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Sunday, Dec. 2, 2001

What's hot on the slopes


Staff writer

According to Masataka Shiwaku of Victoria Wardrobe, a snow-wear retailer in Tokyo's Kanda Ogawa-cho district, this year "many people seem to be thinking of renewing their skiing or snowboarding wardrobes."

Up to when the bubble burst in 1991, it wasn't uncommon for people to renew their outfits every year. Then, the snow-wear market was worth 100 billion yen, now it has nosedived to just 20 billion yen.

Over at Descente, Japan's leading sporting goods manufacture, Shuichi Sano echoes Shiwaku's optimism, noting that "in November, sales were 20 percent up on the same month last year." This, he suggested, "may simply be a consumption cycle," though he offered a more tangible explanation, too. "Since carving skis came on the market several years ago, many people bought them rather than outfits."

But it's now 20 years since Gore-Tex stormed the market, and there have been few basic design or color innovations since then, except details like pockets for goggles, lift passes or cell phones. According to Shiwaku, "the keyword nowadays is quality."

Whether they're shopping for quality or style, just who are those prepared to invest so heavily in how they look on-piste? Snowboarders, for one. Although skiers are still estimated to outnumber snowboarders in Japan, boarding outfits far outsell skiwear. "Maybe because snowboarders are generally younger than skiers -- they are mainly in their 20s -- they care more about how they look," says Shiwaku.

In 1996, snow-wear sales split 63 percent to 37 percent in favor of skiers, by last year the trend has reversed, with boarders leaping into a 60:40 lead. Whoever's spending, though, the market remains in the billions of yen.

If you're anxious to blend with the fashion-conscious this season, word is that dark colors like gray and navy are still in vogue -- with jackets and pants (cargo-style a must) in matching colors especially a la mode.

But whatever your style persuasion on -- or off -- piste, skiing and boarding will forever be winter sports. Whatever you wear should always be breathable, water-resistant and warm.



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