Alpiner is a third-person action game in which the player's goal is to climb safely to the top of various mountains. Each of the six mountains the player climbs has various obstacles which should be avoided: falling rocks, avalanches, wild animals, trees, and brush fires can all hinder progress. Being hit by these obstacles will cause the player to lose progress, falling down part of the mountain (some obstacles cause a short falling distance, others a long distance).
Should the player fall all of the way to the bottom of the mountain a life will be lost. To help anticipate obstacles, voice synthesis provide a warning when danger is near. Each mountain has a time limit in which it must be climbed, though the timer only counts down when the climber isn't moving. As the player progresses through the levels the mountains become higher and obstacles become faster and more numerous.