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Musings on a Vintage Ski Season

April 5, 2012

Playing Ski Mum

Call me spoilt but I’m done with the ski season. Living as close as I do to the slopes, I’ve more than proved my dedication to the sport what with traipsing the kids up the mountain every day during Christmas and February vacances scolaires, freezing my butt off in blizzards during far too many Saturday trainings and – as every loving parent whose child races does – skiing boy racer’s ski jacket down slope while same-said boy hairs down slalom course sans jacket in the hope of shaving a split-second off his breakneck-speed time. Nah, there might still be some snow on higher-altitude slopes – Argentière is open until early May – but I’m a discerning, blue-sky-perfect-snow skier and I’m done.

Vintage all the Way

Weather patterns gone bonkers aside, this season screamed vintage for me. A decade ago I would quietly giggle at how easily recognizable my 70-year-old belle mère and her veteran ski companions were as they elegantly tootled down the slopes, weaving perfectly uniform curves with enviable artistry in matching pearly white ski boots that closed at the front and knitted woolly hats they’d worn since the 1980s.

Hence my bemusement this season when not one but two, three, four friends – all of that ski-bum hip, pre-kid ilk – raved about retro ski parties they’d been to, on and off piste. One had bedazzled Chamonix’s slopes with a bright turquoise all-in-one her almost-50 boss had dug out from his youth; another had rocked up at a 1980s carnage party in Morzine in a rather delightful, orange and pink two-piece picked up from Retro Rentals. Should you have the end-of-season urge, the 1980s skiwear specialist rents out all the garb in Chamonix, Morzine and Avoriaz for €10 a day, plus €30 deposit to cover damage (‘mud, beer, wine, puke, tears, burns, bullet holes, wolf bites’ to quote the company).

What with Heidi chalets and wooden Davos sledges straight out of a traditional Christmas card scene, Swiss ski resorts somehow seem to retain more of the grace of yesteryear than their French counterparts. Case in point: Belle Epoque week in Kandersteg in late January when skiers don gaiters, balloon trousers and wooden skis to recreate the understated ski glamour of the 1920s. Vintage après-ski in the shape of a tea dance might not necessarily be your cup of tea, but traditional Swiss alpine villages like Bettmeralp and Riederalp – no motorized vehicle in sight – beneath the Aletsch Glacier instantly rekindle the romance and retro-best of an era when sedate was the ski pace and when mums definitely did not ski their speed-fiend sons’ ski jackets half-way down the mountain.

For off-piste vintage ski glamour: Ponder beautiful B&W photo essays on retro ski trends in the New York Times and Boston Globe.

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