Fear and clothing in the Vail Valley
“I hate those hats with stuff all over them; those are out,” says Jenna Boyd of Edwards.
Though Vail and Beaver Creek mountains were getting a little choppy before the snowstorm that rolled through the valley mid-week, steady snow showers and storms all season have prevented local powderhounds from barking and whining too much about conditions on the slopes.
“The snow’s been pretty good, but it’s hard-packed,” says Bryce Tibby, a skier from Australia. “It’s always nice to get fresh stuff.”
Because the slopes are in such satisfactory shape, skiers and snowboarders this season are fretting about other things. Chief among those concerns is whether cheaper, more flexible automobile insurance policies can be created by the Colorado State Legislature this year. To do that, lawmakers will have to defy the powerful trial lawyers lobby.
Most skiers and snowboarders, however, have never heard of the Colorado State Legislature. What they’re really worried about is what they and other folks on the slopes are wearing this season. And, of course, when you’re talking ski fashion, you’re talking about homicidal space villains.
“I went for the glamorous Darth Vader-on-the-slopes look,” says Mady Fountain, a beginning skier from Australia dressed in all black. “I use fashion to make up for my lack of skill.”
Style also won the battle between helmets and cool-looking goggles, Fountain says. She spurned head protection when she picked a sleek olive-green pair of goggles with mirrored lenses.
“This is my first pair of goggles, and even though they didn’t fit over helmets, which all my friends suggested they should, I had to have them,” Fountain says. “These were the only ones that were right.”
A critical piece of every local’s ski ensemble is duct tape, says McKenna Berlanti, a skier from Beaver Creek. In fact, it’s as critical as a hockey player missing teeth, she adds.
“I’m all about duct tape – it makes me look tough,” Berlanti says. “I purposefully burn holes in my jacket so I can put duct tape on.”
Aside from the necessary incidents of arson, ski wear is a balance between flair and warmth, says Berlanti, who wears hot pink goggles, a cherry red helmet, multi-colored rubber bands in her hair and a decidedly bland gray jacket.
“I’m all about clashing colors – just being outlandish,” she says. “I like to look cute, but I definitely dress for warmth. It’s not a fashion show.”
She does own a pair of those gaudy electric-blue Salomon Pocket Rockets, Berlanti adds.
“They are flashy, but they’re great skis,” she says.
Yes, the flashier the ski, the better the skier, right?
“You can have all the best gear and still have no idea what you’re doing,” Tibby says.
Ah, come on. Surely the more colorful or cutting-edge your skis are, the more lightning bolts and robots fighting dragons on your snowboard, the easier it is to tear through the moguls or sweep through the trees. All that stuff at least makes you look cooler when you’re waiting in a lift line or chatting with a gear-junkie on chairlift ride, doesn’t it?
“You’re better off letting your legs do the talking,” Tibby insists. “When you learn to ski, you have really bad gear, then you get really good-looking gear, then you just have really good gear.”
So won’t you give those hard-working ski equipment-marketing executives a break. Do you think anyone would spend $1,000 on skis the color of canned tuna? Do you think anybody would spend half their paycheck on ski boots that don’t have GPS receivers or Internet access?
Do you think this is something the FBI should be worried about?
Skiers Julie Baird and Michelle Snapp, natives of Columbus, Ohio, think so. They both wear knit FBI caps to the slopes. Both women, however, refused to say whether they’re fans of the much-criticized law-enforcement agency or undercover G-women in training spying on the good life.
“Let’s just say we know people,” Snapp says.
What were they wearing?
“Well, I I’ll tell you who looks the best – ski patrol,” says Snapp, launching into a suspicious-sounding cover story likely meant to hide her and her partner’s intelligence-gathering mission at Beaver Creek.
“Right now, we’re not concentrating on what we look like – we’re just trying to get the skiing down,” Snapp says. “Once we figure out how to ski, then we’ll worry about looking good.”
Tip: Watch what you say to these two.
Antler hats aside, the most unpopular apparel on the slopes for the 25th year running, say unnamed sources close to the auto insurance industry, are one-piece ski suits – those garish, neon costumes skiers or snowboarders can slip into all at once and wear all day without having to worry about their pants slipping down.
“I love those gaper suits – the bright orange one-pieces from the “80s,” says Ben Freeman, a snowboarder from Vail, who was not wearing a bright orange one-piece suit from the 80s. “I’d love to wear one for a couple of days, though.”
“I personally prefer leopard prints,” adds Claire Dicey, an Avon resident originally from South Africa.
Some folks, however, just don’t have the stuff to be suave on the slopes. While some shop at the fancy boutiques on Bridge Street, cash-strapped powderhounds scour clothes cast off by skiers and snowboarders who are more in vogue.
“I’m an old-school skier. All the stuff I used to have had duct tape on it,” says Vail’s Peter Mango, who wears used ski pants and a vest he claims was salvaged from a recycling bin. “I can’t afford fashion.”
Regardless of what the better skiers say about warmth, functionality and practicality in clothing for snowriding, just about everyone on Grouse Mountain and in the Back Bowls will agree that fashion is an integral part of skiing.
“It means everything,” Fountain says. “As long as you look good – if you look good, you ski good.”
Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at