How long has it been since you bought new ski or snowboard wear? Probably at least 18 months if you missed your ski trip to the mountains, last winter, because of closed lifts and Covid travel restrictions. So has anything changed? Or can you still wear the same stuff as in 2019?
Plus ça change, the more things change, the more they stay the same, just about sums up ski and snowboard wear. For many outdoor brands and retailers it's a roll-over season. Having sold very little during the missing ski season of 2020-2021, stock has rolled over to this winter.
What to wear? It depends on your tribe. It's still GNAR versus GLAMOUR, performance layers versus shiny bodycon pieces - and no prize for knowing which is aimed at the powder pros and which is for piste poseurs.
STYLE ALTITUDE Ski and Snowboard Wear Trend Report
It's been a chilling time for ski and snowboard wear manufacturers during the global pandemic, like an icy wind blowing down a couloir. Sadly, we hear that one major ski brand has put their hands up in surrender, and will be giving up all ski wear production in the future to concentrate on their hardware lines.
From early on this season there have also been rumours flying around about shortages of ski gear because retailers didn't order or top up earlier in the year, as they already had stock, which along with transport issues, Brexit import problems for the UK and the fact that a major ski factory burnt down in Ukraine, last year, are all feasible reasons for less product on the shelves
But maybe shortages rumours have been stoked by manufacturers, hoping for the loo roll effect and some panic buying of ski wear. It would certainly help the industry and prevent more companies throwing in the towel.
WHAT IS NEW
But enough of doom and gloom. Let's look on the bright side, celebrate the fact that the ski lifts are once again taking us up the mountains and applaud those manufacturers who are still alive and kicking, and producing great ski and snowboard gear.
Among the new lines for this winter, there's the Advanced Mountain Kit (main image left), a breathable, packable, lightweight layering system, launched by The North Face, albeit delayed from 2020 because of the pandemic. It took three years of in-depth research to create the innovative system of layers optimised to provide enhanced moisture management and waterproofing.
Also, let's hear it for Head Sportswear, and the unveiling of their new Legacy line created with US Olympic gold medallist, Lindsey Vonn (main image, right).
These two launches sum up the polarisation of ski and snowboard wear in the 2020s, with the choice of GNAR or GLAMOUR , depending on your ride tribe, powder or piste. While gnar is all about performance and function, glamour is pure form and fashion. There's no crossover, no way you'll ever catch a backcountry rider in a fashionskista's white and silver puffa.
The biggest influence on ski and snowboard clothing, this decade, is the boom in ski touring - that's bio-skiing to you Gen Zs. This is the one area of the sport that actually saw an uptick in participation, last winter, because of those closed lifts.
It explains the increasing focus on ski and snowboard wear that has super gnar performance from the labels with authentic mountain credentials. You'll find the shred cred brands using this season's buzz word 'lightweight' along with 'windproof', 'waterproof' and 'packable' in descriptions as with the latest Arc'teryx insulated jackets for guys.
But layering is key. It's no longer about wearing one big and bulky ski or snowboard jacket. Warmth is created by adding more layers, cooling down by discarding and packing them in your backpack. Down insulation is essential for that light and easily packed puffa jacket, gilet or mid-layer.
For backcountry rando riders, colours are never matching and tend towards the muted but they nonetheless are always thoughtfully combined, which is no mean feat when a ski tourer has up to four layers to consider.
Which is why there's the logical marketing movement for mountain outdoor brands to provide the whole freeride clothing shebang, like The North Face's Advanced Mountain Kit who, also, by the way, have another new range actually labelled, the Ski Touring Collection.
With their Guide, Free and Stellar systems, Stellar Equipment (image above) is on exactly the same page with every product 'part of a technical layering system', so you can buy the complete performance kit encompassing base and mid layers, insulation down puffa, outer shell jacket and pants.
Rab is another brand with established mountain pedigree to enter the backcountry world. Khroma is Rab’s dedicated ski-specific range (image above). With ultra-tough Gore-Tex, and flexible, breathable Proflex technology, the Khroma range includes shell and insulated jackets, durable pants and bibs, and gloves and mitts. The men’s ski clothing range also includes synthetic and merino baselayers, insulating midlayers and headwear.
Meanwhile, Blackyak, founded by Korean professional mountaineer, Tae Sun Kang in the 70s, is fast becoming a favourite brand with ski mountaineers and ski tourers. Their key piece, the Bakosi insulation jacket joins different cutting edge technologies recognising that while your upper body and shoulders want warmth, your back needs greater breathability, while your arms require less insulation but greater flexibility.
