE?
Not necessarily. Markus Waldner, the men’s World Cup race director, is annoyed every time he hears skiers say the snow is “aggressive” – which means, as with “grip”, that there can be have a close connection between the skis themselves and the surface below.
Except Waldner points out that such variations have more to do with the gear a runner uses than the snow itself.
“The snow is never aggressive. Snow crystals can be different; there are 1,000 (types of) different crystals. But the snow is never aggressive,” Waldner said. “I tried to explain to them: ‘My friends, the snow is not aggressive. The snow can be hard, soft, wet. Large crystals. More crystals. etc But not aggressive.’
A racer’s technician can modify the skis to allow for better contact.
An example: If the snow is “more grippy,” Miller explained, “your technician might dull your skis a bit—get a gummy stone on the tip and tail of your skis to make them less aggressive—because the snow going to be more responsive than it was on the previous days at the same lap.
WHO UNDERSTANDS THIS JARGON?
In a word: Everyone. It doesn’t matter which country – and there are 83 represented in alpine competition at the 2022 Olympics.
“Oh yes. Their English is much better than my German, my French or my Italian. Some Norwegians probably have better English than us,” Cochran-Siegle said with a smile. feeling a little less educated with a lack of understanding of other languages.
AP Sports Writers Andrew Dampf and Pat Graham contributed to this report.
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