Gnar V Gloss
It's a battle of the Snow Tribes in style wars with gnarly performance backcountry versus glossy retro fashion. Add a splash of colour and a dose of eco-credibility and you have the top trends for ski and snowboard wear for the winter ski season 2019 - 2020 according to the thread heads at Absolute Snow, Snowtrax and Ellis Brigham. Check out what to wear on the slopes this winter
Style-wise on the mountain, some of the Tribes of skiing and snowboarding have come together. Snowboard or ski pants? Hard to tell the difference especially if you're talking freeride and freestyle skiing. The baggy steezy influence of snowboard gear has loosened up the skiwear industry significantly over the past 20 years.
But in Gstaad, St Moritz and Aspen the word 'chic', the antithesis of baggy, is back in the style vocabulary for skiwear and, this winter, the Glossy tribe will be wearing decorated apres sweaters and stretch pants (yep, you heard right, stretch pants). The only difference between now and the 60s is the fact that in this day and animal rights age, the chic of real fur has been replaced by synthetic (and preferably made from recycled bottle tops).
Gnarlies are also Techies
It's, therefore, Gnar versus Gloss. With the rise of ski-touring and adventure backcountry skiing, Gnarlies are also Techies with ski and snowboard wear less led by style trends but more by performance, technical add-ons and eco properties. Stretch pants? Stretch underpants, maybe, for facilitating kick turns.
So what exactly are the reasons for parting with your money for gnar ski and snowboard wear? Too much gnar for one, as in wear and washing that has affected performance plus crampons tears and rock rips barely held together by peeling duck tape, especially if it's a puffa jacket that is shredding like a duck in a wind tunnel (although, note, Patagonia will fix it on one of their kit repair road trips, below).
Today's general desire to wear more environmentally-produced clothing will also make some of us think twice about what brand we buy although obviously it makes no sense to ditch perfectly good ski clothing adding more PFC chemicals to landfills, just to replace them with items made from recycled fishing nets.
Finally, there's the whole look of your outfit to consider plus how it performs that is always tricky and often takes a purchase or two to get right. Not many of us buy the whole shebang from base to mid to outerlayers all from one brand in the same season. It would make total sense though as they are designed to work together for keeping cool while making tracks uphill in deep powder, wicking sweat and, also, staying, dry, insulated and warm in a blizzard BUT it would mean outlaying a total fortune. So most of us buy a mid-layer here, ski or snowboard pants there and a jacket just because it's in the Sale.
Not only do we risk the fact that they might not perform together but also, colour-wise, we're talking a potential car crash.
Good luck walking into a bar in La Grave wearing a retro onesie
The right colour combo is still an important aspect of ski and snowboard wear however much you are in the gnar. And for a Fashionskista paranoid about wearing even the wrong shape beanie, getting the colours wrong is a scarier prospect than hucking Corbet's Couloir.
However, you never want the same colour jacket and pants (too like a ski school instructor unless that's your plan) or too matchy matchy coordination (just trying too hard). Clashing brights are, according to some, making a comeback but, all we can say is good luck walking into a gnar bar in La Grave wearing a retro onesie (unless it's the Derby de la Meije and you just ripped the descent on a monoski in which case, respect).
The heli will never spot you if you're in trouble off piste
And although keeping to ninja black does look cool (almost dare we say, 'chic'), resulting in no worries with colour combinations, it also means the heli will never spot you if you're in trouble off piste. Ditto wearing khaki in the trees. Although for the seriously chic piste-cruising Glossies this won't be a problem.
But don't just take our word for what's new and what to buy this season. We asked the thread heads, the key ski and snowboard retailers about this winter's key trends - Dave Whitlow, Clothing Buyer and Creative Director for the UK's major snowsports retail store, Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports; Mikie Kitaruth for the online snowsports retailer, Absolute Snow; and Robert Doubleday, Retail Operatons Manager and Snowboard buyer for the largest independent UK retailer, Snowtrax.
