cou·​loir | \ kül-ˈwär How to pronounce couloir (audio) \

Definition of couloir

: a steep mountainside gorge

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Synonyms for couloir


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Couloir entered English in the 19th century from French, where it literally meant "passage." The term was originally applied specifically to steep gorges in the Alps and later to similar gorges elsewhere, especially ones used by skiers as passages down mountains. Because of their narrowness and steepness, couloirs can provide even expert skiers with some of the most challenging terrain they are likely to encounter-and they can be dangerous. In fact, journalist Jim Kochevar, writing of his experiences at the Telluride ski area for the Chicago Tribune in October 1997, declared (tongue in cheek) that "Couloir is French for 'cold, narrow place to die.'"

Examples of couloir in a Sentence

at one point the steep, ice-encrusted walls of the couloir are no more than 50 feet apart
Recent Examples on the Web Sinking up to my armpits in a pocket of facets midway up a couloir only moments after digging a pit took spatial variability beyond the conceptual. Marc Peruzzi, Outside Online, 26 Feb. 2021 Matthew Brien, 33, of Jackson, Wyoming was leading a group through a narrow couloir known as the Broken Thumb on Monday when an avalanche broke off above him, park officials said. CBS News, 23 Feb. 2021 Brien had entered the narrow area of the couloir above the rappels when the avalanche occurred, the park service said. Joe Sutton, CNN, 23 Feb. 2021 The couloir is a technical route through a steep, narrow gully of ice and snow on the northwest face of Bear Mountain. Tess Williams, Anchorage Daily News, 5 Feb. 2021 In fact, Richards and Mena aren't the first people to notice this couloir on the Northeast Face. Cory Richards, National Geographic, 5 Apr. 2019 To reach the pair, the rescuers began climbing Kinshofer’s couloir—a steep gully filled with ice that leads to a 300-plus-foot rock wall. Marcin Jamkowski, Outside Online, 11 Apr. 2018 On Mount Shuksan, Adam caught an edge on both the northwest couloir and the line above Hanging Glacier, his body tomahawking through space. Christopher Solomon, Outside Online, 22 Mar. 2018 Aäe kept an intense training regimen, skiing steep couloirs in the North Cascades at five months with her pants unzipped, running a 30-mile week leading up tothe birth, and going into labor at the climbing gym. Caitlin Moran, The Seattle Times, 16 Aug. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'couloir.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of couloir

1822, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for couloir

French, literally, passage, from couler

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The first known use of couloir was in 1822

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Cite this Entry

“Couloir.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Oct. 2021.

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