Yay! We can all ski and snowboard again!
If we can remember how.
You might cruise right along on your first ski or ride of the season like you've been doing it your whole life (because you have). But it's only November. Some have to regain a feel for it... and were never very good to begin with.
And some are just learning.
You know of whom I speak: the gapers.
You can look for the gap between goggles and hat or helmet, but here are some other ways to spot and avoid the gapers (and thus potential injury and maiming as they weave in front of you or stop mid-slope):
1 The carry
Before you even leave the base, watch for the gaper carry: both arms out in front, skis laid across arms, in crook of elbows.
Memorize what this person is wearing so you can avoid him or her on the mountain.
The proper, non-gaper carry is skis over your shoulder. Or, if you are a really rad freestyle dude/chick, one ski in each hand, dragging poles behind like you just don't care.
Later, wave your arms in the air in the same non-caring fashion. Now you're rad, too.
2 Wet attire
Denim is either a sign that you're really good or really bad.
This should be easy to evaluate.
If not, start here: Are the skier/rider's jeans tucked into his/her boots?
Yes: gaper. No: move on to the next question.
Is the skier/rider wearing jeans putting down 540-anythings in the park while onlookers whoop?
Yes: Not a gaper. Make friends and learn that tricks aren't just for kids.
3 No backpack
Backcountry gapers have different markings that their frontcountry cousins. Namely: They don't carry avy beacons, probes or shovels and thus don't need backpacks.
(If you need to ask why you'd want to avoid this person, please proceed directly to your nearest avalanche safety course. Thank you for your cooperation.)
Skiing or riding from Loveland Pass? Watch out for the backpack-free. They're far worse off than the helmet-free. Or the pants-free.
Pants: Don't leave home without 'em.
4 Wide berth
Just to be safe, give everyone -- everyone -- lots of space this early in the season.
Maybe people should be giving you lots of space, too. You're looking a little wobbly.
Wait a tick... you're a gaper!
I guess that means you should look out for yourself. Good luck with that.
5 Don't ski yet
Want to avoid the people who are relearning how to ski? Don't ski yet. Hold out for winter, the good snow, the days that make you glad to be alive and able to ride.
And able to wear pants, you gaper exhibitionist.