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Blending fashion with function

Sarah MausolfVail, CO Colorado
AE Ski Fashion PU 10-16-07
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VAIL Though once the province of James Bond and Jean-Claude Killy alike, in recent years the snowsuit has lacked a certain sex appeal. Relegated to the toddler department and 80s movies, the pant-parka combo was an assault especially on the female figure that seemed to have seen its time.But this ski season, several major labels are betting they can convince women to rock the one-piece and actually look good in it: Tailored to hug womens curves and designed with technical features, the once-piece makes a triumphant return to retail stores this season after creeping out of the shadows a few years ago.Theyre really on an upswing, said Jay Madrid, store manager at Billabong in Vail. Years and years of: You cant have a one-piece, its so 80s are over as youths embrace the trend, he said. Its functional and fun. Its obviously not something youre going to wear every day.Available in modern prints like a flirty camouflage and chocolate brown with subtle stripes, the one-pieces have been tempting shoppers for two weeks from their perch at the front of the store.Although one customer already snapped up a $300 pant-parka combo, others remain skeptical.I would never buy this one because I cant move in it, explained 24-year-old Saskia Frenzel, a German native who is temporarily living in Vail.Bypassing the one-pieces, Frenzel and her friend 23-year-old Janina Buttmann opted for jackets. They took home Billabongs chocolate brown tweed coat with fake fur hood and matching tassles, along with a plaid jacket.Its not the usual skiing wear, Frenzel said. I think a few years ago, you can buy the jackets just for skiing. This one you can wear with boots or to go out.Some customers may skip the one-piece because it lacks versatility, but women who crave warmth might gravitate to it. Unlike parka-pant separates, they leave no crevices where body heat can escape.Theyre superwarm, said Clark Wilkinson, retail manager of Vail Mountain Adventure Center in Vail. You dont get snow down your back or snow down your pants.The store carries a limited edition Roxy one-piece in tan with olive green insignia print for $320.The downside is that it is that unique, Wilkinson said. You have to be willing to stand out in them out on the mountain. You have to accept everyone staring at you because you have something really strange on.

For the less daring, stores are stocking a range of new garments from the well-known brands. More than ever before, the big boys are finding ways to meld fashion with technical proficiency, retailers say.Volcom riding hoodies promise to make a splash at Vail Mountain Adventure Center, which opens for the season Nov. 1, Wilkinson said. Unlike the cotton hoodies of yore, which soak up water, the sweatshirts are made almost entirely of polyester to deflect moisture.Although practical, the hoodies maintain Volcoms anti-establishment vibe. A $52 womens Disengage Hydrophobic Ziphood keeps it edgy with a green-and-brown-striped sweatshirt with pink-and-white polka dot hood lining.From The North Face camp, a furry fleece is so soft, customers are petting it all the way home.Before the staff knew the technical name for the garment, they referred to it as bear fur, Wilkinson said. (They are not actually made with fur.) Available in plum, icy blue and black, the roughly $80 pieces are so popular with women, members of a wine club threatened to buy the plum color in all sizes and have their names embroidered on them.For men, a black Summit Series parka offers top quality but at top prices. The $549 Gortex jacket features taped seams, taped zipper pockets and a built-in GPS transponder designed to aid in avalanche rescues.Also keeping with the technical theme, the store stocks a $300 Marmot shell with welded seams in black and gray or orange. Meanwhile, Oakley is representing with a variety of shells with detachable liners.They kind of chilled out on their name, Wilkinson said. Last year they had Oakley printed everywhere and some people dont want to be flashing the name everywhere they go.

No matter what name designers are dropping, there is a sense they are getting down to business.The biggest trend weve been having is less fashion and more technical, said Aimee Sedgwick, sportsgoods supervisor at Christy Sports in Avon. The store ushered in a line of water-resistant fleeces from Arcteryx. But just because this seasons styles are functional doesnt mean they lack bells and whistles: The fur-lined hood maintains its foothold in womens fashion, plaid is popular and knit beanies with built-in headphones for mp3 players continue to gain momentum.An unexpected and formerly drab color now owns the spotlight on the slopes: chocolate brown.Its elegant, its timeless its almost like the new black, said Kellie Dexter, manager of Pepi Sports Ski Shop & Boutique.The boutique carries a ladies Spyder Crystal jacket in coco brown with black fox fur.Despite the offerings from area shops, customers who strive for style on the slopes face significant obstacles. A majority of shops in the village remain closed for the off-season, making it tough to score edgy gear early, and even die-hard shoppers complain about cash flow.Mike Salsman, a 27-year-old snowboarder from Colorado Springs, browsed Village shops Tuesday in hopes of replacing his torn-up gear, which took a beating last season.I hit a lot of trees, he explained. Im not a professional. You know what I mean.Although he found the jackets at Billabong enticing, the price tags threw him off.I liked a lot of things in there but theyre pretty expensive, he said. I saw a jacket for $200. I thought, Wow, Im going to look for something a little less. Granted, its good quality equipment.Arts & Entertainment Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 748-2938 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.


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