Aspen Times Weekly cover story: What type of skier are you? |

Aspen Times Weekly cover story: What type of skier are you?

Amanda Charles
Aspen Times Weekly
Aspen, CO Colorado
Photo by ThinkstockCover design by Afton Groepper

Have you ever asked yourself the question, “What kind of skier am I?” Unlike some other mundane questions, asking yourself what kind of skier you are is often an honest question that rarely precedes honest answers. While we all like to consider ourselves a central piece in a synchronized ski team beautifully making its way down the glistening mountainside, the truth is we all have separate talents and interests that pull us apart (some better than others), and the key is not to rely on the helmet-cam footage from our GoPros, nor our friends’ boastful accounts of how sick our less-than-average turns were for the right answer.

The key to answering “What kind of skier am I?” lies in one’s ability to assess every aspect of the ski persona, from our attire upon leaving the house, to what part of the mountain we end up on, to how we interact with friends and what kind of etiquette we exhibit on the hill. And as we enter another season with our fresh jackets, shiny boots and brand new skis and snowboards we snatched at the local swap, there couldn’t possibly be a better time to get a head start on defining our individual places on the hill; otherwise, someone else will, and we all know how much of a buzzkill that can be.

“Dude, you look like a gaper,” says hopefully no one to you while you’re on the mountain flaunting your best turns. Unless you are an ill-informed, inexperienced tourist, or one who purposefully plays the part for a closing day party, a gaper is not the kind of individual anyone in his or her ski practice ever truly aspires to be, and if you – the 100-day skier – happen to be called one while maneuvering down the hill, it should be in your best interest to either find out why and make a change, or ignore it and forever wonder why no one ever invites you to apres.

Telltale signs you’re a gaper:

1. If you don’t know what a gaper is.

2. If you are a first-time local, or a visitor from out of town who isn’t familiar with the mountain.

3. If most of your ski attire is from 25 years ago, and you wear neon, jeans or one-piece suits because they keep the snow out, even though the back end is always riding up your bum.

4. If a question like, “Where do they put the moguls when the season’s over?” is something you would seriously ask.

5. If you find yourself standing in the middle of the hill when everyone else is moving.

6. If a visible gap shows on your forehead between the helmet and goggles most of the time, and you think nothing of it when you’re the only one wearing ski boots at apres.

Back to the days on the playground, this is the child who would climb to the top of the jungle gym and stroll across the bars like an acrobat on a tightrope while the teachers yelled and all the other kids clapped. Like the dire karaoke singer at the bar every Tuesday night, this raw collective is defined by bold, relentless, attention-stealing risk-takers who, at times, carry a misplaced sense of confidence only visible to those on the other side. Whether successful or not in their grabs, flips and spins, this group will continue trying well after the lifts stop running.

Telltale signs you’re a park rat:

1. If you choose the park over anything else.

2. If you prefer wearing loose-fitting pants with a belt a little below the waist.

3. If you bring your GoPro with you everyday, and sometimes make your friends record you while you demonstrate jibs.

4. If the group of people you ride with mainly consists of gromits and kids half your age.

5. If the majority of your conversation about skiing retracts back to your day’s performance on the rail.

6. If your summer months are spent at skate parks practicing for the winter.

“Faster, faster, faster!” screamed the young ripper to his father, spinning around and around by his arms in the living room. A daredevil by nature, the ripper is one who casually mouths the words, “see you at the bottom,” before bolting down the hill in roadrunner form of now you see me, now you don’t. Recognized by pure fearlessness, the ripper rarely slows down for anyone, and thus tends to carry a low profile.

Telltale signs you’re a ripper:

1. If you are a gromit and or you started skiing upon taking your first step.

2. If a figure 11, straight-down pointing is way more fun than carving.

3. If waiting in lift lines and sitting on chairlifts sometimes give you anxiety.

4. If taking a shot or two of jaeger in between runs only jacks you up more.

5. If the words, “dare me to” often precede something outrageous.

6. If ski-patrol has threatened to confiscate your pass for unsafe skiing.

Don’t be too cold, don’t be icy, don’t be flat light, don’t be anything but bluebird and nice weather. This is the general mindset of the fair-weather skier, sometimes referred to as the longtime local who, at some point while standing in the lift lines on a windy day, became fed up with all the young, eager blood and now only shows face in perfect conditions. Non-partial to fresh powder and new runs, with little aspiration to chance

the backcountry, this group tends to stick to the safe

and familiar.

Telltale signs you’re fair-weather fab:

1. If you are OK with taking two runs and calling it a day.

2. If all your friends duck the ropes to the “out of bounds” area and fail to ask you to come along.

3. If you generally only go midway, because top to bottom takes too long.

4. If all the apres and happy hour bartenders know you by first and last name.

5. If the crowds of gapers and gromits weaving in and out beside you don’t bother you, because you aren’t going that fast anyway.

6. If someone asks you if you’re a ski bum and you say, “most definitely.”

“Listen man, I don’t care if I have to sleep on your couch, scrub dishes at night, sell my shirt for a bagel or hike the bowl 15 days in a row for a pass – I just want to f-ing ski!” This group, the original ski bums who would save everything they had for one weekend on the gangliest of peaks, is few and far between. No rules, no lines and no fear for tomorrow, the diehards are driven by the highs of the mountains and the ultimate experiences discovered along paths less taken.

Telltale signs you’re a diehard:

1. If you prefer the backcountry to any groomers.

2. If you believe chairlifts take too long and choose to skin up instead.

3. If you take extraordinary measures to reach a summit or ski down a 14er.

4. If summer months are spent hiking anything and everything to get in shape for the winter.

5. If the idea of “home” means standing with your tips over the edge of a cliff thousands of feet up.

6. If you travel with the wind and throw out every other thing others deem important in life

just to pursue your dream of skiing everyday.