SNOW QUEEN: AN EVOLUTION
I sent him a picture of my outfit, fur headband and all. “How are you going to fit that under your helmet?”
Three years ago I accepted the invitation of my fiancé (then boyfriend) to attend an annual ski trip during MLK weekend. He and his group, all/most of whom were either pretty seasoned snowboarders OR pretty close friends, were heading to Camelbak Mountain in the Poconos.
Was it the excitement of trying a new sport adventure Or was it the idea of apres ski fashion – previously uncharted territory for moi – that led me to immediately accept the challenge of downhill skiing?
I should have been googling “How Not To Fall When Downhill Skiing” or more plainly, “How To Ski." Instead, I immediately took to the interwebs. It started with a Pinterest board. Then a few google searches that may or may not have included the search terms “Gstaad”, “ski bunny style,” and “snowsuit fashion bloggers.”
WHERE DID I THINK I WAS GOING? (Friendly reminder: we were going to the Poconos. Pennsylvania.)
I first checked out Modell’s, Sports Authority type shops. I tried on “waterproof snow pants” that were more befitting for utility purposes. Baggy, wide legged. Ill-fitted. This was NOT the vision I had in mind. (For reference: that vision was more a Carlyne Cerf-styled shoot or one shot by Arthur Elgort in the 90s. COLOR. IMPACT. TEXTURE. SHAPE).
Skipping the shopping experience, I went straight to e-comm (RIP brick+mortar). The first item I purchased? Ski goggles. White with a rose gold lens. I could build an outfit around this. I checked out Moncler ski suits. And then I checked out reality because, $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.
My mom found a Nils ski jacket at a friend’s consignment shop in DC. Black and white. It fit the bill. OK, the top half is basically complete. Now to find pants.
OH THE PANTS.
As a runner, I wear running tights. But as I’ve mentioned in former posts, I didn’t always. Something about my ass hanging out in leggings reminded me of the girls in high school my mother cautioned me to steer clear of. But eventually I came around to running tights, and athleisure, and soon the idea of baggy anything seemed dreadful. So I stumbled upon ski pants, the kind that conjure up that tucked-into-the-boot look so popular in the 80s.
I turned to ebay and amazon. In ebay, I found a saving grace. Electric Blue. Wool. Stirruped. Ski Pants. They were divine, they were everything.
They were not, however, what one would particularly wear to a Northeastern US ski resort. And I, unfortunately, did not know this.
Fast forward to the eve of departure. I tried on my outfit. I snapped selfies and sent them to my family. Open ski jacket (like, who wears their ski jacket OPEN?!). Faux fur headband. Hand on hip. Oh yea because that’s a natural ski stance?? A bold lip, and electric pink nails. Priorities, check check check!
Then I received the text from Tae about wearing a helmet. And I, in all seriousness, respond “Oh I don’t need a helmet!” Delusional? Slightly.
I’m going to skip past the part where everyone in the house was 100% laughing behind my back at what I decided to wear. Instead I’ll just tell you this: They were all snow boarders. And can we just agree that snowboarders have a cool factor of about 3832798372932 in their baggy brightly colored outfits? As much “duuuuuuuude” as the skateboarders I longed to be like in high school, with their JNCO jeans and candy raver wide legged pants. I did not look cool. I looked ridiculous.
We got the mountain, and as if my outfit isn’t bad enough, at this stage I also didn’t have proper footwear (but then again WHEN HAVE I EVER – ask anyone who knew me in college). So I am wearing black Uggs. With my electric blue pants. With my faux fur headband.
You can take the girl out of Staten Island…
I had signed up for rentals – helmet and boots (“excuse me, do you have these in black,” I thought to myself as the clerk handed over an ugly, scuffed up pair of clunky grey and red boots “Or perhaps Louboutin red?”). The helmet was black, and it was a snowboarder helmet, not a ski helmet (there’s a difference!).
I looked around at everyone else at Camelbak. Tae said to me, “do you see anyone else here wearing pants like that?” I didn’t. But I’ve also never been one to do anything because everyone else is doing it. (Like mom said, if everyone is jumping off the empire state building, are you going to also? Lesson learned, mom!).
