Friday, December 2, 2005

Playful prints pack panache

Express Staff Writer

A pony print ski suit for $45 at the Gold Mine in Ketchum. Express photos by Megan Thomas

Former U.S. Ski Team racer Chad Fleischer proved to be ahead of the trend. The downhill specialist brought the leopard-look to the slopes, wearing a blond hairdo dotted with blond spots during the 1998 Olympics.

At the time, Fleischer said he admired the snow leopard's strength, speed and courage.

The same strength, speed and courage apply to the daring skier, who boldly wears the choice of animal-influenced designs dotting this season's ski fashion.

Present fashions infuse practical winter wear with roaring prints and warm fur. The vivacious animal styles meet fashion with function for the grisliest days on the mountain.

Taking a tip from nature's friendly beasts, designers replace yesterday's Plain Jane parkas with high-tech Jungle Jane gear. The looks integrate the latest technology for warmth and comfort, with the luxury of runway style.

Fur accents are on anything and everything—jackets, vests, hats and boots.

"There is a lot of faux fur," Heather Stanton, soft goods buyer at Sturtevants, said.

The animal pelts draw on nature's sleek designs.

Fashionable slim-fitting ski pants fall away from once-popular baggy trousers. A move to figure flattering pants beckons to the once popular form fitting stretch pants popularized long ago by Maria and Willy Bogner.

"Stretch pants are starting to make a comeback," Stanton said.

This season, Bogner's winter collection sees the return of stylish pants with Jean-style cuts. The low-rise pants feature riveted back pockets and belt loops.

Bogner's fashion-forward ski pants return with beastly flair. Its winter collection includes a snake skin pant and leopard print trouser.

Leopard-print accents winter wear from coat linings to fleece mittens. Typically found as fashion accents or layering pieces, reasonably priced animal accessories abound.

Daring animal prints even stripe children's skiwear. Couloir introduced zebra stripes to its junior clothing line with a zebra print jacket and matching zebra pants.

Trend seekers may choose to slip into less exotic prints. The Gold Mine in Ketchum recently stocked a pony printed downhill suit. The black and white pattern conjures a Western feel, appropriate for powder rodeos and apres ski corralling.

The loud design trend offers skiers other hidden benefits, such as serving as a conversational centerpiece for long chair lift rides.

The bright prints also work as a safety feature. Fast skiers and snowboarders are more likely to avoid a carving cow or speeding snake.

Whatever the reason, whatever the print, dress appropriately. It's a jungle out there.

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