Vail toes have official sock |

Vail toes have official sock

Matt Zalaznick/City Editor
Special to the DailyThe push for an official sock came not from any grassroots footwear advocacy group, but from members of the Beaver Creek race department and the Vail Mountain ski school, says Gardner Flanigan, communications manager for SmartWool.

Well, for all of you skiers and snowboarders out there who can’t feel your toes between December and April, the apparently innovative socks made by a Steamboat Springs company, SmartWool, have landed in marketing Nirvana and are now the official socks of Vail Resorts.

“Trying is truly believing when it comes to SmartWool products,” said Michael Imhof, director of strategic alliance for Vail Resorts. “SmartWool socks are dynamic, functional, reliable, very warm when you need them to be and always comfortable no matter what your athletic endeavor.”

The push for an official sock came not from any grassroots footwear advocacy group, but from members of the Beaver Creek race department and the Vail Mountain ski school, says Gardner Flanigan, communications manager for SmartWool.

“The race department at Beaver Creek and the ski school at Vail said, “Hey, this is a great product,'” Flanigan says. “There was a groundswell of interest in getting a deal with SmartWool.”

The deal makes SmartWool the official sock of all the mountains owned by Vail Resorts: Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Heavenly. That’s pretty lofty territory for a sock.

Gardner says SmartWool’s socks are simply “unique.” They are merino wool-based and SmartWool uses its very own “smart technology so it doesn’t itch and it doesn’t shrink,” Flanigan said.

The socks include some synthetic fibers, but what’s touching your skin is all natural, Flanigan says.

“You’ve got 100 percent smartwool yarn against skin,” Flanigan says. “The benefit for the consumer, the race department, the instructor or ski partroller is SmartWool does a lot of things better than synthetic.

“It takes moisture off your skin faster than any synthetic fiber. It regulates your temperature better, so you’ll keep warm when you’re cold and cool when it’s warm.”

Aside from local toes, the SmartWool logo will appear on Vail Resorts promotional and marketing materials including their trail maps, grooming reports, Web sites and various Resort brochures. Paying homage to their ski racing roots, SmartWool also had a sponsorship presence at the 2003 Chevy Trucks “Birds of Prey” World Cup Downhill Races at Beaver Creek this weekend.

“We pride ourselves on always partnering with the pinnacle and leader within each Strategic Alliance category we embrace,” Imhof said. “We hit the mark with Smartwool and we are indeed proud to have them as a partner.”

But how do SmartWool’s work for sock puppets?

“We’ve made our mark on the map with hiking sock and our ski sock,” Flanigan said.

SmartWool also will provide a complimentary pair of ski or snowboard socks to select first-time skiers and snowboarders at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Heavenly. Vail Resorts programs like “First Time Skier and Rider” and “Learn to Ski and Ride” will allow first-time skiers and snowboarders the opportunity to start out on the “right foot’ with a cozy pair of SmartWool socks, resort and company officials say.

With both companies providing opportunities and gear for year-round recreation, SmartWool socks will also become part of Vail Resorts summer activities, including hiking, biking and golf, they say.

“This is a great opportunity to educate active consumers about the superior performance and comfort of SmartWool products,” said SmartWool President Chip Coe. “We are thrilled to work with a world-class organization like Vail Resorts to enhance their guests’ experience.”

Flanigan said they are also olfactory advantages with SmartWool products.

“SmartWool is naturally odor resistant, because it’s managing moisture and temperature, bacteria which thrive in moisture isn’t able to grow on fiber or fabric,” Flanigan said.

That means you don’t have to throw your ski socks in the washing machine after every day on the slopes. Or, if you’ve got a sock-puppet performance scheduled that same night you don’t have to worry about aromatically offending your audience.

And there’s also an environmental benefit, Flanigan says, because of how SmartWool’s materials are made.

“It’s a natural renewable resource,” he says. “You would love live in a place where we harvest our raw materials, which is a lot like Vail and Steamboat. It’s an alpine environment, very pristine. There’s no way you’d want to live next where the synthetic raw materials are harvested.”

The synthetics are petro-chemical based, which means that raw materials may come from Middle Eastern oil suppliers, and processed in a chemical plant. SmartWool’s ingredients come from sheep.

“The sheep are sheared and live another year to get sheared again,” Flanigan said. “They’re not being harmed and when goes the material goes back into the earth, it’s not going to be in a landfill for a 100 years.”

That’s means plenty of eco-friendly sock puppets.

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at

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