Friday, February 22, 2013

Electric ski suit fails to create big buzz on the slopes

Outdoor writer Mark Taylor stands out among drably attired skiers in his vintage Descente ski suit.

Kyle Green | The Roanoke Times

Outdoor writer Mark Taylor stands out among drably attired skiers in his vintage Descente ski suit.

Mark Taylor Mark Taylor is outdoors editor at The Roanoke Times.



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BEECH MOUNTAIN, N.C. -- It came along before "Hot Tub Time Machine."

It came along before Totally 80s Weekend.

It came along while I was digging through a closet at my brother-in-law's house for a rain jacket during a visit to Virginia Beach.

What came along was the Suit.

The Suit is electric blue, with pink and yellow highlights.

And shoulder pads.

Incredible, beautiful, wide shoulder pads.

It is a Descente ski suit, one that perfectly represents a bygone and glorious era of ski slope cheesiness.

And here it was, hanging in my non-skiing brother-in-law's closet.

"This is the greatest ski suit I have ever seen," I said. "I'm taking it."

Being a generous brother-in-law who doesn't ski, he shrugged.

The suit then hung in my closet for several more years.

I waited for good timing to spring the suit on the unsuspecting, drab-clothes-wearing skiing public.

The movie "Hot Tub Time Machine" kind of messed things up.

When they went back to the '80s, the time-traveling skiers in the film brought attention to that brightly colored ski attire of the era.

I'd been scooped by Hollywood.

The movie gave legs to ski area flashback events, including Beech Mountain's Totally 80s Weekend, which debuted last year.

The event returns this weekend at the small ski town near Banner Elk, N.C.

It just so happened that photographer Kyle Green and I were headed there this week for a feature on the resort.

It seemed as good a time as any to debut the suit.

No heads turned when I walked in to the group sales office on Wednesday morning, but at least the woman who greeted me at the counter appreciated the Suit.

"I like your suit," she said

Of course she liked it.

The woman was Talia Freeman, the resort's marketing director and one of the key planners of Totally 80s Weekend.

"If you wore that thing this weekend you would have a really good chance of winning the costume contest," she said, nodding in awe. "The top prize is $500."

Too bad I have another assignment Saturday. My only prize would be the admiration of my fellow skiers on this non-retro day.

Besides, it's not a costume.

It's a legitimate ski suit. Right?

I met Kyle and former Roanoke Times staff shooter Sam Dean at the ticket window.

"That thing is awesome," said Sam, who's now a full-time freelance photographer. "But the helmet kind of ruins the look."

I kind of knew that.

In the '80s no one wore ski helmets. I would have looked much more '80s wearing a jester hat.

But that would have also given the appearance that I was trying too hard.

The helmet and relatively modern skis might provide a little doubt about my motives.

Was I trying to be funny?

Or not?

A man standing in the ticket line turned my way.

He looked at the Suit.

Then he turned away.

His expression did not change.

We rode the lift to the top of the mountain.

Sadly, the Suit did not transport my skiing ability back to the '80s, when I fearlessly bombed down the mountain. Instead I skied like a 46-year-old with sore knees.

During a break I spotted a drably dressed woman on the lift, looking at me.

I expected her to turn and whisper something to her friend. Something like, "Look at that kook."

But she just turned and looked ahead, blankly.

And so it went.

There were no whispers.

No sideways glances.

No comments like, "Dude, that is the raddest, most righteous ski suit ever."

Was the Suit not rad and righteous?

Or were the skiers at Beech Mountain just too polite?

Not that it matters.

While I wore the suit for its looks, by the end of the day I had discovered something else: It was the most comfortable, functional ski outfit I'd ever worn.

It really wasn't a costume.

It's a legitimate ski suit.

One I still think is totally rad and righteous even if no one else does.

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