Uninformed on uniforms?
Polling Places: Ever wonder how much rope patrollers string up at resorts on an average day? Does your ski boot chafe your ankle, and no one seems to be able to tell you why? Want to know why your favorite trail hasn’t opened this year?
Submit your snowsport-related questions to The Weekly Ski Poll, and we’ll find the answers for you. Send questions to email@example.com, fax at (970) 668-0755 (ATTN: Ski Poll) or call (970) 668-3998, ext. 237. Make sure to include your name, address and phone number. We’ll select a different question each week and run the answer on Friday.
This week’s question: A couple years ago, Copper Mountain changed their ski patrol uniforms from red to yellow. Why?
Answer: Copper Mountain’s ski patrol switched its uniforms five years ago. At that time, according to spokeswoman Beth Jahnigen, the resort looked at survey data that said most guests on the mountain were wearing red coats.
“It was a visibility issue,” Jahnigen said. “The yellow really is better in flat light.”
The color decisions for resort uniforms are far from a fashion statement, though, resort officials said. Employees are well aware, and visitors can quickly note, that a resort’s divisions’ uniforms are color-coded. At Breckenridge Resort, for example, uniforms are red for patrol, royal blue for lift ops, red for guest services and yellow for ski school. The colors help employees stand out and make them easily recognizable.
“Our special events staff picked a lavender jacket – something to set them apart from the other departments and still stand out at their event,” said Keystone Resort spokesman Mike Lee.
At most of the resorts, ski patrollers design their own uniforms. Patrol work means the uniform is the office, and patrollers require durable gear that can hold all their radios, knives, and first aid kits. And with 5,000 employees to outfit each year, Vail Resorts must make economic decisions about uniforms. Clothing must not wear out quickly – at the seams or in a fashion-sense.
“We try to pick bright colors and not colors that are too trendy since we use our uniforms for several years and don’t want the colors to look dated or out of style,” said Breckenridge Resort spokeswoman Dawn Doty.
The choice of uniforms also means big business for manufacturers. Spyder provides most of Vail Resorts’ gear, and companies are currently bidding for a new line of uniforms at the ski areas. Next season, employees and visitors in Summit County will see new threads at Breckenridge and Keystone, except for ski patrol uniforms.
“We re-evaluate the colors each time we get new uniforms – about every three years,” Doty said.
A bit of ski fashion history
Choosing ski patrol and other resort employee uniforms might not be a matter of haute couture, but fashion (whether we admit it or not) is a big part of dressing to hit the hill. In fact, some credit fashion with keeping the sport alive.
In recent years, snowboarding has revolutionized snow fashion – baggy pants and hats come to mind.
But in the 1950s, it was skiing’s Maria Bogner who brought sex appeal to the sport. Bogner, a German who had an established skiwear brand, began cutting flattering pants from a new stretch material, Helanca, in 1952. The stretch material quickly caught on, replacing the historic, water-tight gabardine pants of yore, especially with the racing crowd.
Ski film-maker Warren Miller said, “I credit the growth of skiing during those years to Maria Bogner and her invention of stretch ski pants. Let’s face it – sex sells. Anyone who was in reasonable shape could put on a pair of her stretch pants and look as sleek and attractive as someone in a James Bond movie.”
Bogner died in Germany the week before Thanksgiving last year. She was 88.
-with information from Skiinghistory.org
Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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