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Powder Play

A highly abridged encyclopedia of skiing and snowboarding

Vertical Drop

A slightly misleading term for the skiable distance between a mountain’s peak and its base; the drop itself, if actually vertical, would be called a cliff.
Anyone who’s subject to nosebleeds or vertigo will probably want to steer clear of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc. Some 90 percent of the slopes surrounding this French resort town—which, unsurprisingly, is crawling with mountain climbers during the summer—are located 6,500 feet above sea level. It boasts one of Europe’s highest cable cars, which rises to 12,000 feet, the starting point for a 13-mile descent on demanding, unmarked trails. Its Grands Montets slopes offer an altitude of 10,700 feet (or more, if you decide to climb up to the observation platform). From here, there’s a world-beating, quad-busting uninterrupted vertical drop of about 7,000 feet—part of that on a glacier. As one skiing enthusiast puts it, “Your legs are happy when you finally reach the lower gondola.”

Whiteout

A condition in which various permutations of airborne moisture make for poor visibility, the worst examples of which deter all but the most intrepid/stupid skiers.
When the squalls set in and it becomes impossible to see the tips of your skis, let alone the winding trail in front of you, your thoughts may, understandably, wander to the sandy shores of a tropical island paradise like the Bahamas or Turks and Caicos. While Idaho’s Silver Mountain Resort doesn’t have gently swaying palms or drinks served in coconut shells, it does have surfing. Among the attractions at Silver Rapids, the resort’s 44,000-square-foot indoor water park, is a “continuous surf wave” upon which you can wipe out to your heart’s content in carefully calibrated summertime temperatures. There’s also a more sedate wave pool, a lazy river, a warm spring, a whole bunch of slides and, of course, a poolside bar. With a little imagination and a rum-based cocktail or two, you could almost be in the Caribbean. (As for that scary, incessant howling you can hear outside—well, that’d be the humpback whales, singing to each other as they frolic in the turquoise waters just offshore.)

XC (or Cross Country)

A form of skiing whose gentle pace fools people into thinking it’s a gentle pursuit, a misconception that invariably leads to leg cramps, lung seizures and bickering of the “Slow down, will you!” variety.
So you want a change of pace and have decided to give cross-country skiing a shot. Wonderful. First, you’re going to need the right equipment— because while you are unlikely to suffer serious injury engaging in this low-velocity activity, shin splints are a constant threat. Fischer Cruiser cross-country skis ($190) are lightweight and durable, and bristle with special features: “wide-body technology” to keep you upright and a “single/double crown climbing system” to keep you moving. They also boast a “bulletproof” surface, presumably for those cross-country moments when skiers get really, really frustrated with their lack of progress.

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