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The good, the rad, and the just plain ugly ski jackets, pants, and accessories of 1989 (Volume 18, Issue 2)

In celebration of POWDER’s 45th Anniversary, we are releasing select stories from every volume. This story originally published in POWDER’s October 1989 issue (Volume 18, Issue 2)

Story by Dan Patton

Hold onto your wallets, we got us another fashion revolution. As usual, it’s bankrolled by imperialistic insects who prey upon the life of the people—in this case, the fleshy industrialists of the International Protective Eyewear Cartel—and the trend this time is Euroflash.

Skiers everywhere—and not just skiers, but everyday folk, butchers, bakers, silicon chip makers—are beginning to look like Ken Kesey’s barn. Frankly, just thinking about it makes my retinas ululate like a grieving Dinka Tribeswoman’s tongue. And I’m not the only one.

“If God had meant for skiers to clothe themselves in something other than wool knickers, He’d have dotted the Scottish moors with Spandex sheep,” says Claude “Earthtone” Brown, a world pioneer in duct-tape skiwear and author of the highly acclaimed new book, “1001 Tofu Nights.”

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In an interview over macrobiotic mineral water, Brown cited a recent study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine in which laboratory rats clad in fluorescent powder suits exhibited a rapid decline in verbal abilities and bizarre strutting behaviors on miniature ski decks. Brown’s critique of the new ski gear doesn’t faze New Wave dudes, though, who suggest that he’s been standing too close to the wood stove.

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“Earthtone fails to mention that the control rats in the study, wearing belted parkas and Birkenstock boots, also did some pretty weird things,” counters Jean “Flash” Pontmonteau of the Boulder Springs Institute for Self-Actualization in Ski Pants. “For example, after a field trip across the ice cube trays in the lab refrigerator, the control mice squeaked ecstatically about the great powder.”

Time to stop looking like a bag person

Euroflash or functional fibers? Fluoropuke or granolawear? The debate probably began when Adam and Eve schussed out of the Garden in Gore-Tex fig leaves. Skiing and fashion are connected becasuse skiers are born naked, but everywhere you look (or almost everywhere) skiers are in clothes. Climate, custom, and in many jurisdictions, local ordinances dictate that you’ve got to wear something, and these days the choices are endless. And the choices we make, my friends, can be as revealing as a wet T-shirt contest.

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What you wear tells the world what’s important to you. Are your clothes designed for the hill or the sundeck? Do they say Scot Schmidt or Beau Brummel? Does form follow function—or does their form make them dysfunctional? Most important, do they match your skis—and the floor mats in your car?

When I was a boy, good skiers were worth $50 from the ankles up and 10 times that from there down. Never mind that Levis offered the same spacious accommodations as a cheap hotel, or that they could teach paper towels a thing or two about absorption, all the happenin’ dudes skied in jeans and treated frostbitten cheeks later. Jeans said something to the stretch pant set about what’s important in skiing. (On cold wet days they also said, “This guy’s got the I.Q. of a walnut,” but principles transcend comfort, right?)

Today, the choices are easier. Advances in synthetics and design mean you can choose bright, muted, loud, conservative traditional or bizzare and still find the fabric, fit and finish to allow you to ski in comfort all day, in all kinds of weather. Don’t let those choices confuse you. Dedicated followers of fashion know that, on the hill, you dress from the shins down first. And the neighbors? Heck, let ‘em talk.

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