Beers and grills littered the parking lot at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area Tuesday as a few hundred people gathered for a local April Fools’ Day tradition known as “Gaper Day.”
Some skied a few runs. Some came just for the party.
Locals and Front Rangers wore old neon jumpsuits, cut-off jeans, flower leis. Dogs ran around as people danced to the Talking Heads and ’80s pop.
Buzz Lightyear, Gumby and Winnie the Pooh made appearances. One man wore a giant pink furry mustache around his neck, a couple guys skied with umbrellas and at least three people wore American flags as capes.
Gaper Day pokes fun at “gapers,” a derogatory term for tourists.
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Vail Resorts and Copper Mountain Resort employees were not allowed to use their complimentary passes at A-Basin, according to A-Basin spokeswoman Adrienne Saia Isaac, and the same went for A-Basin employees at Vail Resorts and Copper.
“We’re all about the retro costumes and people coming out and having a good time,” she said, but the resort wanted to rein in the unofficial event because it has gotten out of hand before in terms of alcohol and safety.
One man who worked in a restaurant at Keystone Resort that has already closed for the season said he would be upset if there was a foot of fresh snow on the ground.
“We are blacked out as Vail employees,” said Tom Newsted, 36. “I don’t understand why, but whatever the reason, I am not a fan of it.”
A-Basin’s chief operating officer, Alan Henceroth, elaborated on the resort’s main concerns.
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“People need to drink responsibly, they need to ski in a safe and responsible manner and it’s never OK to make fun of people,” he said. “There’s nothing cool or fun about that, that’s why we’re always so geared up for this event.”
He added that in the past the resort has had issues with harassment.
“We haven’t had any today. It’s been very good,” he said, “and that’s the way we want to keep it.”
Spokeswoman Tracy LeClair said the Summit County Sheriff’s Office saw a few alcohol-related offenses but no more than usual during spring break.
“This event doesn’t have the same draw that it used to in years past,” she added. “It used to be a big party, but I really think that especially during spring break time, it’s no different than any other day.”
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One Breckenridge resident said Gaper Day at A-Basin has changed since he started coming nine years ago.
People used to bring couches, said Mikie Mattern, 26, but this year about half as many people as usual showed up.
One Colorado native skiing with family said she experienced a different kind of Gaper Day when she lived in Summit County 30 years ago.
“In the 1980s when we first started doing it,” said Vallorie Griffitt, who used to work at Copper, “it was more about bringing out your old skis and your old boots and your old clothes and just celebrating where skiing came from.”
She said most people partying Tuesday were nothing to worry about.
“It’s just those few people that get a little bit too out of hand that can change a person’s whole day,” said Griffitt, 47, who now lives in Longmont. “When you’re wasted out there and you’re skiing, people get hurt.”