Observations by Tricia Heywood

Since the beginning of time (my time) I’ve been a skier. Any winter that did not involve skiing is pre-memory for me.  So, I’ve pretty much seen it all – in ski gear that is. Leather ski boots, to plastic rear entry, to my new Lange ‘slippers’ with Sure Foot liners. And while I once bragged about the length and stiffness of my skis, today it’s all about shape and girth. Then there’re the clothes, from my hand-me-down matching orange jacket and pants to my blue stretch pants with padded knees (so cool) to my back-country one-piece and now everything Gore-Tex. Yes, I’ve done my share to keep the ski industry afloat.

And while I’ve been a part of this microcosm of consumerism for (ahem) 39 years, I was recently moved by how brand prolific it is. Recently while in Whistler (my mountain of choice), as if coming out of a dream, I suddenly noticed, how surrounded I was by brands. Brand names and labels covered me and my fellow ski buddies from head to toe. So I decided to count… brands that is. In a gondola lift of 4 people no less than 28 brand names were visible to me. Here goes. Helmets: Giro, Bern, Smith, POC. Goggles:  Smith, Oakley, Bolle, Carrera. Neck Warmer: REI. Jackets: Helly Hansen, Arc’teryx, Descente, Columbia. Ski cam: Sony. Gloves: Dakine, Marmot, Outdoor Research, Black Diamond. Pants: North Face, Burton, Hard Wear. Boots: Tecnica, Lange, Burton, Rossignol. Poles: Leki, Scott, Dynastar. Oh and throw in a few ‘Gore-Tex’ labels on top.

Yes, there were only four of us in that gondola… and no, none of us appeared to be duplicating any brands anywhere on our skiing bodies. Now, I didn’t ask anyone to start stripping down to their lower layers – it was cold that day. But had I, I’m sure I would have counted another 20 brands at least. And have you picked up yet that we were inside the gondola? Our skis, boards and bindings would have given us another 6 brands at least.

So as prevalent as the brands were to me during the 12 minute ride from Whistler Creek to mid mountain, I was still quietly convincing myself that brand names have had little to do with any of my ski gear purchase decisions – hey, I am a hard core skier and when it comes to my ski gear it’s all about ‘performance’.  And I can be stubborn – I don’t fall for the latest craze.  I listen to my ski buddies tell me my skis are too long, too thin, the wrong color, the wrong brand… and I usually retort with something about how it is more about the ‘skier’ than the ‘ski gear’.

That said, as much as I try not to be a gear snob, when it comes to sports gear, I like nice stuff. And, I like my stuff to perform.  What else could I have been thinking as I forked over $500+ for my red Arc’teryx jacket.  That jacket keeps me dry, provides me with the flexibility to layer, gives me room to move and when I need to let out a little steam, I can unzip one of several vents. Ahhh my Arc’teryx.

Given that transaction occurred five years ago and that jacket continues to serve me very well, I still believe that performance is key. But well truth be told, between me and this keyboard, I admit it - I am what you might call an Arc’teryx girl. There, I said it. Since the time I first put it on, something changed… I don’t know but there is something about that jacket that tells people (in my mind’s eye), “hey this girl knows what she is doing, she must be an accomplished skier.”

So I started to wonder, is it possible that like fatter, shorter, more carved skis making one ski better, my jacket could perhaps be improving my ability to glide effortlessly down the mountain, float through the powder, navigate the trees? Something to ponder…. But not sure I am willing to part with my Arc’teryx to test the theory – not just yet anyway.