The mountains in winter are inhabited by SEVEN distinct snow tribes, defined by STYLE ALTITUDE anthropologists.
Each tribe has developed different style characteristics whether through the survival of the chic-est, the brightest plumage to attract attention or the evolution of the most technically advanced. Check out YOUR Snow Tribe.
WHO: Mountains? Snow? What am I going to wear? What colour jacket? Is it still cool to have a bobble on my beanie? Should my goggles be mirrored? Are my pants too baggy? My bum definitely looks big in them, but is that in a good way?
It’s like being on style caffeine but this is how a Fashionskista's mind works. Right now, they’ll be trawling the web – and our Snow Tribes – to see what others are wearing.
They don’t need an online checkout basket at Surfdome, they need a virtual truck. Fashionskistas are chameleon-esque in their ability to adapt their style according to the resort. They have a knack of getting it, knowing how to become a Glossy or Gnarly with just a click on the credit card payment icon for the suitably encrusted Swarovski goggles or appropriately jet fan inflation ABS bag.
When crossing from Val d'Isere to Tignes, for instance, a Fashionskista will swap diamante logo sunglasses for frameless Dragon goggles before you (or a Tignes Steezy) can say, ‘WTF are you wearing?’.
Yes, Fashionskistas want to blend in but they also live to stand out and earn your style approval. ‘Where did you get that jacket/hat/t-shirt/whatever?' is music to their when-in-Val fleece-muffed ears.
But they do bring style love to the slopes that may be lacking in other tribes. Would a Gnarly really want his/her thermals to be on full display at the Olympics (see Henrik Harlaut who manages to combine the cool of Steezy with the flamboyance of a true Fashionskista) or so awesomely patterned that you could wear them to apres and, hey, you don't even need skipants?
As for finding their way, Fashionskistas are better than Techies with their latest iPhone apps – because, let's face it, a Fashionskista has an inborn GPS and could find their way blindfolded in a white out to the coolest ski shop in the resort.
A Fashionskista is anyone who has thought twice about putting last year’s jacket with this year’s pants. Whadya mean, last year’s ski jacket? Pass the Blue Tomato catalogue, paleese! And, guys it's ok to be in touch with your inner Fashionskista - style or kit wise. We know plenty of Fashionskista guys who are online right now, trying to decide on the definitive Winter 16/17 hoodie and Techie Fashionskistas whose quivers are groaning under the weight of past seasons' Skis/Boards Of The Year. Yes, you know who you are.
WHAT: This year’s anything. If someone else is wearing or riding it and looks good, then a Fashionskista has to have it. Or, ideally, wear/ride it first.
WITH: Whatever, so long as it co-ordinates, Bikinis and boardpants? No probs for the Fashionskista girls of Mammoth Mountain (top).
HOW TO WEAR: Like everyone else in the resort. Only better.
BRANDS: Anything with style and/or function and with label cred (such as Roxy, above). Clearly, not Lidl, then.
LEAST LIKELY TO SAY: ‘Extra luggage? Noooo, I just have my backpack.’
MOST LIKELY TO SAY: ‘Whaaat? My bag weighs 30 kilos? Is that all?’
WHO: Pros, reps, chalet hosts, bar staff, anyone under 30 who rides with style and ease, hence Steezies. Also known as Park Rats. Essentially good riders, whether skis or snowboard, generally laidback and comfortable in their own skins - and the one pair of (unwashed) snowboard pants they've been wearing ALL season.
WHAT: Easy on the eye ie no loud, brash colours or patterns. Easy to wear ie not tight fitting so 360s off rails doesn't mean straining at the seams. AND easy care.
WITH: A collection of beanies (yes, boys, too). Goggles whether in snow, sun, après bar, whatever. Worn East Coast style under brain bucket aka helmet (see Steeze Queen Aimee Fuller, below). Also a wrist in plaster after dropping that double back flip
HOW TO WEAR: Like you've been riding in it all season - which you probs have. This is a look that's supposed to be thrown together, but has actually taken some consideration, such as figuring out how to do triple hoods (hoodie, jacket, Thug Rug - see below) Never matchy matchy. Never shiny. And slouchy rather than baggy. Although Steeze-maester, Swedish Slopestyle rider, Henrik Harlaut (above) requested his pants in size 6XL but 4XL was the largest they did for the Swedish Olympic team uniform. Which is just as well as his pants were continually riding down, anyway.
