Once a month during the winter season, Laura McDonald, owner of Rad Max Vintage, hosts a pop-up shop at a bar named Le Chamois, at the base of Palisades Tahoe, a ski resort in Olympic Valley, Calif. The crowd there — a mix of skiers and nonskiers — comes to party, dancing to classic tunes and taking “shotskis.”
Some revelers are harder to miss than others, wearing neon or metallic one-piece snowsuits straight out of, or inspired by, the ’80s. “If I see four people in a friend group, usually three are in regular ski clothes and one is in a onesie,” Ms. McDonald said. (Regular ski clothes, for those who don’t partake, tend to be pants and jackets in neutral colors.)
But after a few drinks, those wearing traditional ski attire opt to swap their neutral clothes for the bright onesies Ms. McDonald sells. “People are like, ‘Should we try them on because they are so fun?’” Ms. McDonald said. “And then they always buy them.” In one day, she can sell as many as 40 vintage snowsuits, most of which costs between $100 to $300 apiece. They always sell out, she said.
“It used to be that people would wear them on the last day of the season” — which tends to be April or May at many resorts — or “at a frat party or bachelorette party,” she said. “Now people wear them all the time.”
This ski season, vintage and vintage-inspired snowsuits have been all the rage both on the mountain and off. Skiers and nonskiers alike are donning them to attract attention, to stay warm — and to find one another more easily. A number of Instagram accounts like @microwavesofaspen now track their popularity, and TikTok users rack up millions of views for videos showing off their goods (the louder and more colorful the better).
High fashion brands are getting on board. HEAD, the Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn’s brand, for example, released neon ski clothes with Gucci this season.
So are start-ups. OOSC, a British brand, now specializes in making retro-looking snowsuits out of plastic bottles.
Websites that sell or rent vintage-style snowsuits have also been doing brisk business. Rent the Runway, a secondhand fashion site, confirmed it rented more snowsuits this year than any before.
With rentals booked up, Tita Loyek, an avid skier and full-time content creator who lives in the East Village, finally found one at the Farm Rio store in Soho. “I got one that was so loud and vibrant,” Ms. Loyek , 26, said. On New Year’s Day, she wore it around Vail, Colo., where she said she “got compliments from everybody.”
“There are so many people who spend so much money on a cool ski outfit, and they don’t even ski,” she said. “They stay on the bunny slope and really just want to get a cool photo for Instagram.”
“I have friends who are guilty of this,” she said. “They just want the vibe.” Indeed, some ski suits don’t appear designed for actual skiing — maybe they’re too tight for long underwear or aren’t fully waterproof. Some have shorts.
But there is a practical side to wearing bright-colored onesies; it’s easier to find each other. Mackenzie Curran, 24, a content creator who lives in Des Moines, wore her bright purple snowsuit with bright pink goggles and a pink hat around Breckenridge, Colo., in January.
“I stuck out like a sore thumb,” she said. “My family always knew where I was.”
Ms. McDonald also believes this is a reason people want to buy fun-colored snowsuits. “When you’re on a mountain, it’s really hard to find your friends,” she said. “If you’re wearing something unique, you don’t ‘t have that problem.”
Some people love their snowsuits so much they are wearing them off the mountain.
“I am the proud owner of four vintage snowsuits,” said Amy Abrams, 49, an owner of Artists and Fleas and the Manhattan Vintage Show.
She wore her blue and turquoise one a couple of weeks ago to walk to a Pilates class in Brooklyn, where she lives. “This woman stopped me and was like, ‘I drove my car around the block because I had to tell you I loved it,” she said. “I like to make people smile, but I also like to stay warm. You’re freezing if you just wear your dumb yoga pants.”
Her husband and business partner, Ronen Glimer, 48, wears one of his three vintage snowsuits to a New York City dog park when it’s cold. “They are very warm and very well made,” he said. “They’ve been around for a long time.”