What's the general trend for ski and snowboard wear
Ellis Brigham: It’s retro, baby. This winter’s ski fashion designers have raided the back catalogues of ski fashion history and present a sexy retro-tastic look that combines top performance modern ski textiles with stand-out 60s styling. Stretch pants, bomber jackets and chic après sweaters are front and centre in new skiwear collections. Top brands like Goldbergh (above), Henri Duvillard, Schöffel and Peak Performance have all got their retro on and the results are dynamic, form-flattering and very sexy.
Absolute Snow: This season there’s been a big resurgence in the retro look. Anoraks are still growing with pretty much every brand offering a retro style pullover this season. Colours are making a comeback, the pinks, purples and oranges being great sellers so far. There also seems to be a return of 90’s brands that had vanished, now coming back stronger than ever, Sessions being one example.
Snowtrax: A big focus is what goes into outerwear for 2020. Awareness of how traditional materials are sourced has only pushed brands to move away from fur and down. Synthetic versions that perform and look the same are definitely more apparent on our shop floor for this year. Combined with cleaner production methods, brands are really looking at the details for 2020.
What's hot in terms of style?
Absolute Snow: Judging by the buzz around their stand at the Telegraph Ski Show, OOSC, above, seem to be creating a big stir, this winter. Their range of colourful onesies have been flying out the door quicker than we can get hold of them. People are getting back into the onesie style this winter, apparently, as a lot of brands are producing one-piece suits. Block colours have crept in and the colour contrast two-tone look is back. Customers are a lot more daring this time round and not afraid to inject a bit of colour into their outfits.
Snowtrax: Anoraks and bib pants are leading the way with offerings from snowboard and freestyle ski brands. Panelling and crisp colours are apparent in women's outerwear from Poivre Blanc.
Ellis Brigham: Side stripe stretch pants and black and white monochrome elegance.
What's new technically?
Ellis Brigham: The North Face Futurelight fabric, above, is new in town and is set to shake-up the dominance Gore-tex has had in the performance mountain clothing market. Futurelight delivers 'always-on' active breathability that takes comfort to the next level. It’s totally waterproof, very stretchy, soft and quiet.
Absolute Snow: With The North Face launching their own Futurelight technology and taking up a big area at the ski show this year, they aim to replace Gore-tex, which means they will be cutting ties with the most waterproof and most breathable material we know so far. Their new ultra-thin membrane has been designed to create airflow while keeping water out even through the harshest weather conditions. They have also made sure the jackets are soft, lightweight with stretch fabric which means the Futurelight series will not hold you back or slow you down.
Snowtrax: ThirtyTwo have created their own 32 Repel 2-Layer technology which hits Gore-Tex comparable levels at a much lower price point. With both 30K/30k waterproof and breathability this offers exceptional value for money as well as hitting the mark on style. This features on the Mullair jacket and the Mullair bib pants.
One brand that's bossing it for this winter 2020?
Ellis Brigham: For women, Goldbergh sets the tone with a high-impact range of retro-inspired fashion skiwear. Picture delivers a fantastic freeride look for men and women with great eco credentials. Men’s Norrøna, above, rules the backcountry with a full-on performance big mountain riding collection.
Snowtrax: Picture is still working on so many levels for us. They have the environmental box ticked, they also focus on fabric quality and they have not forgotten that people still like a pop of colour.
Absolute Snow: All things Volcom this winter. It seems that Volcom outerwear is hitting the mark with the public, ticking all the boxes. From bright colours, 3-in-1 jakcets, high tech Gore-tex jackets, camo prints and bib pants. They really do have something for everyone while keeping that quirky Volcom style we all love and know.
Is there any clothing or accessory that's game changing?
Absolute Snow: One brand has once again pushed the boundaries when it comes to environmentally friendly products; Picture, above, has produced a jacket using castor oil for this season. The Harvest jacket, above right, is the most eco friendly product in their already eco-friendly heavy range. Not compromising on the protection for your winter expeditions, the three layer stretch jacket offers freedom of movement with a 20k waterproof and breathability rating. The Dryplay Biosource Membrane is made with Pebax® Renew® technology which is a bio-based and renewable membrane made out of castor oil. It’s nice to see more and more brands doing their bit for the environment.
