Tag Archives: colorado

What to Wear at 12,000 Feet

Although I started skiing soon after I started walking, I had taken a 5-year hiatus until my recent trip to Telluride. My aprés-ski wardrobe strategy was pretty low maintenance, but what to wear on the mountain required a little more thought. Here, clothing crosses into the realm of equipment, where performance–or lack thereof–can affect not just the wearer’s comfort, but their safety as well.

I know of one family where the four kids were required to dress entirely for a day of skiing the night before they hit the slopes, so that each child had a distinct pile of clothing to put on in the morning with utmost efficiency.

Here’s what would have been in my pile for the past week: neon wool socks, Icebreaker merino leggings and undershirt, second Patagonia Capilene long-sleeved shirt, wool (with 2% acrylic) turtleneck sweater, polyester fleece neck gaiter, nylon fleece-lined mittens (not warm enough), a North Face nylon shell and lined nylon powder pants. Although the general color scheme has changed a bit, this is more or less the same layering strategy I’ve had since I was a student of the Snow Bunnies ski school as a toddler, with the addition of one major accessory: a plastic helmet. (As The New York Times reported in last week’s Style Section gear test, some resorts require them now.)

If this sounds like a lot of crap to put on, that’s because it is. It’s sort of ironic that what should be a simple pleasure–essentially succumbing to gravity to slide down snowy mountains–requires so much gear. And if you think ski-bums are all laid-back hippies, just engage one in a conversation about what to wear, and watch how dogmatic they can get. I thought I was going to be thrown out of Telluride Sports when the guy in the ski boot section saw my stretchy ski pants that went inside–inside!!!–my boots. No wonder I had sore shins and frozen toes. Poor circulation, he diagnosed, and shook his head. The next day I wore baggy powder pants, a sexy ski bunny no longer.

But he was right. Although this might be a sweeter photo in stretch pants, I’m not sure I would have made it to the top, and in this case, the scenery is not wearing spandex.

But there is a tension–and I’m not just talking about tight pants–between outdoor clothing companies and the natural settings their garments are designed for. Just look at that list of what I wore for a few March days in Telluride, and imagine how much clothing would be required for more technical expeditions. I’m lucky most of my ski clothes are hand-me-downs, but eventually it seems no amount of Scotch-Guard can make a worn-out shell waterproof, and many fabrics that keep warm against water and wind are synthetic and non-biodegradable. It seems a bit hypocritical to consume these materials and the resources they require for production to appreciate the great outdoors, but the companies that make these clothes do a pretty admirable job of confronting the contradiction head-on.

Yvon Chouinard, image from Malibu Magazine

Yvon Chouinard, who founded Patagonia, wrote a great book with a silly title about this very topic, and how he reconciles his roles as an environmentalist and a businessman. It’s a thought-provoking read for anyone who has ever wondered how to humanely run a business…or even simply wondered what to wear. But, the simple answer, at 12,000 feet? Layers.


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Closettour: Colorado Style

You’ve seen what I can do with wondering what to wear, so you can imagine that wondering what to pack—essentially wondering what to wear in advance, in a foreign setting—is an extensive endeavor.

But I’ve done it. I’m composing this post from an airplane that left LaGuardia just after dawn, headed towards Telluride, Colorado, an old mining town turned ski village where I’ll spend the next several days on the slopes. I think I was in middle school the first time I saw Telluride and I was totally spellbound—not just by the town’s stupendous setting (nestled in a high-walled box canyon) but by the style of its residents.

Each day, to reach the mountain, we walked through a parking lot where a bump-top Volkswagen Westfalia, with the requisite Grateful Dead stickers, was parked, it’s owner likely still sleeping inside behind the little printed curtains. Growing up in St. Louis, the coolest older sisters in my life (other than my own, of course) were Colorado-bound Deadheads, and Telluride was my first exposure to the species in their element. I was in love. 

I bought a tee-shirt from “Baked in Telluride,” where I would walk post-skiing for hot chocolate, and wore it winkingly well into high school. (Sadly, I just found this news, that the bakery burned to the ground only a few weeks ago.)  I would love to tell you I chose these memories as inspiration when I packed my bag, but it wouldn’t be true. The fact that my wardrobe for the week to come could have been pulled straight from my high school style file was entirely unconscious.

Today I’m wearing a grey cotton dress with a patchwork placket over hunter green tights and olive green Converse. (Eva—the ones you bought me in Brazil, love!) I’ve got my rainbow-blankety scarf and my pumpkin-colored Patagonia down jacket to keep me warm.

This look extends to the rest of the suitcase. From mom’s archives I’ve got ski pants—vintage navy Obermeyers with suspenders and little over-the-boot bells (incredible) and the above alpaca sweater (previously photographed in its “Christmas sweater” capacity) that I have lived in all winter. The tag reads “Horn’s of St. Louis,” so we’re really in keeping with the Midwestern-mountain-bound hippie theme. A couple New Zealand merino fine-knit undershirts made the cut as well, as did this turquoise and coral necklace.

What didn’t make the cut is equally revealing. It’s much more difficult, for me anyway, to leave something behind, than to toss it in the bag. Unless of course, that something is a pair of behemoth goat hair boots.


D&G Fall 2010 Ready-to-Wear

D&G F/W2010 from Style.com

Although they were all over D&G’s runway, and a hit at NYC Fashion Week, the only way these guys were coming to Colorado was on my feet, and I just couldn’t do it.

First of all, picture airport security. They may have tried to nab them, tranquilize them and put them in a cage. Secondly, I kept picturing myself rolling into Telluride like Harry and Lloyd arriving in Aspen—just a little overstated. I thought better to try to mix in with the locals.

So, I left my shaggingest après-ski boots at home in favor of my sister’s old Vasque hiking boots. I did however, just open my purse to find my coyote earmuffs—a gift from an old co-worker. You can take the girl out of New York…


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