Ski Tricks: The X-Games Breakdown

One major downfall to winter sports, skiing, in particular, is the language that’s used by the announcers. “Sick, he just did a nose butter double cork 1080 Japan.” Yeah, to the average person, that means absolutely nothing and sounds like he should go back to California to hang out with some surf dudes by the pier. Sorry for the stereotype.

Skiing lingo is extremely difficult to understand and grasp, and unfortunately, nobody breaks it down easily for viewers. Tom Wallisch did his best this past Winter X-Games, but he’s not someone with a broadcasting background. Watching and listening, there were times where he called a trick and then tried to give a breakdown of whatever he just said. The biggest problem, it’s hard for someone who isn’t a diehard fan to tune in and listen; they can’t get a grasp and become uninterested because the lingo is so difficult to understand. I suppose it’s the nature of the beast though.

The X-Games

The X Games got their start in the mid-’90s to promote the world of extreme sports and bring in international talent to the U.S. market. The first rendition of the Winter X Games was held January 30, 1997, in Big Bear Lake, California. The first rendition was broadcast to over 198 countries and translated to 21 different languages. 10 years later the fan attendance increased from 38,000 to 76,000 and was the highest-rated broadcast in since ’97.

Only growing since 2007, there is now an average attendance of over 115,000 fans accompanied by the millions who watch on Facebook Live, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and TV. This past year’s X Games were the biggest yet and the list of events has grown to over 18. The competition grows more and more every year and to say it’s a young man’s game would be an understatement. The majority of competitors are in their late teens to early twenties; typically those over age 25 are the “seasoned” veterans.

Here Tricky Tricky

With more competitors comes an increasing level of trickery. Tricks, I’m talking tricks. For those who may only know one winter sports athlete, it’s typically Shaun White. The man who coined the Double McTwist is one of the most decorated winter sports athletes in American history. This trick consists of two front flips and 1080 degrees of rotation…you can pick up your jaw now. The main focus of this post is about ski tricks though.

The Simple Breakdown

The term air is when a trick is performed over a pipe/rail or jump. A flip is when a skier rotates along the vertical axis, either a front-flip or backflip. Rotations are when a skier rotates either to the right or the left. A hybrid trick is a combination of flips and rotations.

A skier has two ways to ski down the hill, either forward, facing down the mountain, or fakie/switch, where their back is facing down the mountain and they turn their head one direction to see.

Grab, not Dab

A grab happens when a skier gets air by going off a jump or jumps in the air by their own power and grabs one, or both, of their skis. A safety or safety grab happens when the skier grabs the outside of either their left or right ski with the coinciding hand.

Mute isn’t when you put the TV on mute so you don’t have to listen anymore, it’s when the skier grabs a ski with either their left or right hand and grabs the opposite ski making an x.

Mute Grab

Japan grabs occur when a skier sticks one leg out straight and tucks the other leg behind that leg. They’ll grab the opposite ski with the opposite hand.

Japan Ski Grab

A tail grab is when a skier grabs the tail of their ski or skis. This one is much easier to envision without a picture.

Tail Grab

Blunt grabs are not a stoners best friend, it’s what happens when a skier grabs the outside of a ski with the coinciding hand without crossing their skis.

Blunt Grab

An illegal grab is when a skier does a tail grab on the outside of the ski. It’s not what happens when they do a sick trick and ski patrol shows up.

Illegal Grab

Spinning Class

Simple math would show that a 360 is one full rotation, 540 is one rotation with an extra 180 to land switch, 720 is two, 1080 is three, 1260 is three rotations with an extra 180 to land switch, 1440 is four, and 1880 is five rotations which has never been done.

Rotating Tricks

When a skier does a flair, it’s when they do a backflip with a 180.


A corkscrew isn’t something to open wine with, at least here, it’s where they go off axis and come close to being parallel to the ground.

When a skier does a front flip and a 180 or more it’s called a misty flip.

I’ve been skiing for just over a year now and I can truly say this is the most passionate I have felt about anything to this point in my life. There are a bunch more tricks that could have been included, but there reaches a certain point when enough is enough. I hope you enjoyed!

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