This more rugged all mountain gear is also appearing in resort worn by those who ski in all conditions, including white-outs, and ride hard enough to work up a sweat - or who just want to look the freerider part. As Chris Orchard, Clothing Buyer at The Snowboard Asylum comments, "Skiers and snowboarders are becoming more and more educated on higher spec clothing and the different layering systems with the benefits these offer."
THE GLOSSY POSSE
The Glossy posse's favourite colour is blue, as in perfectly groomed cruisy blues that make anyone's style look good and those bluebird days for essential deckchair time. A black run is what your non-waterproof mascara does in the too fresh mountain air. In fact, Vogue once announced that the quick answer to ski chic is 'don't ski'. The fashion bible declares: 'The cold plays havoc with your skin, never mind the chaos of your hair'.
The Glossies' ski wear is as sleek and shiny as a chilled flute of Bolly. Mandatory bodycon one-piece suits, fitted gilets and skinny ski pants are topped with a lux puffy down jacket that has a plush fur (hopefully faux) lined hood.
Also, for this winter, the fashionskista will be striking a ski pose in chunky knitwear with a folksy-patterned retro vibe, about as far from the gnar performance, sweat-wicking merino base layers as sipping a chocolat chaud at La Terrasse is from the summiting Mont Blanc.
THE ECO EFFECT
So thanks to the pandemic pause in skiing, you can wear the same ski jacket or snowboard pants from two seasons ago without anyone pointing at you like you teleported from Hot Tub Time Machine. But do you want to? Ecologically, of course, yes. wearing the same jacket for five seasons is better than chucking it into a landfill to rot very very slowly (synthetic fabrics such as polyester take over 100 years).
Honestly, though, who doesn't love new gear?
This is why eco-brands, those whose ski pants are made from recycled bottle tops and nylon fishing nets, and will self-combust when binned, deserve your green backing - and greenbacks.
Picture Organic are still bossing it with bio-based fabrics one of the most significant sustainable steps for ski and snowboard clothing manufacture, a 'game changer' according to Dave Whitlow, Clothing Buyer and Creative Director for the UK's major snowsports retail store, Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports. Instead of using products from the oil industry, bio-sourced fabrics use waste from sugar cane processing. This waste is not suitable for the human food chain and no sugar cane is specifically planted for the clothing industry. Blending with recycled polyester produces a durable fabric that uses no new fossil fuel resources.
But there's a lot of greenwashing. During the past 18 months it seems that every skiwear website has created a new sustainability page. Now, though, outdoor snow sports companies really do have to walk the talk and reduce their manufacturing and packaging footprints on the environment that is their one reason for existing. For their new Freeride line, image above, The North Face, for instance, uses recycled and bio-based materials, promoted as 'Durable, Reparable, Timeless, the only kit you'll ever need'.
The Sustainability Achievement at ISPO recognises - and rewards - these brands who make positive efforts to protect the environment in manufacturing. How long, though, until it becomes the norm and, instead, the ones who don't are singled out? ISPO, of course, took place virtually - and successfully - in February 2021. You could argue, why not virtually every year reducing the carbon footprint of all those sports gear participants and visitors who will have to traipse to Germany for the November ISPO (no longer February) in 2022?
This year's ski and snowboard wear winners were:
HELLY HANSEN Odin Infinity Insulated jacket, designed to provide reliable protection under the toughest conditions, which even without additional chemical treatment, is permanently waterproof and breathable.
ICEBREAKER ZoneKnit Hoodie, featuring knitting technology allowing for different structures in the fabric offering focused ventilation or warmth. made from 100 percent organic merino, the production being completely waste-free.
Meanwhile, ORTOVOX 3L deep shell bib pants (above) with sustainably sourced merino wool was the ISPO Gold Winner in the Snowsports Apparel segment.
PS (PANDEMIC STYLE)
Don't forget your face mask as you'll going to need it in most lift queues and on gondolas or cable cars.
High five to Buff for coming up with a practical and also eco-viable solution with their reusable tube face mask made from 95 percent recycled plastic bottles with recyclable, replacement filters, complying with surgical mask standards. The filter fits into the front of the Buff, so pull it up over your mouth and nose in the gondola, et voila, instantly you're Covid safe without faffing around for a separate face mask - or, worse still, realising you left it in the pocket of your other jacket.
Just hope you don't have to explain it IS a face mask too often to the lifties.