Have You Played… SkiFree?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

More like have you survived SkiFree? More like: have you felt the cold rush of wind and terror that is SkiFree? Have you sensed the unstoppable, inescapable presence of SkiFree as it catches up behind you, bringing with it all the excesses and nightmares of the 1990s with it? Oh god, you have. I can see it in your eyes. You have, haven’t you?

On the face of it this is a skiing game, made popular by its inclusion on Windows computers after its release in a 1991 entertainment pack. You go down the mountain slopes pulling rudimentary stunts, trying to avoid trees and people. Strike one of these and you are slowed down. You do not want to be slowed down. Because there is something coming for you, and it moves faster than you ever could.

The unstoppable and hungry snow monster of SkiFree exists now within its own legend, spawning terrifying found footage tributes, revelatory XKCD comics and even scores of fan fiction. The game’s developer, Chris Pirih, remarks on his website that the greatest fan mail he ever received was this 1996 missive:

Date: Sun, 11 Feb 1996 11:28:22 -0400
Subject: ski free!

If this is the correct person, please tell me why the stupid fucking monster
comes out from nowhere and eats my main guy before he gets to the bottom of
the hill. Nothing personal, but this is Sunday morning & I really did not
like the idea of getting eaten by the monster this early. What I am really
trying to say is fix the program or stop making games for the likes of me,
who can’t win. Actually, you ruined my day. Have a nice one,
THE WOODMAN

For those of you who do not know the terror, who have enjoyed a life free of fear and abominations, know that you are blessed.

But also know that you can download it here.

From this site

34 Comments

  1. Suits says:

    Nightmare fuel

  2. int says:

    Yeah I kept hoping there was a way to avoid the ogre.

  3. Rwlyra says:

    Yes I did! Even though I preferred more sophisticated skiing simulators of the 90s

    Also many other games from the site called “underdogs” or something, that had biggest repository of games (and viruses) that you could find on your dial-up connection in the 90s

    • Beefenstein says:

      Home of the Underdogs? I downloaded as many games as possible on my 56k freeserve dialup from that website and never got a virus… that I detected (with my lack of AV software). Perhaps I had so many viruses the payloads countered each other and my computer kept working?

      A number of other posters on these forums used to frequent HOTU too, pretty sure Faldrath is a Brazilian Sociology PhD (ex-)student who sent me a book once!

      • Premium User Badge

        Risingson says:

        Yeah. Many.

      • Faldrath says:

        Yeah, that’s me. You didn’t go by “Beefenstein” back then though, did you?

      • Rwlyra says:

        @Beefenstein
        Happy to know that! And that I reunited some buddies by throwing out the name of the site that kept me happy as a pre-teen ^^

      • Sin Vega says:

        Home of the Underdogs was the most important website in history as far as games are concerned. But the mainstream of the industry will never admit it.

        Its work was so important that it was the only thing on the internet worth tolerating the godawful adverts. But no, it wasn’t host to malware. It wouldn’t have survived for a month if it had been.

    • Premium User Badge

      Skabooga says:

      Ah Home of the Underdogs, it was my favorite site in the world as a kid with no pocket money and access to the family’s old and ageing computer.

  4. wykydtronik says:

    My companies Slack, we have the animated emoji gif of the Yeti. PTSD.

  5. CurseYouAll says:

    The goal of the game was to get as high a score as possible by doing jump flips and other tricks before the wolf got you. Glorious!

    And yes, Home of the Underdogs had no viruses whatsoever. It probably still exists until this day.

    • Sin Vega says:

      HOTU died yeaaars ago as the original owner runner finally abandoned it after letting the domain expire several times (I believe to do a phd or something of the sort). There were then two separate sites attempting to revive and update it in various ways. Last time I checked wa a few years ago, so I’m comletely out of the loop, but I think one of the successor sites that hewed very closely to the original layout and content etc is still around.

      The community behind it has scattered somewhat, naturally, quite a few of them going on to help GOG in its formative years. Modern OSes being much less hostile has made things a lot easier, but there are still people carrying on its work here and there, and likely always will be.

      • Premium User Badge

        Skabooga says:

        Abandonia.com ( link to abandonia.com ) is still carrying on some of that work cataloguing and (where they can legally do it) providing downloads of tons of DOS-era games. They take their preservationist work very seriously, but their joy and enthusiasm for it really shines through as well.

  6. Chris Evans says:

    I used to slowly and arduously climb back up the mountain to see what happened. Death followed.

    Still great.

  7. rustybroomhandle says:

    Have yoy played Horace Goes Skiing?

  8. C0llic says:

    Haven’t we all ? This became a ‘you must play this cultural artefact’ oddity some time ago.

  9. Jediben says:

    You are Jean-Claude Juncker and I claim my £5.

    • Jediben says:

      Oh God damn it is was replying to that bot and it was going to be really funny. Thanks for administrating my funny away :(

  10. Spacewalk says:

    I remember a hack that changed the skier into Duke Nukem who would blow the head off the yeti when he was caught which is something that might appeal to the puds who can’t handle being eaten.

  11. poliovaccine says:

    It terrifies on basically the same level as Outlast… which is maybe kinda easy to see as a dig on Outlast, but really it’s a horror-game compliment… there’s just something so primordial and awful about the singular, asshole-clenching panic of being *chased.*

    • Sizeable Dirk says:

      Old Man Roguelike Turnbased Mode:
      Press F3 to pause and then tap T to run one cycle of the game at a time. Hold T to make it run continuously until you release.

      • Sizeable Dirk says:

        Brainshart! Sorry @poliovaccine my comment wasn’t supposed to be a reply to you…

  12. Premium User Badge

    particlese says:

    You betcha! That monster was indeed terrifying, but I also remember loving those rainbow jumps and seeing how fast I could hit them.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    I kinda want to do a remake of this game with a sled and call it “Citizen Kane The Game: The Citizen Kane of Games”. Replace the yeti at the end with the lawyer who comes to pick you up.

  14. Tams80 says:

    I remember this game! I have fond memories of playing this on my father’s computer for hours in Nepal. That yeti…

  15. wicka says:

    AV Club did a great feature recently on pre-internet gaming myths, and this reminded me of another: the town at the end of SkiFree. Supposedly if you outran the monster you’d get to the bottom of the slope and find a small town.

  16. FlyingTaco says:

    As a kid I’d play for it for 5 minutes then get bored and/or die horribly. Tried it again today…yup 5 minutes is about my max.

  17. sg1969 says:

    This game has caused more PTSD than both World Wars and the Gulf War combined.