- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 30, 2006

Style and substance collide on the ski slopes. It’s one of the few places where every piece of clothing on your body simultaneously makes a statement and serves a purpose. Here’s a glimpse at what the pros are wearing at three mountains:

St. Moritz, Switzerland, wears Prada’s brand-new Freestyle Collection.

The look: Prada puts the pros here in a dark blue outfit with a single red stripe on the chest to break up the color, as it does for the instructors in Megeve, France. For those in Selva di Val Gardena, Italy, however, Prada outfits them in yellow with a silver stripe.

Miuccia Prada has final creative say for the ski gear just like anything else produced by the brand, but the emphasis is on the technical details, according to the company. The fashion elements are the small touches, such as leather around the zipper or fox-fur trim.

The details: Uses a Taslan nylon fabric with padding. Prada says the parka and pant are waterproof, comfortable and breathable — important traits for skiers who are sure to work up a sweat but then face a fast cool-down. The pros also get a lighter-weight jacket made of ripstop nylon, a fabric that Prada uses often in its fashion collections.

What the pros like: A special pocket for a first-aid kit on the bottom of the jacket, padding on the shoulder, and an avalanche protection system — essentially a tag in the sleeve or trouser (like that white plastic security tag that department stores use) that will allow rescuers to find lost skiers. The system, produced by Recco, uses harmonic radar.

What the rest of us get: The next generation of this collection — after tweaks are made based on the ski instructors’ comments — will be sold for 2007-08. (Retail prices are unavailable because the line is not yet available to consumers.)

Aspen Mountain in Colorado wears RLX Ralph Lauren.

The look: In the fashion world, Ralph Lauren often offers the elegant and understated alternative when fellow designers embrace bells and whistles. Same thing goes on the slopes. The uniforms created for the Aspen and Snowmass pros are just a bit more sleek and chic than what everyone else is wearing. True, the outfits might not be as fashion-forward as those on the backs of other skiers in this very style-conscious community, but they get the job done.

The details: Designers worked with Gore-Tex and others to make breathable, soft and waterproof fabrics for the outer layer. But, thanks to Ralph Lauren’s fashion roots, the colors chosen could stand up to being in the sun, snow and other elements for 150 days. The company says it didn’t want a red jacket in December to become a pink one by March.

What the pros like: RLX brought soft shells to Aspen, which help keep out the wind, and they’re worn with lightweight puffer insulator pieces. The multipiece system aims to deliver flexibility regardless of the forecast.

What the rest of us get: The Aspen Instructors Jacket is a version of the pros’ jacket that’s available to the public. It’s without the logo and offered in different color combinations. Some RLK ski wear in stores is made of lighter-weight fabrics. On the Polo Web site, the men’s Instructor’s jacket is $595.

Mount Snow, Vt., wears L.L. Bean’s Mountain Pro line.

The look: In traditional New England, you get what looks like a traditional ski jacket. The top of the jacket, covering the upper arm, collar and chest, is one color; a thin stripe of another color runs just beneath; and a third color covers the body. The instructors’ color combination, for example, is silver, green and royal blue.

The details: The pants and the shell of the jacket are waterproof and windproof Gore-Tex laminate, and all the seams are sealed to keep out wind and wet snow. Primaloft is the jacket’s insulating layer. It’s a synthetic version of down that maintains down’s light weight, adaptability and warmth but is also moisture-resistant. (RLX also uses Primaloft, and almost all serious outerwear makers use Gore-Tex.)

And, although it might seem counterintuitive, zippered vents in the armpit allow the fresh air to flow when a skier gets warm. A gentle cool-down might prevent getting cold later — after clothes get saturated with sweat and the physical activity slows. What’s underneath? A Polartec 200-weight, long-sleeve fleece jacket.

What the pros like: A Neoprene lumbar pad built into the jacket keeps the back warm and cushioned on long chair rides, and bib-style snow pants held up by suspenders.

What the rest of us get: Aside from the mountain-specific color-ways, the entire Mountain Pro collection is sold to consumers via L.L. Bean’s Web site or catalog. The men’s jacket costs $249.

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