Snow athletes lend flair to slopes' fashions
By Samantha Critchell
NEW YORK — Many top-tier female skiers and snowboarders have mastered the cool-girl look that makes them style role models for anyone not interested in mimicking the Michelin man on these cold winter days.
Snow stars Torah Bright, Gretchen Bleiler, Sarah Burke and Lindsey Vonn tend to wear sleek, colorful and comfortable outfits that use technical fabrics, trendy touches and the global influences they see as they travel practically year-round in search of snow.
It's worth noting that all four women are blessed with model-like looks, big smiles and long blond hair. Outerwear companies have taken notice and are working with them as design collaborators.
Their style profiles:
"Fashion is a huge part of the snowboard world," says Bright, who is eagerly testing out a fitted, skinny-leg snowpant this season. She hopes it'll be part of her third consumer collection for Roxy, due out in the fall.
A slimmer fit, satin linings and fashion-forward details — like the covered buttons and empire waist of her peacoat-style jacket in stores now — are all part of "bringing some girl power to the hill," she says.
Karbon, the brand outfitting the Australian Olympic team, used the cut of Bright's favored silhouette for the uniform.
Bright says she's moving toward an edgier look, adding exposed zippers and magnet closures to her extensive personal wardrobe of snow gear.
The oversized hood that has become one of her signatures is needed to cover up her helmet, she explains. "My brother, me and my younger sister used to have these big red helmets that were like a clown's red nose on our head. I hated it so I decorated it, and I've been covering up my helmets ever since."
(However, she notes that she always wears a helmet as a safety precaution, even when she's doing recreational boarding.)
Another must for her is good gloves with a strong grip. She'll fill them with heat packs on cold days. Layering is the key to keeping the rest of her body warm, she says. "You can tell where I am in the world based on how many layers I have or don't have on."
Putting together her collection for Oakley could be a full-time job, Bleiler says. "I work on every single phase of the collection — materials, colors, fabrics, trims, style, fit, graphics, inside patterns. I come up with the ideas and the designers tell me if it's realistic."
She says her motto for fashion is the same one she uses on the mountain: Be tough but don't be afraid of being a woman, either. "I have a very strong opinion of how I like to look ... and it's not 'pretty in pink."'
At the Vancouver Olympic Games, she'll be wearing a Burton-designed uniform with a plaid jacket and pants that are supposed to capture the look of denim even though they're made of high-performance Gore-Tex.
When she's in charge of the sketchpad, Bleiler likes to use graphics, with words like "Love" and "Gratitude" to provide visual inspiration, and she puts a lot of emphasis on gathered necklines, which along with neck gators are what keep her warm.
This season — with her second collection — Bleiler experimented with environmentally friendly products, as green causes are near and dear to her. The T-shirts are organic cotton and made with water-based dyes, and there is both a jacket and snowpant made of 100 percent recycled material. They are fully recyclable, too — just send the garments back to Oakley and the company will have them broken down so the materials can be used again.
Bleiler says she hopes more fashion is in her future. "I would like to add more lifestyle pieces, T-shirts, sweaters and I'd love to add denim."
When Burke is competing, she wears bright colors to stand out. When she's on the slopes for pleasure, she'll be in more subtle shades so she doesn't attract attention. All of her outfits, though, have a lot of pockets.
What's inside? Sunscreen, snacks and her phone. Don't look for zipper closures, though. "Zippers are hard to handle with gloves on. I like magnetic flaps in some spots," Burke explains. "When you wear something so often, it's the little things that are important."
As for silhouette and style, Burke scours glossy magazines trying to add a little bit more "fashion" to the outdoor gear that's typically offered. She sometimes sews her own clothes but sketching isn't one of her talents, she says.
A test collection Burke designed for Roxy is being sold in Europe this season with the key pieces being a denim-style pant and motorcycle jacket. Her line is planned to expand to the U.S. next year, but since Burke hasn't yet had the satisfaction of seeing someone on the slopes other than herself in the gear, she says she'll be asking friends to try them out so she can snap photos.
Burke's off-slope ward-robe is a lot of track pants, but there are dresses in her closet, too. "I do like to get dressed up," she says. "I look forward to going out to a nice dinner or event that I get to wear a dress. A dress is actually an item of choice for me."
Still, Burke insists, comfort is a factor because that yields confidence, and that's when you look your best.
Each stop on the World Cup circuit this season has meant a new racing outfit for Vonn. She worked with skiwear brand Spyder to keep each look under wraps until a competition as a little extra way of building buzz — as if the races weren't enough.
"I think it's a great way to generate more excitement in our sport, and I'm pumped to step into the starting gate in the new designs," she says in a statement.
There doesn't seem to be a color too eye-popping nor a pattern too bold that Vonn won't wear. For example: the hot-pink, second-skin suit in Lienz, Austria, the black bike shorts over tight racing pants with her short magenta plaid jacket while warming up in Aspen, Colo.
But she also has her glam moments, such as the black-sequin Tory Burch gown on the Emmy Awards red carpet. And on Facebook, you'll find photos of her in a series of designer looks.
Fashion is a way for her to express herself and push boundaries, she explains in an interview on www.RedBullUsa.com.
Vonn also launched a contest with www.NBCOlympics.com asking amateurs to come up with her helmet design for the Olympics. She is reviewing the designs, including a snowy-night blue helmet and a red, white and blue 50-star option, and will announce the winner later this month.