BRANDS: Saga, Armada, 686. Volcom, Syndicate Clothing, Level 1, Brethren Apparel.
LEAST LIKELY TO SAY: 'Just bought some super rad white ski pants.'
MOST LIKELY TO SAY: 'Just bought another new beanie.'
WHO: Middle-aged and fit intermediate/advanced skiers and boarders going off piste with guides, ski-touring, heli-riding and exploring the backcountry (main feature image).
Often come in pairs know as Twin Techies: couples seen in matching brands, where the guys have all the gadgets, but the girls prefer a good-looking guide to a GPS.
Also, Pseudo Techies who buy the gear but have no idea (i.e. never been off piste).
WHAT: Technical brands with mountain pedigree (ie tested by Polar Expeditions in -30C degrees and gale force blizzards); any fibre that wicks, absorbs and breathes; any finish that is waterproof/water repellent, any fabric that is lightweight and compressible. A bonus if it's also ecologically sound ie made from recycled crushed up milk bottle tops by widowed villagers in South America paid double minimum wage..
Must-have detailing such as taped zips, inside sealable stow pockets, reinforced seams (and that's just for gloves).
WITH: Helmets (been wearing them for years), airbags, GPS mountain map apps downloaded to (the latest) iPhone, the just-released new action camera and top-of-the-range avalanche transceiver.
HOW TO WEAR: Kitted up and ready for action. Climbing harness on at all times whether dropping into inaccessible couloirs or the bar in Chamonix for apres.
BRANDS: Ortovox, Patagonia (above), Noronna, Haglofs, Arc'teryx, Scott, Mountain Hardwear, Jottnar, Icebreaker, Oakley, Rab, North Face (the more technical pieces).
LEAST LIKELY TO SAY: "Brrrr, it's cold."
MOST LIKELY TO SAY: "I'll just take my super-compressed 700-fill-power European goose down jacket out of my pocket."
WHO: Aristo old money and oligarch new money – Taras and Tatianas share high speed Swiss chair lifts. Tribal leaders: the Glossy Posse Euro Royals, piste-posing celebs, Kardashians and friends of Kate Moss.
WHAT: Fitted jackets, stretchy belts, tight and tapered ski-pants, one-piece suits, blingy shiny fabrics in black, white and metallics: gold, bronze or silver. Plus Paris (as in Hilton not France) pink for girls. Also, a private zoo full of animal prints. More catwalk than ski slope.
WITH: Fur (or faux) everywhere on: collars, hoods, trimmings, linings, cuffs, snowboots, headbands and hats. Even, would you believe, fur-trimmed Helmet Huggers. Only in America (eyes skyward).
HOW TO WEAR: As dazzling as possible with sparkling diamonds, silver buckles and zingy white ski poles. Glossies even have diamante on their S'No Queen thermals. Designer logo sunglasses or goggles are essential to avoid being style- blinded by your pals/comrades. Preferably mirrored lenses for applying your Mac balm to collagened lips on the chairlift - and that's just the men.
BRANDS: Goldbergh, Bogner, Moncler, Fendi, Spyder, Napapijri, M Miller, Ugg, Chanel, S'No Queen thermals, anything from Harrods ski department.
LEAST LIKELY TO SAY: 'I've just pulled off a triple cork in the park.'
MOST LIKELY TO SAY: 'The waitor has just pulled triple corks off three bottles of Cristal'.
WHO: Ski and mountain guides; mountaineers who ski/ board in winter; seasoned riders who never buy a liftpass but tour backcountry and ride untracked powder bowls.
WHAT: Technical, practical. compressible into backpack (or pocket). Never new-looking. Gnarlies wear favourite gear till it falls apart (and then they stick it back together with Duck tape). Layers for sub-zero conditions (or coffee breaks on exposed ridges); loose fit, functional ski pants; understated colours mixed with brights (but, understand, only for high vis).
WITH: Bandanas (also useful as tourniquet); lightweight backpacks for survial essentials including coffee, dried fruit (live a week on the mountain, no problem); wrap around sunglasses (rarely goggles because Gnarlies have mountain knowledge/sixth sense so avoid white outs, ditto ABS bags and avoiding avalanches); Duck tape to mend rips or breaks (gear or limbs).
