Get back to your roots – Don’t be afraid to gape |

Get back to your roots – Don’t be afraid to gape

ANDY FRAMEsummit daily news
Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk March often brings spring breakers to the High Country from around Colorado and the nation to enjoy warm-weather skiing. Spring breakers can be in a world of their own, trying to take it all in but sensory overload is nothing new in Summit County.

They may look different. They may act different. They may take your parking spot. But there’s nothing wrong with them. In fact, they’re just like you and me. They’re gapers, or to be more politically correct, spring break tourists. If you’re not familiar with the term, a gaper is someone who becomes overwhelmed by the sight of a tall mountain, to the point where they become paralyzed for a brief period. You’ve seen them. When they get off a lift, they don’t exit to the left or right. They halt and try to take in the surroundings.When gapers are driving, it can be much more dangerous. There are other ways to pick out a gaper. Many of these folks wear similar attire. Starter jackets emblazoned with the bright colors of a favorite college team is a dead giveaway. Often the colors are burnt orange, burgundy or gold and purple together. Other gapers might appear to be sponsored by Carhart. If you see someone with his or her jeans tucked into ski boots, you may have stumbled upon a gaper. Also, many gapers have a strong dislike for goggles.

Every year, the influx of spring breakers is inevitable. Despite the sunny days and good snow, many Summit County locals dread March. These interlopers from Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and any number of other states bring long lift lines and traffic jams. There are running jokes all over Summit County regarding these flatlanders. I’m here to defend these fine folks. It’s a shame that many of the locals have forgotten they were gapers once, too. I was, and my story is not rare. My first taste of the county occurred in Breckenridge during a week of spring skiing. Before the week was over, I was sure to get a Breckenridge cap.When I first moved here, I still wore that hat often and disagreed with anyone that had negative things to say about gapers. I thought: “What’s wrong with appreciating where you are? What’s wrong with these city folk stopping and breathing in a little fresh air?” And while some people might look a little funny, there’s no reason to spend all your money on ski equipment when you only use it one week a year. I still feel that way. I can’t think of a better brand of tourist than one that can’t stop admiring my backyard.

Every day, I find myself in awe of my surroundings. I always take the Dillon Dam Road instead of Interstate 70, just to get a little gape in. Considering that most Summit residents have moved to the county from elsewhere, I think we all live here in part because we are addicted to gaping. We gape, therefore we are.We just don’t gawk so blatantly. Some visitors aren’t apologizing for their actions.”I’m sorry, but if I get in your way, it’s your problem not mine,” Oklahoma visitor Grant Bowers said with a smile. “I love it here, and sometimes I have to stop and look around.”Downstairs at Eric’s owner Eric Mamula enjoys the March visitors.”We love the spring break crowd,” Mamula said. “They’re easy to spot because they usually have their colors on. They’re a fun group.”

And remember, a mountain vacation is not a relaxing one. Locals, try to remember the days of renting. One can wait for hours in March for equipment manufactured to accommodate the masses. “Most of the time spring breakers are pretty clueless,” Christy Sports manager Paul Panicucci said. “They usually don’t have everything they need, so they want to rent everything from goggles to socks to chap stick. Unfortunately, we don’t rent goggles, socks or chap stick.” Once you get through the rental process and up on the mountain, it’s not the same feeling Warren Miller movies implanted in your head. There’s always a fear of leaving something important behind or losing those valuable rental skis. And unless you have a good deal of experience, the time spent sliding down the hill can be downright exhausting. The moments when one can stop and take in the surroundings are what makes it all worth it.So welcome to Summit, spring breakers. If you feel the need to stop and look around for a minute, feel free. But please, your jeans go over your boots.Andy Frame can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at

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