Ellis Brigham: The North Face Futurelight fabric is the first significant game-changer to come along for many years.
Snowtrax: Picture's Harvest jacket uses a new bio-based membrane made from castor oil. This renewable technology is part of the ongoing process Picture have started to end the oil dependency with their brand and hopefully this will lead other brands in this direction.
What effect are environmental issues having?
Snowtrax: As a retailer we are lucky because the snow sports industry and our customer base are generally very forward-thinking when it comes to the environment and their impact. This allows us to all work together to help stock brands that are offering better, cleaner products. From bigger brands like Burton, Picture, Capita and Patagonia, above, to smaller brands like Henjl, we can help push this from our side.
Ellis Brigham: Environmental concerns are increasingly central to Ellis Brigham, our staff and our customers. We make personal and corporate decisions to make less impact. This too goes for the brands we work with who are all now making similar choices. Patagonia and Picture set a very high level that we all aspire to, and The North Face’s new Futurelight fabric is one of the lowest impact technologies to ever appear in the outdoor market.
Absolute Snow: We have definitely seen a bigger awareness and more concern for environmental products being available. With brands like Planks, Picture, Patagonia and even Bro this season, pushing the eco ranges, using more recycled materials, it feels like we are moving into a more sustainable future.
As a company, we are using more recycled packing, have eliminated the plastic bubble wrap and replaced it with shredded recycled cardboard which, also, can be recycled. Still the hardest part is the continued use of plastic polythene bags for the individual items from the suppliers. But, this season, there seems to be a push for recycled paper bags which add protection; the only small problem is they don’t last too long when being carted around or when they get wet.
Here’s hoping we are not too far away from a biodegradable product being used for protection.
Your personal favourite ski and snowboard item for 2020?
Snowtrax: Ever since I viewed it in the showroom, I have been waiting for the white Rawlins Anorak, above left, from Armada to arrive.
Ellis Brigham: I love Patagonia’s Powder Bowl jacket, above right. It’s a timeless classic that lives and breathes in the mountains. It delivers reliable Gore-Tex protection and comfort in an easy-to-wear style that works well from mountain to high street. It uses recycled outer fabric so environmental credentials are high.
Absolute Snow: There are a few items this season that have made me excited to go out riding. First, the ThirtyTwo Mullair boots for two reasons. The first being that these are the most comfortable boots I have ever worn in almost 20 years of snowboarding. The amount of tech and thought put into these boots is just mind blowing. Sure, they do carry a higher than normal price tag, but there’s a good reason why. The Michelin tyre tread is just one feature that should, in my opinion be on every boot ever. Also, when you get to ride with the man himself for a week in LAAX and you’re wearing the same stuff, you can try and pass off photos of him as you!
The other item that has really graben me this season is the Bro! Shredshell hoodie, above centre. Now, the guys at Bro! claim it’s a hoodie, but it’s a lot more than just a hoodie, it’s a 10k soft shell jacket in my opinion. There’s a lot more to it than just a soft shell too, it’s made from 100 percent recycled polyester on the outershell (which comes from recycled plastic bottles) and it’s bonded with a waterproof and breathable membrane. Its fleece lined for added comfort and warmth and the price is just awesome. Basically, it’s like the awesome Chill 'n' Shred hoodies everyone knows, but, it’s a jacket… a pretty good jacket too!
One last thing that has blown me away this year are the jackets and one piece suits from OOSC. I was under the impression that those colourful onesies you see around the slopes and bars were just low quality fun items. But, I was wrong. When you take a closer look, just touching the jackets makes you realise that these are incredibly well made high tech items that have been designed to keep you warm on the mountain while adding a bit of colour to your life. The guys at OOSC aren’t afraid to push the boat out with the designs and colours used, right down to their thermals. Fancy a bit of colour this season, go check out the OOSC range.