With almost everyone’s season lying behind them glowing with nostalgia I figured I would take on the subject of one of skiing's time honored traditions, the gaper. We’ve all seen them, most of us have mocked them, some of us have hit them and nearly everyone one of us was at one time one. Too often in the NS community we discount all gapers as useless, forgetting to look back at what we ourselves came from. First of all though here is our edit from gaper day this year to put you in the mood:
Unless your skier parents got you started at a very young age you probably spent at least a season as a gaper. I myself didn't start skiing until I was a freshman in high school. For two terrible years I spent weeks building anticipation and preparing for my two or three ski days a year. I “skied” on a pair of snow blades I pulled out of a bin at Goodwill. I wore a spray painted bike helmet and a pair of goggles I grabbed at a yardsale. I was pretty much the epitome of a gaper.
That's me on the left, man I look gooood!
I don't look much better now
It is tempting to look back at this period of my life with regret and embarrassment. There is, after all a lot to regret. A lot of skiers would have considered me an annoying blight on ski society, and in a sense they would have been right. Gapers are annoying, often obnoxious and they do get in the way. Many gapers also have some of the best attitudes about skiing I have ever seen
We mock gapers for getting super excited and obnoxious about the simplest things when in fact that excitement is one of my favorite things about skiing. I used to get so excited before skiing that I couldn't really sleep or eat the night before. I would get out all of my gear days ahead of time and lay it out. As a gaper I would put on all of my gear and practice grabs in the living room. Even though I knew next to nothing about skiing and I looked like a refugee from a goodwill store I was obsessed with the sport.
James out of control for once
I'm still excited about skiing.
Eventually I grew up a little and progressed out of “gaperville” and became a more legit skier. Rockered skis, real goggles, and season passes all transformed me. I didn't loose touch with my inner gaper all the way though. I still rock carhartts and a fanny pack on occasion but a lot of that gaper spirit is gone.
As I introduced my family and friends to the sport I got to experience that gaper stoke all over again. I got to go skiing with all of my family. Eight idahoans in jeans bombing blue runs in dollar store sunglasses while screaming loudly at each other is a sight to behold. We invaded a small resort in California and ticked off a lot of cool snowboarders and park rats. We fell getting onto lifts, we yardsaled on the cat tracks and as my dad likes to say we “Jibbed the hip.” We also “Tapped the tube,” “Slid the stunt ditch,” and “grinded the playbox.” We were the opposite of legit skiers and it was one of my favorite days of all time.
James E knows how to have fun.
Now we spend a few days every year gaping. They have been some of the most fun days we have ever spent on snow. No pressure, no expectations, no judgement, just that pure unadulterated fun of skiing. As annoying as gapers can be they have something very valuable to teach all of us. The basic excitement to be in the mountains, the total, immature, giggly, foolish joy that gapers get from skiing is too easily forgotten. As we get older and more callous we can lose that happiness in the search for deeper pow, shorter lines, and cheaper lodge food. We cannot forget that joy that came with those first few turns on snow. That simple gaper stoke is the soul of skiing.