The Currency of the Jacket (she said)21 Feb 2011
Ski long enough, well enough, or volunteer on a hill enough and you’ll probably get a free jacket. Ski parkas act as a secondary currency in this industry. Who doesn’t want or can’t use a new ski jacket? Win a race? Get a jacket! Earn a spot on a team? Congratulations, nice jacket! Volunteer to work a race? You earned your jacket!
Until spending the winter here at The Beav, I did not know about the currency of ski parkas. But like many items of clothing, I’m learning that certain items carry more caché than others. Ignorantly, I happily received my free Descente Jacket for winning my division in the 2007 NASTAR (National Standard Race) finals, my Halti 2009 Birds of Prey Talon Crew Jacket, and my Eddie Bauer First Ascent 2010 Birds of Prey Talon Crew Jacket. Now, I realize that wearing these jackets on the hill and around town means a whole lot more than keeping warm and dry in a great parka.
My first jacket is from a NASTAR race. At the race, a seasoned racer known as the pacesetter sets a par time on the race course which, along with your age and gender and race time, is used to calculate your handicap and standing. My win at the 2007 Nature Valley NASTAR National Championships in my age and skill division brings to mind the phrase, “It’s better to be lucky than good.” Arriving at the race course, I learn that my division consists of only three women. I ski my hardest during my first run in the race and move into in first place for my division! During my second run, I hit a rut, flip over, and slide down the hill on my backside while the waistband of my ski pants acts as a scoop and packs my pants with several pounds of snow. Unharmed and still legally in the race, I pop back up. Crossing the finish line, I immediately bend and drop my pants to my ankles, dumping out the snow. I turn around, expecting to see a fellow (female) competitor behind me. Instead I see pacesetter, Olympian, and World Cup skier AJ Kitt cruising through the finish, doubled up with laughter. I still win first place (beating all two competitors) and earn a gorgeous orange jacket (my favorite color). When I meet other racers with the same jacket, they have no idea I mooned AJ Kitt during the race – they only recognize me as a fellow winner.
How did Kent and I earn Talon Crew jackets? Beaver Creek annually hosts the Birds of Prey, the only regularly-scheduled stop in America on the men’s alpine World Cup circuit (read more about our experiences on the Talon Crew here). The Talon Crew is comprised of many folks who donate their time and muscle power to this annual event. This jacket (courtesy of the Vail Valley Foundation) means the wearer worked the race and generally marks the person as a bona fide expert skier. The jacket offers the wearer instant ski credibility in this town. Plus, they’re really nice parkas! Even out-of-towners know of the famous race, and question the owner about work on the race course. When meeting other Talon Crew on the bus or at the store, the phrase, “nice jacket,” generally precedes a friendly introduction.
What’s rarer than a Talon Crew jacket in the Vail Valley? A blue Weasel Worker jacket from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics! The Weasel Workers at Whistler function much like the Talon Crew. Frequently, members of one crew will spend time volunteering with the other. I see a decent number of these jackets with the huge Olympic logo on the back around town, and I know that the folks that sport them earned these jackets the hard way (starting work at 3 am to shovel the race courses) and got to see the Olympics up close and personal. [Many thanks to Jane Macintyre for the photo. Read about her Olympic Adventure here.]
Currently, the most avant-garde items in the Vail Valley are things with the 2015 logo. Why 2015? Vail and Beaver Creek will host the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. Excited to host this prestigious event again, valley residents sport 2015 bumper stickers while 2015 ice sculptures sprout at busy venues. An official 2015 jacket in 2011 identifies you as an event insider. Oh, and if you happen to have a jacket from the 1989 or the 1999 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships held right here at Beaver Creek, your stock is on the rise. Very cool vintage.
National ski team jackets command the highest value, as they are the hardest to earn and rather rare. Members of each nation’s ski team receive unique jackets each year; they all look great. To receive a team jacket, you have to earn a spot on your national ski team. Not an easy thing! But sometimes, athletes give them away (to family, friends, significant others, their professional ski tuners, etc.) or donate them to a favorite charity. Occasionally these rare jackets show up on Ebay. I’m really not too sure how these jackets enter the marketplace, but they have HUGE caché here at The Beav. The owner of a US Ski Team jacket in the Vail Valley can probably trade it for any jacket on the market, or sell it for a nice sum of cash. [Thanks to Scott Snow for letting us use this photo.]
One word of caution – don’t plan on wearing the jacket of a national team (while skiing) unless you’re a really good skier. If you’re a good skier, you might be a retired racer, a friend or colleague of a racer, a coach, or somebody in the business who supports the the team. If you’re a rich person who generously paid several thousand dollars at a charity auction for the jacket, I doubt you’ll be skiing in it. If you’re a mediocre skier who paid $800 for it on Ebay thinking you’ll look cool… folks will actually think you should have spent your money on ski lessons instead.
The final jacket deserving mention in this post is not for sale, so it’s hard to value. The Beaver Creek Ski and Snowboard School uniform from DNA keeps instructors toasty warm on the coldest days and contains enough pockets to make your head spin (yes, there’s even one big enough for a file folder). The only place you’ll find this particular jacket is on the mountain, where you’ll hear the instructors affectionately referred to as Smurfs. We smurfs enjoy our work, work with fun colleagues, and love the wide variety of folks we teach (read about Kent’s first day on the job here). Plus, the resort and local businesses treat us really really well. A rumored bumper sticker making its way around the employee locker room sums it up, “My job is better than your vacation!”
I last purchased a ski parka in 2001. Are there gorgeous jackets for sale all around me? Yes! Is the Vail Valley one of the best spots for ski-wear shopping in the world? Yes! But, I enjoy my “free” jackets earned by racing and volunteering. They’re all great jackets, and it’s fun to mark being a part of an event. I don’t mind matching fellow NASTAR winners or Talon Crew volunteers when skiing or around town. It’s just another sign I belong here for the winter.