A Neon Sign of the Times: Slopeside fashion and function collide at The Bend Ski Club | Culture Features | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon
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A Neon Sign of the Times: Slopeside fashion and function collide at The Bend Ski Club 

One of the reasons I started snowboarding was that the clothes were way cooler. Growing up skiing with my dad in the early '90s, I witnessed an embarrassing number of ski-related fashion mishaps. My father would routinely rock the acid-washed jeans/suspenders/neon jacket/cowboy hat combo. Since most of the other skiers on the slopes seemed to follow in his fashion footsteps, I came to terms with the fact that there was no hope for me. Especially when I was forced to wear one of those fleece hats with streaming tassels on top, which served no purpose other than to whip me in the face when I turned.

Skiers seem to embrace bad fashion. It's like there's some kind of magic in the neon and mirror sunglasses. While snowboarding clothes have evolved with the times, going from baggy hip-hop wear to more hipster-inspired duds, ski fashion has lagged behind. Skiers singlehandedly introduced the world to neon and they've been having a tough time letting it die.

Last week, The Bend Ski Club set out to introduce Bend to good ski fashion with their second annual Ski Fashion Show. Based on the median age of the members, I don't know how many of those present are going to sub out their tried and true color block one-piece suits for the latest $700 jacket by Helly Hansen, but it was a good effort.

Local ski shops like Sugar, Skjersaas, Powder House and The Race Place brought their latest clothing and gear to show off to the Bend Ski Club members, who actively participated in the show, heckling models and pulling them aside to feel the fabrics and inquire about the features. The Bend Ski Club felt like a co-ed fraternity more than a serious club. I actually sat next to two guys named (according to their name tags, at least) Jack Nicholson and Jack Daniels.

However, the Bend Ski Club is the real deal. With more than 80 members, these ski junkies meet up every Sunday at Bachelor and also race weekly at Hoodoo. Monthly meetings at The Phoenix Inn include events like the fashion show as well as talks with NBC broadcasters and other ski-related activities. The ski club recently became a local non-profit, and plans to incorporate fundraisers into their winter events.

Ski Club members were responsive to the fashion show. Tad Charef has been a member of the Bend Ski Club for five years and enjoys the masters racing aspect of the club as well as events like the fashion show.

"There were more shops this year," said Charef. "I liked several of the outfits. It's fashionable."

While the on-slopes gear at the fashion show was a far cry from the blinding neon signs that used to fly down the slopes 20 years ago, another trend in ski fashion is having more difficulty being phased out. Indeed, it was present and accounted for on the runway at the Ski Fashion Show. I'm talking about "Resort Wear." Resort wear is what you see skiers of all ages wearing in the lodge, as they sit down to the first hot chocolate or beer after a day on the slopes. It looks like what your grandfather wears on Christmas - think pine-tree motif sweaters and suspenders.

It's almost comforting to know that ski fashion is still somewhat of an oxymoron. In an ever-changing world, the staid constants can be harder and harder to come by. Who knows, maybe there is some kind of magic in the neon and resort wear. I was never able to carve up a storm as well as the people that dressed like an elf drawn by Lisa Frank. It seemed that the more ridiculous a skier looked, the better he or she was on the slopes. Maybe I just need to embrace my inner neon and Christmas sweater skier. Besides, I do still have that hat.

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