Summit County April Fools’ tradition stereotypes ski culture, tourists
What is a gaper?
A goofy tourist, suggested Jake Hensley, a 22-year-old from Denver as he geared up in the Arapahoe Basin Ski Area parking lot for the annual April Fools’ Day tradition known as Gaper Day. He added an acronym: Guaranteed Accident Prone Every Run.
All skiers and riders start out as gapers, said his friend Jared Berman, 24. The Summit Cove resident wore jeans, a cowboy hat and colorfully patterned shirts.
It’s like puberty on the mountain, he said.
Down on the Beach, the strip between the ski area’s lower parking lot and its Pallavicini chairlift, where hundreds gathered on Wednesday, April 1, another group pondered the term.
“Anybody from Texas,” said Becca DeGrate, 26, of Breckenridge, wearing a poncho and a neon hat.
Dressed in an American flag outfit, Andrea Belbusti reminded her friends that the word originated from the gap between an inexperienced skier’s helmet and goggles.
“Every day’s Gaper Day for me,” said Belbusti, 26, of Denver.
She considered Wednesday her 15th Gaper Day of the season because she always snowboards in funny clothes.
Another Front Ranger, 26-year-old Bianca Germain, said “gaper” has evolved to mean anything silly and crazy and the word now encompasses the wide variety of dress at the Basin.
The Gaper Day crowd looked larger than it was last year, said Patrick O’Sullivan, A-Basin risk manager, as he worked to keep people from bringing alcohol from the Beach toward the ski area’s buildings and main lift.
Grills, dogs, boom boxes, corn hole games, lounge chairs abounded on the Beach as people roamed around wearing neon jumpsuits, bright shiny spandex, denim, fanny packs, mullets and wigs.
Some partiers said the ski area seemed stricter about Gaper Day than in years past, with A-Basin employees searching them for alcohol before they could ride the chairlifts. With the entire Beach available for drinking and joking around over “hold my beer and watch this” moments, most didn’t seem to mind.
Other Gaper Day–goers were upset that they weren’t allowed to ski or ride if they worked for Vail Resorts.
Local ski areas and government and law enforcement officials stayed quiet about the event this year, but the resorts have cited past incidents involving intoxication, safety problems and harassment as the reason behind their efforts to quash the festivities.
Though Gaper Day regulars said the occasion has grown quieter over the years, the day is still a party.
Breckenridge resident Brett Lomoro, 33, said he remembered only one obnoxious person at last year’s Gaper Day at A-Basin. This year he came with about 40 friends, and they were trying to rein in the shenanigans and bring it back to its 1980s roots, he said.
“Party like it’s 1984,” he said. “That’s what it’s supposed to be.”
Lomoro wore a neon blue, pink and green outfit and, strapped on his helmet, a camcorder larger than his head. The idea was to poke fun at people unknowingly dressed like he was, he said.
“We’re not mean to them,” he said. “They think it’s hysterical.”
His friend J.J. Friedman chimed in.
“We’re not making fun of our clients. We’re making fun of ourselves,” said the 29-year-old Breckenridge resident. “This is a large part of ski culture.”
A Front Range couple skiing in Summit County with their two young boys for spring break spent the day at A-Basin and explained to one of their sons that what he smelled was a skunk.
“We brought our kids, and they’re really into it,” said Melinda Roszman, 43, of Denver, of her 8-year-old son, Luke, and 7-year-old son, Finn.
She and her husband didn’t realize the occasion poked fun at tourists at first, but they thought it was funny and enjoyed the atmosphere and throwback styles.
“We grew up skiing in jeans,” said Roszman, a Colorado native. “That’s what everyone did.”
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