Back in the '80s, rockin' a one-piece ski suit down the hill was considered pretty "rad." Now, aside from on Closing Day, one pieces are about as popular as Member's Only jackets, if you remember that totally tubular '80s craze. When it comes to fashion, what's "hot" one year can quickly become a "not" the following season. Ski and snowboard clothing doesn't change as drastically as the styles on the runway, but each year there's still a push to create both the best-looking and practical outfit. Combining fashion and function has always been a challenge, but now advances in fabric and manufacturing are giving outerwear designers more options when it comes to creating their styles.
"Function dictates over fashion with ski wear because it has to be something that's warm and durable," said Scott Mohar, men's retail manager at Gorsuch in Vail. "Fashion has always been there but the materials might not have. Now that the materials are there, we can make them look however we want and make them look closest to what we've seen off the street."
Fashion trends this winter season are focused on merging outerwear with street wear, such as taking your everyday coat and making it more technical, or turning your skiing jacket into something stylish enough for a night out on the town. Valerie Lukach, store manager at One Track Mind in Lionshead, said the classic snowboard look of baggy pants and loose jackets is fading away as more riders are asking for more tailored and fitted styles.
"We've gotten a lot of requests for that modern cut, something that looks like street wear but you can actually ride in," Lukach said. "It looks like a casual jacket but (has)15,000 to 20,000 mm waterproofing [totally waterproof, even under serious pressure], a powder skirt, and tech pockets."
Becky Maclachlan, retail supervisor at Gorsuch, said skiers are also seeking out a slimmer silhouette. Gone are the puffy and formless down jackets of yesteryear.
"Most of the people that are skiing are a little bit more athletic and they want to show off their figures a little bit more," Maclachlan said. "(It's now) a trimmed down (jacket), so you're not wearing a sleeping bag."
Caroline Gleich is a pro skier based out of Utah who tests gear and helps design clothing for Patagonia. Gleich said the changes in ski wear styles is the result of skiers venturing more into the back country and wanting clothing that's more technical.
"People are demanding a higher performance out of their outerwear," Gleich said. "The ski industry has to be more cautious than the overall fashion industry. When you purchase a new ski jacket, that's a couple-hundred dollar purchase. You want something that's going to last. It's also about maximizing the utility of the jacket. ... You want your clothes to be able to transition (from skiing to everyday life)."
Although performance is often a skier's first priority, Gleich said fashion can also play an important role.
"If you don't look good, you're not going to ski well," Gleich said. "(With) sports performance, a lot of it is mental. If your clothes fit well, feel good and you're warm and dry, you're going to be able to stay out longer."
Aside from technical features, this year's styles are all about contrasting colors and pieces that coordinate with one another. A purple jacket might have a hood lined with bright green to match a pair of bright green pants. Colorful zippers that pop instead of blend into jackets and pants are also trendy for both men and women. Although tones are more muted, solid primary colors are still popular, while loud prints are on the way out.
"People are not as into patterns this year," said Jenny Lauricella, soft goods assistant manager at Vail Sports in Lionshead. "You can really only wear patterns for a season. You're not going to wear a crazy, outlandish, floral coat for more than two seasons in a row because it gets old."
Also moving into the "out" category are the Ugg-style boots that were once ubiquitous.
"(Uggs) are definitely not as in as they used to be," Lauricella said. "The other winter boot (brands) present a lot more functionality. Ugg boots get wet, and when you're walking around in snow it's nice to have waterproof boots that are still cute, still warm, still comfy, still fashionable and you can wear them no matter what the weather is."
So what's the must-have item for the 2012-2013 season? Both Mohar and Maclachlan said "helmets." As helmets become less of a choice and more mandatory, retailers are now selling brightly colored and detailed helmets that are not just for safety, but a style statement as well.
Both Lauricella and Lukach said goggles are going to be the most talked-about winter accessory. Goggles will be big, literally, with large, funky-colored lenses and low-profile frames. Some newer goggles, like the Smith I/O Recon, now have a micro optics display where one can view their speed, real-time jump analytics, weather and buddy tracking, GPS mapping, and even a music playlist mode.
Gleich thinks there's one piece of clothing that should be a winter trend, but isn't yet.
"One thing ski companies need to start marketing to skiers is swimsuits," Gleich said. "You never know when you'll find a hot tub or a hot springs. That's the best way to finish off a day of skiing."
You may think you're ready for opening day because your board is waxed or your skis are tuned, but do you have your swimsuit and slouchy hat? Whether you chose the most functional outfit or the most fashionable, remember there are a few things that never go out of style: the right attitude, beanies with the Colorado flag, and of course, a nice smile.