I took a half day lesson since I DID NOT KNOW HOW TO SKI. I fell a bunch of times so I soon also learned that wool ski pants are indeed best left to the experienced jet set who don’t fall down because guess what, WOOL ABSORBS.
Silver lining: it was very easy for Tae to find me in the crowd with my blue pants.
Hands down, I was SUPER uncomfortable. The mid-day apres experience beer and cafeteria pit stop did not have the sartorial ski crowd I was hoping for. Where were the fireplaces and log cabins? The hot toddies and bloody marys? (I didn’t know this at the time, but they are in Deer Valley Utah where I’d visit 2.5 years later on a super fab trip where blue pants are de rigeur.)
That was my first-ever experience skiing. I spent that first winter on the bunny slopes, practicing feverishly any chance I could get. I fell off a lift during a lesson; I’ve compromised Tae (and his snowboard) far too many times in the process of disembarking. I think I made it down my first green by the end of the season.
I also bought myself proper pants (North Face Summit line has fabulous shell pants that I’d layer over my Nike fleece lined tights) and a helmet (a white Giro type). REI became my go-to for most of my needs and they all served me well into the 2016/2017 winter seasons. I even found a pair of Salomon ski boots on sale in my size.
Then last year Tae and I were invited to Deer Valley. I knew we’d be in the company of experienced skiers. I had just bought myself an on-sale SuperDry jacket that I had been eyeing for some time. I invested in another pair of ski pants (in a deep brick red – I can’t get into color for my day to day wardrobe, but there’s something about sports and color that work for me). I stocked up on Uniqlo’s fleece lined heattech turtlenecks (fitted, chic, and warm AF). I bought a pair of Sorel Fawn snowboots (in offwhite/cream) after being talked out of Moonboots. On that trip, I also conquered (read: survived) my first black diamond.
Slowly, I’ve curated my winter wardrobe and have found my style. The color, impact, texture and shape I hoped for when I first set out to ski has slowly made its way into my selection, albeit in a slightly more edited assortment.
While those blue pants and fur headband may be on hiatus, they haven’t been thrown away. They’re waiting patiently for the log cabins and fireplaces that do exist… in a little town called Gstaad.
ADVICE & TIPS: WHAT I WISH I KNEW & WHAT I LEARNED ALONG THE WAY
- SKIING IS $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. Invest in the basics and the things that will make your life and experience easier. If you can get them used, go for it. A basic coat and one pair of pants to start. Uniqlo, Superdry are great places to start. More and more brands are introducing stylish and affordable winterwear - like TopShop! REI’s outlet and Ski&Sun are also great resources. You shouldn’t have to pay full price for anything unless for some reason you need the newest/latest designs.
- TAKE LESSONS AND TAKE THEM FREQUENTLY: I think I took at least three lessons in my first winter within 3 weeks or so of each other. Drilling it in helped to set it in. Now, I try to start each season with a lesson, to reinforce what I forgot and to teach myself something that I struggled with the season prior. (This season it’s how to start on a steep descent)
- DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU: If you know your hands get cold, use mittens. Don’t worry if someone tells you “that’s not what skiers do”. You’re not a skier yet! You’re learning. As long as what you’re wearing allows you mobility, safety, and comfort, you’ll be fine. I put off mittens for the longest time until I spoke to a resource at REI who told that ski mittens do exist and that he uses them because his hands stay warmer (we already know this: your fingers will create more heat if they are next to you. #science)
- GET OUT WEST, IF YOU CAN: Falling on snow is actually fun and doesn’t bruise you like in the northeast. I am a firm believer that a black diamond on the west coast in good conditions is easier than a blue on the east. The powder will change your perspective; it will also eliminate your fear.
- ACT LIKE AN ATHLETE: Before and after, don’t forget to stretch. Hip and quad strengthening exercises will only help you. Fuel, and hydrate.
- EAT LIKE A RUNNER: Eat a big breakfast; refuel with a significant lunch. Carb load for dinner. A shot of fireball in your coffee.
Ok maybe runners don’t do that last part - that’s why this is called off season! And on that note I'm off to my first apres. Spending this holiday weekend in Lake Tahoe!