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March 18, 2022

How to Gear Up for Gaper Day

It’s been said that if you don’t know what a gaper is, you may be one. 

Gapers, also called Jerries and gorbs, among others, are skiers and snowboarders whose technique, etiquette, and/or basic sense come into question on the mountain. 

Guaranteed Accident Prone on Every Run, G.A.P.E.R.s can sometimes be spotted with visual clues like a wide gap (the “gaper gap” or “gorby gap”) between their goggles and helmet, or behavioral ones, like the signature bolt-upright ski poles and racing crouch posture of the “Texas Tuck.”

Gapers are an inextricable and essential part of the snow sport life, whether we like it or not, but that doesn’t mean a day of lighthearted ribbing does them any harm. 

Gaper Day began as Ski in Jeans Day, a way for locals and regulars to celebrate the season as the snows melted by poking fun at tourists and rookie skiers. 

The tradition is all about having fun in the snow, and as funny as skiing in jeans is, denim isn’t great for doing tricks or staying cozy. As participants gradually switched to wackier (or few-to-no-) clothes, the event morphed into Gaper Day.

Imagine a cross between the wacky aesthetics of ugly sweater party and the bright, vintage fashion of a retro dance night, and you’ve got an idea for what Gaper Day looks like on mountains in North America. 

While the traditions can vary by the mountain, the basics are the same: on or near April Fools’ Day, experienced skiers get goofy on the slopes in vintage ski apparel and retro themed outfits, and become hard to distinguish from bona fide gapers. 

Perhaps the best trick of all for a less frequent or inexperienced skier is hitting the slopes in a gorby getup on Gaper Day and blending in with the crowd. You aren’t skiing slowly, you’re playing a character. Ha ha everyone, that fall was ironic. 

It’s great to dress and act the part, but some gaper behaviors can be a hassle on the slopes, or even dangerous. A few gaper behaviors that it’s not worth doing out of commitment to your craft:

  • sitting around the park, or on the ramps or landing areas of jumps
  • failing to get off the ski lift 
  • disrupting the lift line/operator
  • ski pole misbehavior
  • posing on boxes
  • bombing straight down crowded green slopes
  • standing in the way of others talking about the predicament you’ve found yourself in

So how do you get in on the action? Here are some types of gaper you can consider for your costume: 

The Gorby Gap Gaper

Push the rookie look to the max by wearing your helmet as far back as (safely!) possible, and your goggles low. If you can find ill-fitting goggles, or a pair of sunglasses, you can push the gaper gap even wider. 

The Beach Bum

If you’re looking at a clear day or have an incredible tolerance for cold, throw on your swimsuit and some sunblock and hit the powder like it’s warm surf. Don’t forget to bring a towel!

The Classic Jerry

An old windbreaker is great here. Your ideal color palette is that turquoise and purple splash from the side of a Dixie Cup but there’s room for creativity here. The key to achieving the Classic Jerry is conduct. Take some wrong turns. Use techniques you don’t normally use, and attempt runs above your ability.* 

Complete this look by strapping on an unfamiliar board or skis. 

*avoid injuring or inconveniencing others; a Classic Jerry is the life of the party, not a buzzkill

The Vintage Denim

As much denim as you can wear. That’s the whole look. 

Being a Vintage Denim gaper means honoring the tradition of Ski in Jeans Day. You’re a part of history. Remembering this can help keep the regret at bay when you’re actually attempting to ski in jeans. 

The Raver

Bust out that bright pink tutu and the neon headband and socks for this offbeat Gaper Day vibe. The features that will distinguish a Raver from a Beach Bum are the layers of bright clothes–you’re not out in the sun, you’re clubbing on the mountain. If you have body paint, now’s the time. 

Invent Your Own 

Gaper Day is as flexible as it is sacred. You can pioneer the next Gaper Day trend, or set your own look as a hybrid of others. 

Did your parents or grandparents ski? If they have any clothes from back in the day, that’s a great place to start. Time is the best retro fashion creator. If not, you can hit up, where you can find unbeatable deals on good used gear.