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Ski Style: Penny-Pinching Parkas

Evolution
By Megan Henry
posted: 10/18/1998

Great skiwear doesn't have to break the bank. So with budget-conscious skiers in mind, we present some of this season's best ski parkas at the best prices. We wish we could say we worked really hard to dig up some bargains for you, but instead we were pleasantly surprised to find that many of the big-name ski apparel companies offer a variety of jackets for less than $299. We opted to highlight insulated jackets and parkas instead of shells to show just how much bang you can get for your buck. While these parkas aren't as high-tech as more expensive coats, each does have basic technical features to keep you warm and dry.

So, take a look at five of the options available this season. Keep in mind that the prices shown here are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices; some ski shops offer apparel for less than MSRP.

There's a reason Columbia Sportswear ranks so high among skiers: Its outerwear is functional and reasonably priced. At $260, the women's Emerald Ridge Parka (A) is one of the company's pricier ski jackets. But you'll be hard-pressed to find something with more features for less money. The Emerald Ridge is really two individual jackets for the price of one. What appears to be a zip-in/zip-out insulating fleece is actually a separate nylon jacket. When zipped apart, both components easily stand on their own for less extreme conditions. But together, they form a complete outerwear system with powder skirt, roll-away hood and fleece- and mesh-lined pockets. Contact Columbia at (800) 547-8066; www.columbia.com.

Skiers looking for technical features at a good value should consider Descente's Alpine Classic (B)(style 8362) for $295. Instead of folding down into the collar, the Alpine Classic's hood tucks into a small slit in the lining and stows along your back between the liner and the exterior shell. This simple feature eliminates bulk around your neck. Both the chin and cuffs are lined for comfort. Underarm zip vents, waterproof/breathable fabric and a drawcord at the waist help maintain a comfortable temperature. Descente North America can be reached at (303) 790-1155.

The North Face's Dolomite Shell Jacket (left) has the least insulation of the five options shown here, but it offers great versatility for $298. And its unstructured cut makes it easy to add a layer underneath. The Dolomite's sleeves zip off to quickly turn the jacket into a vest, and the inner zipper is compatible with North Face zip-in fleeces for extra insulation. The shoulders and forearms also are reinforced with Cordura to prevent wear and tear. The North Face can be reached at (800) 535-3331.

There's no mistaking the nautical influences on Obermeyer's Navigate Parka (C)($279) from the new Sport O Collection. Complete with DuPont ThermoLite insulation and waterproof/breathable fabric, the Navigate is the perfect match for weekend skiers and sometimes sailors. Underarm zippers allow for ventilation, while drawcords at the waist and hem help maintain warmth. The mesh-lined, adjustable hood stows neatly inside the soft, fleece-lined collar. The left chest pocket features a snap-in goggle cloth, and the lower front pockets are both lined with flannel for warmth. Contact Sport Obermeyer at (800) 525-4203; www.obermeyer.com.

The choice with the most heft is Lowe Alpine's Heli Jacket (D)($299) from the Mountain Activist collection. Trust us, you will not be cold in this one. It's lined with Polarguard 3D insulation, a material used in sleeping bags. Made with Triplepoint Ceramic waterproof/breathable fabric, the jacket also features a detachable hood, a lined collar and chin guard, a two-way zipper with a double storm flap, drawcords at the waist and hem and adjustable Velcro cuffs. Lowe Alpine can be reached at (303) 465-3706; www.lowealpine.com.

Style Shorts

Though the exact nature of John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe's relationship remains unclear, one thing's for sure: The two will be immmortally bound by their underwear. Celebrity memorabilia dealer Richard Wilson paid a whopping $3,000 at a New York auction last spring for two pairs of Duofold long johns worn by Kennedy, an avid skier whose family often vacationed in Aspen and Stowe. Wilson has one pair displayed in his Maryland home-snugly next to a pink, quilted bed jacket that belonged to Monroe. "It's a little touch of irony," quips Wilson. The second pair is for sale in the October issue of Wilson's mail-order catalog, "Norma's Jeans."

The pricey long johns belonged to JFK when he was a senator. In 1953, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis used the underwear to wrap fragile glassware being transported to a Maryland antique shop to be sold. The garments remained in the possession of the antique shop owner until she submitted them to the Kennedy auction last spring.

Duofold representative Jeff Blumenfeld was sent to the auction with the express purpose of buying back the underwear. Though he came home empty-handed, company officials say they're still "quite proud" to learn Kennedy wore their product. Duofold continues to manufacture similar cotton/wool-blended long underwear today, though they're offered for a relative song at $46.

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