Telski's Closing Day: Dress (Retro) For Success

Whether you are pond skimming, shaking your tail feathers to the sounds of G Love & Special Sauce, ripping or shredding down the slopes for auld lang syne, in Telluride, doing it in high style matters. No matter where, no matter when, we dress for success – at least according to Jesse James Mctigue. This story is repurposed from a Snow Sunday column written in 2012 (but no less true today).

In Telluride, there is no single piece of ski gear more coveted than the perfect, vintage, ‘70s inspired one piece. Actually, there is — a padded Obermeyer sweater, a neon Descente pullover jacket, or a pair of Roffe slalom pants. They’re equally respected.

The point is: Telluride takes dressing for the occasion pretty darn seriously, and no where is this more evident than in the vintage, and the ridiculous, ski outfits that come out, and occasionally off, on the Telluride Ski Resort’s closing day.

Every year, I scrounge something together at the last minute for the closing day festivities and every year I promise I’ll do better the next time. The bar is continually rising and my goal is to join the ranks of closing day’s best dressed – for which there is a pecking order.

First are the entry level costumes — an ugly Hawaiian shirt, a tight pair of jeans or a flowery old-school silk shirt. These are fun, but they’re not really ski outfits –they’re just tacky pieces of clothing. They’re key pieces that, besides on closing day, you pull out and modify each year for the Chocolate Lover’s Fling or the Halloween Party.

Next are the mid-level costumes, usually worn by people who think out of the box. In the past these folks have materialized as cheerleaders skiing in short skirts, high socks, and Varsity sweaters complete with pom, poms on their poles; a gorilla – full gorilla suit — with banana in hand; and pink flamingoes. This year, I wager a few Tebows will saturate the category. These efforts deserve due credit and evoke a chuckle, or gasp, but again, are not true “ski” costumes.

The highest level, the one I aspire to, is the one that encompasses tried and true vintage ski outfits. These are not suits produced in the last few years to mock vintage ski gear; these are the actual ski suits passed down from a grandfather or mother. When you ask about the suit, the person donning it will tell you about the family matriarch who was its initial owner –how she bragged about her Stem Christie turns and wiped the wearer’s snotty nose while teaching him or her to ski on some random T-bar in the Midwest or Northern Maine.

Some vintage suits, however, don’t have such a known story. Instead, they are little diamonds found in a second-hand store on a whim while traveling through Salida, Gunnison, or Moab. You’ll never know their original owners, so you have to imagine them. Did she throw daffys? Did he ski Aspen back in the day? Did he unzip a little to show some upper chest? Or, ski without a hat — hair combed back, leaning forward, over his tips each turn?

More likely, the folks whose outfits we now don as costumes, waited in early powder lines and enjoyed great spring corn just like we do. I bet they just skied, never thinking that one day, that outfit would be classic, vintage – saved and coveted to break out on Telluride’s closing day. They probably looked similar to everyone else on the mountain in their day, just in a different color and in a different brand.

But it does make me think twice when I start sorting my gear each fall to sell at the annual KOTO Ski Swap. Which of those little pieces should I save for my kids? Which ones will, in 30 years, cause people to stop and ask, “Where did you get that? Can you believe people wore that?”

Now, in preparing for future closing days, I have two vows. One is to find my own vintage suit. The second is to start saving my gear for my kids. I might not have the authentic story behind the ‘70s inspired one-piece that I find – but, in 30 years, when my girls are donning my currently, cool and “in” parkas and pants— they’ll have the stories and the clothes.


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Jesse James McTigue

Jesse James McTigue moved to Telluride when she was eleven. She has left many times –to attend a ski academy and college on the East Coast, to travel in South America, and to teach middle school in Oakland, CA –but she always seems to return. She returned (again) in 2008, married with kids, and thinks this time it may be for real. When she’s not chasing her kids, she’s searching for sanity on her skis or bike and makes her living freelance writing, grant writing and tutoring.

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