Inside lines

go flip/flip byrnes

If skiing is about going fast enough to be blur, why is there such a thing as ski fashion?

It’s strange that there is such a thing as ski fashion. I don’t really care if my jogging outfit is colour co-ordinated or this season’s style (does anybody?). I wear daggy shorts for tennis and my swimsuit for laps is a-la Dawn Fraser 1976.

But for some reason, on the slopes, it is an issue. This is despite the fact that you should be going fast enough to simply be a technicolour blur.

I now put as much effort into my equipment as I do into my riding, and the only explanation for this is that I spent a good deal of time in France.

On the slopes, you only know people by their colours, their helmets and their pigtails. It can be so hard to recognise someone off the slopes, you might encounter a nasty surprise when you find the ripping blonde bombshell you have been skiing with for four hours is an après disaster in his/her marble-wash jeans and cowboy boots.

It’s even worse when you have been taken by that worst of all disguises -- the uniform. It has to be said, the ski instructor is ahead of the police or fire officer as they tend to wear skis, and therefore must be slightly interesting (besides, they won’t arrest you for illicit fun and, while they can’t put out a fire, they can possibly start one).

Still, don’t be fooled – I once relented and was asked out on a date by an instructor at a Snowy Mountains resort that will remain nameless.

A date!

Imagine my regret when he turned up complete with string tie, skin tight flares and a tiger eating grin. Quel horreur!

But back to France. Upon first arriving, I was expecting the worst. The eurotrash segments of Europe who visit the Alps take their fashion seriously, very seriously. Especially the Parisians, who can’t actually ski. When taking their holiday from the 16th arrondissement, they aim for civilised outposts of French culture where they can enjoy sunny pistes that have not been invaded by the rosbifs (English).

The really good skiers in France, are usually the worst dressed. A high level of technical accomplishment as a skier does not suggest good breeding and squillions of dollars, as it might in Australia, but a childhood far from Paris in some benighted mountain region not worth boasting about.

Stretched pants, narrow skis and rear entry boots are usually good enough for the local farmers who could carve their way around any city-bred Pierre. On a 1970s fancy dress day in Chamonix, the foreigners looked remarkably similar to the locals, but the French in fluoro one piece suits didn’t quite get the joke.

The real battle to be ‘best dressed’ is among the English, who don’t actually have much in the way of mountains of their own and the Scandinavians who live for every gadget under the winter sun and tend to excessively over-accessorise.

Scandinavians clog the snowline supermarket aisles complete with ice axe, shovel and avalanche transceiver (I find them so incredibly unnecessary for delving into the deep freeze and honestly dangerous when reaching for the broccoli).

If inviting a Scandinavian out, you’re never really sure what they will turn up with; it’s best to reserve an extra dinner seat for their equipment in case they decide to dissolve any on-slope separation anxiety issues.

Scandinavians are great fun, they just don’t travel light.

The English are natty little dressers, perhaps overcompensating for their lack of local ski culture, they completely embrace all things ski, from local ski spots to the best in gear to the best in dress.

Maybe also because the pound is so strong they can afford that North Face double down jacket. They are rich on pounds, keen as mustard and some of them, despite centuries of inbreeding, are even quite good looking, on the slopes and off.

They may not be very good at wining world cups (let alone cricket), but on the slopes, the English can be a breath of fresh air. They even get the idea that forming an orderly queue is the most efficient way to load a six-seater chairlift.

But the last word comes down to the saisoniers or those who do a season. These are the ones who don’t have money, who plan to spend a lot of time on the slopes and who look for form and function in their attire rather than fashion – simply because they actually plan to ski.

They have one hooded top, a decent pair of thermals, gloves that work, a jacket that says hard-use-wear rather than useless extravagance and the most important element – a favourite hat that is more best friend than headwear.

And this to me, is ski fashion. Prucci and Prada can stay home; your oldest and warmest gear tells a story of cliff drops, hard knocks and après shenanigans. Now that’s a statement worth making.



jim darby/the snow biz
There's a lot to like about ski lifts, and the people who make them.

arnie wilson/from the alps
Life is full of ironies. The Alps got the snow and Russia got the Olympics.

go flip/flip byrnes
Meet the fashion victims; a whole winter world of them.

There's a lot to like about ski lifts, and the people who make them.

Life is full of ironies. The Alps got the snow and Russia got the Olympics.

Meet the fashion victims; a whole winter world of them.