HOW TO WEAR: With long hair (men and women), stubble (usually just the men), weathered wrinkles and dark tan. Panda eyes (although hard to tell as Gnarlies rarely take their sunglasses off even in bars).
BRANDS: Patagonia, Jottnar, Mammut, Rab, Dynafit, Mountain Hardwear.
LEAST LIKELY TO SAY: 'Have I forgotten to pack anything in my backpack for a week's ski tour?'
MOST LIKELY TO SAY: 'Yup, even got a bottle opener.'
WHO: Annual skiers who do one week every season, often with family. Always happy and full of joie de ski (well, whoopee, doesn't SKI stand for Spending Kids' ISAs?). Also gender groups (as in guys' stag or girls' hen dos). Tend to migrate in large, loud packs. 'DID EVERYONE BRING A ONESIE TO WEAR ON THE SLOPES?' 'YAY, COURSE WE DID!' 'BAH HA HA!'.
WHAT: DICKIES (Dads In Chainstore Kit): Do-it-all jacket, fleece, layers - for skiing AND commuting AND walking the labradoodle. At the end of a week has a Twat Gap (tan mark created by inadvertent gap created between goggles and helmet). MIFFIES (Mothers In Fluffy Fleeces): Matchy, matchy pastels (can also wear for school run). At the end of the week has a Bag Back from bulging backpack (one of the kids') stuffed full of extra socks/gloves/hats, cartons of Ribena and the chalet's breakfast rolls and cheese triangles for picnic lunch.
WITH: Coloured lipbalm,(so hilarious), Buff for neck, (so cosy), red nose, (meh! so forgot the sunblock). And, for parents, a bunch of kids, all in bright new outfits (so expensive, but Bella had to have that cute printed snowsuit).
HOW TO WEAR: Like it's really yours and not your friend's sister's cousin's.
BRANDS: Trespass, Surfanic, Dare2B, basically anything from TK Maxx. Thermals and gloves from Lidl. Everything else, borrowed, eBay or the carboot sale.
LEAST LIKELY TO SAY: "My jacket is so sick".
MOST LIKELY TO SAY: "My jacket is covered in sick", as in vomit ('my kid's or "mine after last night's Jagerbombs').
WHO: Older retired and semi-retired skiers and boarders (yes, they started boarding 20 years ago), loving life on the hill. That’s 'on' the hill, you whippersnapper, not 'over'. Age somewhere between 50 and 100. More lined than a groomed piste but frighteningly fit and bright eyed (depending on how many glasses of vin rouge for après).
No longer having dependents (except maybe the dog that has its own passport) they’ve swapped bus pass for seasonaire lift pass, determined to make it to over 75 when it’s mostly free. They can now spend three to four weeks shredding the white stuff (that’s snow not their hair) – or even the whole season as Geezonaires since deciding to SKI, that is Spend the Kids’ Inheritance, on a mountainside apartment.
They will be riding until their teeth fall out – or till they can no longer get off the chair lift.
WHAT: With disposable income, as the grown-up kids have finally flown the nest (or are still IN the nest so Skeezers had to do the flying), they can now afford top of the range kit (though they may not be quite the target customer that the Marketing Manager of Arc’teryx had in mind) – but, often, they wear gear that’s over 20 years old and still going strong. Like they are. They have thermals older than most Steezies. And you'll catch them on their Swallowtail or Monoski ripping it in the Derby de La Meije. Actually you probably won't. Catch them, that is.
WITH: Skeezer men always wear helmets or woolly hats (to cover bald heads); the women like Buffs (to cover crêpey necks). Never leave home without a knee bandage or brace (though touch and go whether liver will give out before knees). Often they have the full touring kit and are as evangelical about walking up the mountains – avoiding the hordes - as riding down, thus getting them closer to heaven. No, hold the funeral parlour, that's untracked snow heaven..
HOW TO WEAR: Like you’ve been skiing/boarding all your life which, er, you have. Less concerned about having co-ordination, as in colours, more worried about maintaining co-ordination as in limbs.
BRANDS: Patagonia, Arc'teryx, Dynafit, Scott, Rab, North Face – plus vintage such as Nevica and Rodeo.
LEAST LIKELY TO SAY: "Let’s do a cruise."
MOST LIKELY TO SAY: “Let’s do Chile.”