March 2008

High fashion on the ski trail

By Suzanne Strazza

Dear Suzy-Q,

I am new to cross-country skiing and desperately want to fit in. As the county’s number-one fashionista, what is your opinion on proper attire for crosscountry skiing?

Since I can’t ski, I need to at least look good.

Signed, The Snow Bunny

Oh, woe is the person who flounders in both the snow and the closet.

You came to the right person, because, as you rightly implied, I do always set the gold standard for looking good and never making a fashion faux pas.

Recently, I have noticed that skiers at Chicken Creek run the gamut for ski wear. For those of you unfamiliar with Chicken Creek, it is the Parisian catwalk of the cross-country world. From recent observations, I will attempt to point you in the right direction.

Obviously, there are two sets of skiers out there, Diagonal and Skate, and I will address each separately.

Diagonal, or classic

The moniker, “Classic,” says it all. Think Navy Blue Blazers, Khakis, Hunter Green, the Little Black Dress. Slightly boring and certainly not flashy (or tacky, as my mother always said). Never trendy and most importantly, never revealing.

You see the same choices on diagonal skiers. Even gear companies set the tone by designing boots and skis in colors like. . . gray. But, when I see a blue blazer and pleated khakis on a handsome man, or even worse, a woman, my first thought is, “Good god, you look like my grandmother – live a little!” Same thought passes through my brain while on the ski trails. Tan corduroy blazers belong in a thrift store, as do tan corduroy knickers.

We know that, generally, diagonal skiers are not thrill-seekers; rather, they are plodders. Out to enjoy the scenery with a friend and a dog, they are no speed demons. This approach to skiing is blatantly apparent in the oversized, patched, threadbare forestgreen anorak, gators and pink acrylic scarf that your grandmother knit when you were in sixth grade. While wearing pink should be acknowledged as a positive step towards livening things up, Barbie pink, especially on a man, is a misguided attempt.

If, like many classic skiers, you are afraid to stand out, start small with color; perhaps a key chain or your tshirt which lies beneath 15 other layers even when it’s 55 degrees outside. You could incorporate color with practicality and use a purple sharpie when writing “left” and “right” on your skis. And your boots.

To sum it up for classic skiers, here are a few pointers:

• It’s okay for your mittens to match.

• Synthetic fibers do have a place on the trails; swap out the denim and fuzzy alpaca for some poly-pro or fleece.

• Bula headbands make great hamster bedding.

• Long underwear is not an outer layer.

• Gators do not improve your skiing (particularly on groomed trails).

Now, for the inner skater in you. . .

I have a friend who recently brought skating attire to my attention. He, single- handedly, is attempting to revolutionize skate-skiing fashion (or at least bring it into the 21st Century). But, we must question, is mustard brown the direction that we want to take this in? Although you’ve got to give the guy credit for getting out of lime-green Lycra. Climbers figured out that at all times, tight, bright Lycra is a bad look, so why haven’t the skaters gotten it?

One day, while cruising Chicken Creek, my 10-year-old asked, “Mom, why is that guy wearing a luge-suit?”

Good question.

Of course, it does say something about a skater’s approach to the sport. Speed and grace are essential. Working up a sweat is higher on the agenda than taking in the scenery. Chatting with friends is next to impossible when you are gasping for air. And I do understand that gators and jeans might not be as aerodynamic, but isn’t there a middle ground?

As an aside, perhaps if I could put two strides together on skate skis without landing on my face, I too would like drawing attention to myself.

Here are my pointers for those of you who glide so well:

• Head-to-toe matching, under any circumstances, is a very bad idea.

• Neon went out with Duran Duran.

• Tassels are for cats, not for hats.

• Do not fear natural fibers or the color black.

• Tight tights might make you jump higher and go faster, but does that really matter at Chicken Creek? This is not the Olympics.

• Unsightly panty lines are just that – unsightly.

I will say, though, that if you are a man with an especially fine derriere, you may ignore the tight tights rule.

Now, Hunny Bunny, perhaps I have put the fear of God into you and you worry that you will never live up to the high standard that I have put before you. Do not hide under your bed. Do not dive headfirst into a snow bank in shame when we see each other on the trails. For I will tell you a secret.

My nickname at home is “Grinch – ass,” due to the sags and bags on my backside from multi-layered poly-pro. But I figure what I can’t see doesn’t concern me. I wear a green angora mitten along with a red fleece glove that clash brilliantly with my pink jacket. To boot, I ski with two poles, but only one basket.

Most importantly, I scrape my clothes from the floor where I left them in a sweaty wet pile the night before and put them back on my body day in and day out. Why wash what is going to get dirty again, right?

So whether you skate ski or diagonal ski, looking good will be a perpetual challenge. Keeping up with the trends is very important if you want to be taken seriously. From year to year, as fashions change, you can always check back in with me for an update. And most importantly:

Do as I say, not as I do.

Love, Suzy-Q

E-mail me with your burning questions at

The fashionable Suzanne Strazza writes from Mancos, Colo.