Closing the Gaper Gap
Laper: a cross between a ski town local and a gaper. Here, I sport a classic Gaper Gap between my goggles and helmet.
Confession: I am a Laper.
A local gaper, that is. It might sound like an oxymoron, and until recently, I thought it was. Besides costumes on Dirtbag Day, there usually isn't much crossover between a year-round, geared-out ski town local who knows the ins-and-outs of snowsports and a gaper who goes around tripping over his skis and sporting a gaping gap between his helmet and goggles.
But while skiing with my local friend Eric, he pointed out that despite the fact that I live in Big Sky, I don't quite exude the "local" vibe. In fact, he said, I was leaning more towards "gaper."
I did not take this as a compliment.
"But I've skied since I was three!" I argued. "I started skiing out West as a teen! I spent a whole semester of high school backcountry skiing through the Sawatch Range! I skied every weekend in college and have skied most of the West's major resorts! I moved to a ski town and I live in the home of the Biggest Skiing in America!"
"Yeah," Eric said, "but look at your skis..."
He was right. My once new Solomon Siam n°8's wreaked of 2005, which in ski years put them at about 150 years old. My boots, too, were a relic of 2002, barely better than rear entry (my feet haven't grown since 10th grade... If a shoe fits, you wear it, right?). While I at least rock a Patagonia coat, my frumpy snow pants were a $20 T.J. Maxx find, and underneath were a pair of tiger-striped spandex.
But I've never touted myself as a gear head, and there's more to being a gaper than having outdated or ridiculous gear. It's not even about being a novice - everyone has to start somewhere, and newbie skiers with the right attitude qualify as beginners, not gapers. It's more about being clueless - hitting the slopes while remaining oblivious to all ski etiquette, culture, and other skiers.
And gapers are a big part of the ski culture too. Big Sky ski culture even boasts less of a - dare I call it a "gaper gap?" - between locals and out-of-towners than many resorts. On a lift ride with a jeans-and-open-neon-jacket-skier and a local arc'teryx-and-fatty-pow-skis-skier, the local doled out insider tips on his favorite runs. In the plaza, a steezed out rider showed a struggling skier the easiest way to carry her gear. In Chet's bar and Grille, a local traded his recommendation on the best Montana microbrew for tips on where to eat and stay on an off-season trip to Austin.
So I decided to embrace my hybrid status and fancy myself a true Laper - a crossover and bridge between two important aspects of ski culture. Sure I live in Big Sky and am a ski veteran, but I'm no Scot Schmidt, and I obviously have no problem with outdated gear. So while I recently sprang for the Rossi S90 W's and a pair of new boots (to all my gaper counterparts I will say this: the better the gear, the easier the turns), I'm sticking with my frumpy snow pants and neon flare. And my orange Bogner onesie circa 1985? It won't just be my Pond Skim costume anymore.
Most ski town locals are transplants, and we all have a little gaper in our past. So I invite you to join me. Locals, break out your old snowsuit and hit the slopes with someone less experienced in the ways of powder and PBR. Gapers, own your style while honing your skills on the mountain and spending après meeting locals at a dive bar. Join the Lapers, bridging the Gaper Gap one snowsuit at a time.
The sweetest outfit on the mountain in 1986, wearing this today would gain Big Sky skier Dave Granger full Gaper status.
How not to carry your skis.