Skiwear Goes from Bland to Bold

by Louise Hudson

For many downhill decades skiwear has been all about plain colours, perhaps two-tone, but nothing too flashy. A few snowboarding brands have kept the groovy 70s look going but generally, manufacturers have played it safe, going the utility route. However, the time for technicolour is today, and several skiwear designers are spearheading hectic hues and punchy prints – you’ll never get left behind in a whiteout!

Alchemy of Ride is a quintessential Canmore concept, care of artist, Lynne Harrison, wife of Crazy Canuck, Dave Irwin. Launching her local landscapes on biking gear was an advance apprenticeship for skiwear which she started selling last season. Now available online as well as in shops like Whistler Village Sports and Wilson Mountain Sports in Lake Louise, the riotous range is all about multi-coloured mountainscapes, emblazoned all over jackets, pants, base layers, and neck warmers. “It all comes from my original art,” says Harrison. “Each section of the jacket and pant is individually sublimated (screened) before being sewn together in a way that the pattern is continuous throughout the garment. This is a very time-consuming process.” This is one reason for many other ski manufacturers to avoid complex printed patterns: “It’s not like solid colour jackets, which require only cutting and sewing and no matching,” says Harrison who produces just 15 of each dazzling design. Alchemy of Ride is for both men and women, with sizing ranging from extra small to large.

Sport Obermeyer, on the other hand, produces large runs of its internationally-sold skiwear but has still managed to combine a good selection of simple all-over prints in recent collections. Based from Aspen, Sport Obermeyer has been run by Klaus Obermeyer (now 98) since 1947, making ski clothing for women, men and kids. This season’s Apricity is available in ‘Oblivion’ print – an abstract blue, black, white and pink with matching pants – and the Devon Down Jacket will definitely stand out on the slopes in ‘Pinks in Posy’ floral print. There’s also the Hadley jacket, distinctive in black-and-white Honeysuckle print. Several of the pants are also patterned, including the women’s Harlow which comes in Pinks in Posy and Honeysuckle, enabling a printed top-to-toe look. The women’s printed Clio pant comes in blue-and-white floral or tartan. There are no prints in the men’s range – yet – but teens’ and children’s ranges are more daring.

Obermeyer retailer, Altitude in Big White, stocks some of this range and is also home of the white pompom Big White toque. “The toque began in the winter of 2013/2014 when our VP, Suzy Bennett and retail manager, Elle Bennett came across an old ski photo where the skier was wearing a toque with a pom,” says assistant manager, Natasha Kelly. “For years, they hadn’t seen the pom and Suzy decided that she wanted to be the one to bring it back. It took months to design and they had a lot of back and forth over the size of the pom – they eventually settled on the current size because it’s as big as a snowball.” Since that first run of six colours, 100 of each, the shop has sold over 65,000 Big White toques in 82 different colour combos.

“It has been seen – and imitated – all over the world and we are extremely proud to be the original,” says Kelly. “The colours have definitely been a huge factor, we have a colour for everybody and over the years our striped ones have grown in popularity and designs.” Popular printed accessories this season include Spyder and Bula neckwarmers and balaclavas in technicolour tie-dye. Another collection racing off the racks in Big White this winter is Newland, an Italian brand which specializes in black-and-white printed sweaters, onesies, and baselayers. With a contemporary sport-meets-luxury theme, they cross over from slopes to après. “Whilst a lot of the styles are black and white, the prints are everything from simple snowflakes to gorgeous swirls and patterns,” Kelly describes. “Men and women are loving the complimentary fits and our sales have shown that people are loving the European influence.” In their sister store, The Rider, patterned 80s retro from Quiksilver and O’Neill is trending.

Kari Traa is another brand breaking boundaries with baselayers, printing merino wool with Norwegian motifs. Olympic freeskier, Kari Traa founded the company 15 years ago with the inspiration to create colourful designs, integrating traditional Scandinavian detail with fashion-forward flair.

It’s not just jolly jackets, printed pants, and wacky onesies, though. Prints are expanding to ski luggage – for example, Dakine’s roller bags, backpacks, ski and snowboard bags and accessories available in a wide range of prints and patterns. There’s even fancy footwear for après ski these days – for example, BEARPAW’s tapestry-printed waterproof Krista boots for women, with thick, non-slip soles and furry lining – part of the NeverWet range. Bos & Co’s Holland and Gabriella women’s boots – waterproof, merino-lined and warm to minus 25 C – are available in bright red. And their Asportuguesas ‘City’ range of après-ski slip-ons for men and women sport wool uppers and cork/rubber corrugated soles in colours like yellow and lilac.

While no-one seems to be purveying patterned helmets yet, Helmet Huggers is hogging the hills with its brightly-coloured printed helmet covers. In an assortment of patterns, textures, and fur trims, the ‘huggers’ – for men and women – stretch over the helmet, hook onto the back, work with goggles, and totally cover up the humdrum helmet beneath. As founder, Melanie Stern says “they turn drab to fab”!

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