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FASHION : Dress Warm but Look Cool on the Slopes : Forget neon--earth colors are in. And spandex pants won't protect you from the cold like one-piece suits.

March 10, 1994|KATHLEEN WILLIAMS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

So you want to get in some spring skiing, and you need to know what to wear. Yes, clothing is a vital part of your outdoor experience. As a novice, you will want to learn not only to use the right ski terms, like schuss, and possibly Mayday --which will impress your friends only moderately--but to look right as well.

Indeed, if you're going to be conspicuous by falling down instead of traversing or Christy-ing, or whatever else it is you originally set out to do--you will want to be correct in the way you dress. At least you will look cool on the lift. Which is half the battle, as every fashion-conscious outdoors person knows.

So, this week's column will put you in the right outfit. Of course, you can go to the thrift stores and get 1989 Day-Glo ski wear, but it will make you look like a geek; and if you wanted to look like a geek, why are you reading a fashion column to begin with?

Here's the drift:

First, we recommend getting one of those new cow hats, which will give you a laid-back image. And those horns and ears are certain to slow you down in the wind.

Or, if cows are too pastoral, there are buffalo and raccoon hats, which offer more of a wilderness experience. These are distinctive too, especially if you're buried by an avalanche with only your headgear showing. Rescue workers would almost surely dig you out first, just to check the rest of your outfit. Not that avalanches are common on bunny slopes; but, why not be prepared?

Next, it's important to decide which look you want. The main choices available to the female skier are the technical and the foofoo looks, according to Jay Straky who works at Circle Ski & Sports in Westlake. Most people like one or the other, not both, she said.

The foofoo skier will favor things like fake fur trim on parkas, burnished silver buttons, iridescent aqua or pink jackets. She will also wear spandex pants rather than the warmer one-piece suits.

"They think the one-piece makes them look fat," Straky said.

On warmer days, stretch pants and jacket are comfortable on the slopes; but if it's windy or snowing, they can ruin a skier's day. Some foofoo people will stay in the lodge rather than go bulky, Straky said. Others break down and switch to technical.

"I see more people going to the one-piece now; husbands and boyfriends don't have much patience if you are always whining that you're cold," she said.

Besides these looks, there is the Michelin Man look, which is technical taken one step further. This look was identified by Pam Creasy of Sport Chalet in Oxnard, who said a heavily padded outfit is popular with some skiers, but basically on its way out.

"There isn't as much fluff in insulation the last couple of years," she said. "The technology is getting better and better."

Another popular feature with some ski wear customers is Gore-Tex lamination and sealed seams, several retailers said. This refinement was invented for hard-core mountaineering and makes fabric completely waterproof. Those who buy it for skiing are probably the same people who have home generators and cyclone insurance.

The same crowd may be the main consumers of battery-operated warming gloves, which we saw on display in the three-figure price range.

Other ways to spend extra money on ski wear include designer outfits, with prices that peak in the low four figures.

Straky compared these labels to vehicles. "Kaelin would be the Jag; Bognar, that's the Rolls Royce. Obermeyer would be the Cadillac," she said.

There are plenty of Ford outfits as well, selling in the range of $400 to $500. But bargains can be found for less, she said.

The clothes can last decades. But you run the risk of being out of color sync. For instance, until a couple of years ago, neon dominated the scene; now it's considered, well, geeky.

"It's all becoming more earth tones," said Chris Tolley, former owner of Ski Hut in Camarillo, which closed last week. "Probably in another three years, who knows--heaven forbid that we'd go back to Day-Glo. It kind of reflects the mood the country's in; right now they are back to basics."

So, that's what's in. And if you want something that won't go out, it'll be hard to find.

Our best advice for those who want permanence in ensembles is to stay off the slopes and take up cross-country instead. Those skiers appear to have more style tolerance.

Seen on the Nordic trail this year by our informants were skiers in jeans, wool knickers, U.S. Navy-vintage bell bottoms and sweats over thermals.

Only about half are in trendy spandex, said John Rupp of Great Pacific Iron Works in Ventura.

"They tend to be a more woodsy type of people," he said.

Tolley, an alpine man, describes the group as "nature Nazis." From a retailer's standpoint, they are not a good bet. Even those who want high-tech clothes are "ones," he said, while most downhill people "would own three or four jackets and two pairs of pants."

There you have it. But, like we said--our readers are the fashion elite of the county. So, go ahead with your color-coordinated shopping, and check this space next fall to find out what items to replace for '95. SCHUSS!

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