What is a Bowl in Skiing?

A bowl in skiing is a large section of a mountain that has been carved into the shape of a bowl by natural forces. Bowls typically occur in higher-elevation areas with fewer trees, but they can happen just about anywhere. 

I’m Christine, and skiing is probably my biggest passion. I get out in the snow as often as possible during the winter, and I love to ski all types of terrain. I’ve skied many bowls over the years and know through first-hand experience what they are. 

This post will explain what a bowl in skiing is. I’ll describe this feature of a mountain and tell you what type of skiing you can expect if you have access to one. I’ll also provide you with some other important information along the way. 

Let’s get into it. 

Key Takeaways

  • A bowl in skiing is a naturally occurring feature on the mountain that very much resembles a bowl in your kitchen. It has a dug-out and rounded portion that you can ski down. 
  • Bowl skiing often involves lots of fresh snow and steep slopes, which is precisely why skiers love them. Bowl skiing can be very technical, and you need to have advanced skills to handle them. 
  • Bowls can technically occur on any part of the mountain, but they are most common at higher elevations and on the top of peaks because natural forces can carve the mountain out more rapidly under these conditions. 

What is a Bowl in Skiing? 

If you have spent significant time skiing, you have probably seen or heard the word bowl used to describe a run or area of the mountain. This isn’t something just found in the cafeteria when you need to go warm up. 

A bowl in skiing is basically a large, rounded-out section of the mountain that you can ski down. Bowls are formed by natural features such as erosion caused by high elevations and rapidly changing temperatures. 

Geological forces shape mountains, and that’s what makes them reach skyward. But on the way up, they are also shaped by wind, water, temperature, and other forces that cause massive amounts of erosion over the years. 

Over long periods of time, these forces can dig out the mountain, so it turns into a concave shape, in other words, a bowl. The bowl then fills up with snow during the winter, and you can ski down it if you can access it. 

Bowls are some of my favorite terrain to ski because they are usually up at the top of a mountain or peak and filled with lots of fresh snow. Highlands Bowl in Aspen is one of my favorite places to ski on Earth!

Most of the time, bowls feature more technical terrain that is only suited for experienced skiers. You can expect steep terrain, dropoffs, cornices, and lots of deep snow. But if you can handle those conditions, you are in for treat!

Some resorts have bowls that are easily accessible and even have conditions that beginners or intermediate skiers can handle. Other bowls you can only access by hiking to or riding a snowcat. Either way, bowls are a lot of fun to ski. 

What is a Back Bowl in Skiing?

Ski resorts often list back bowls on their maps. These areas of the resort are set back from the front side, which most people access when they first start their ski days. The term back bowls just refer to the bowls being in the back of the resort. 

I’ve skied many back bowls all over North America and really enjoy this type of skiing. Like I said earlier, you can expect a lot of challenging terrain with excellent snow conditions and fewer crowds when you venture to harder-to-reach runs on the mountain. 

If the bowl is really far in the back of the resort and requires hiking, or even if you visit one in the backcountry, you always want to be sure that you are prepared for variable conditions and the potential for avalanches. Safety should always be a priority. 


Here are a few quick answers to some of the most commonly asked questions relating to what a bowl is in skiing. 

What makes a ski run a bowl? 

A run with a naturally occurring bowl-like shape will most likely be called a bowl. Natural forces of erosion and geology cause this shape to form over many thousands, or even millions, of years. 

Is skiing a bowl hard? 

Skiing bowls can be challenging and typically should only be done by experienced skiers. There are sometimes bowls that cater to intermediate and beginners, but these are rare. Most bowls are hard to ski. 

Final Thoughts

If you have the skills to handle it, bowl skiing is amazing, and I highly recommend it. I’ve had some of my favorite in-bounds skiing days of my life on powder-filled bowls. It’s a fantastic experience that every skier should enjoy at some point. 

Be sure you have the skills to ski in a bowl before you start bombing down it. You always want to ski within your ability level!

Have you ever been bowl skiing before? Where is your favorite bowl? Let me know in the comments below. 

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