Ski and Snowboard Fashion over the last 9 Decades

 In Norquay Blog

When we think throwback ski fashion it generally becomes a crusade to find the loudest and brightest jumpsuits we can find (shout out to Value Village). But, with all jokes aside, trendy alpine wear has come a long way in its design, both technically and aesthetically.

As fashion is meant to, it has encouraged skiers and snowboarders to express their personality on the hill, which has in turn, become the trademark for each decade. There is a reason alpine chic became a thing!

As we celebrate 70 years of the North American Chair here at Norquay, we have been reminiscing about what skiing and snowboarding looked like throughout the decades, and how many outrageous outfits that chair has likely seen. From the textiles the clothing is made out of as they become lighter, more durable, and warmer, to the materials that the planks are manufactured from that are sleeker in shapes, sizes, and materials enhancing the speed of the equipment throughout the years.

Let’s raise our gloves for a toast to the best, worst, and most bazaar ski gear that our mountain has seen since 1926 and pay tribute to those who didn’t burn the documented evidence!

1920s to ’40s

When Mt. Norquay first opened in 1926, things looked very different on the hill. Women had finally ditched skirts on the slopes (thank goodness) and much of the gear was bulky, made out of wool and furs. We can’t forget about the wooden skis they used to ascend and descend the mountain!

In the ‘30s the well-known outdoor brand, Eddie Bauer created the first quilted goose-down jacket. This jacket was coined “The Skyliner” and was inspired by the stories Bauer’s uncle had told him as a kid about his time in the Russian Army. If soldiers were kept warm by goose feathers, surely the avid outdoorsman (and woman) could as well.

After that, things on the hill didn’t change much. With the downturn of the economy and the somber mood of the war, skiing became a luxury activity that many didn’t prioritize due to a lack of funds, accessibility, and simply put, time.

1930s fashion
1948 or earlier, skiers outside Lodge at Norquay before they built the chairlift, image via Earl Sande, Encyclopedia of Banff History


With the war over and a feeling of excitement and celebration running through the veins of the country, skiing once again became a desirable pastime for skiers of all ages. It became more accessible to the average household and the style began to become much more practical for the hill. Pants became more streamlined showing the natural curve of the body and outfits began to show more colour, allowing one to put their own personal flair into their look.

As the sport became more accessible to the new and seasoned skiers, so did the slopes. The introduction of the North American Chairlift in 1948 (Canada’s second mechanized chairlift), skiers could easily access terrain they’d previously have to climb to ski.

February 1956, skiers hike up hill at Norquay wearing trousers, long coats and caps, image via Alberta Provincial Archives
March 1956, Norquay has been lift-line-free since the early days, image via Alberta Provincial Archives


Let the ski revolution begin!

Snowboarders rejoice, you were officially put on the map in 1965 thanks to Sherman Poppen, an engineer from Muskegon, Michigan. Although snowboarding didn’t take off right away, this opened the door for a whole new concept of sliding down the hill.

Along with the addition of snowboards, there were some major changes to the technology of the sport. Wood and metal skis were replaced with epoxy and fiberglass materials, making skis lighter, stronger, and more aerodynamic. Double-lens ski goggles were also introduced, along with plastic ski boots (rather than leather ones), and snap breaks on the bindings allowing your boot to pop out of the binding in a pinch on the hill.

This is the decade when high fashion began to inject itself onto the slopes. Expensive fabrics and fancy accents replaced the chunky wool sweaters and bulky tweed pants. Snowsuits became tighter, lighter, and incredibly slim-fitting, with the idea that ski wear was to keep you warm while still being vibrant and stylish.

1967, among Banff's best freeskiers at the time, Rudi Gertsch jumps the Cliffhouse, photo by Bruno Engler
1962, skiers atop North American lookout, photo credit Gar Lunney, via Whyte Museum


As most fashion does, ski wear began to become integrated into various styles of streetwear in this decade. Quilted ski jackets became convertible, meaning the sleeves could rip off and they could be transformed into everyday vests. Nylon jackets with a fleece mid-layer were also popularized and are in fact still worn today.

Bolder, more saturated colours began to emerge, particularly yellows and browns, and nylon, cotton, and polypropylene were popular materials used. Accessories also began to make an appearance with the introduction of moon boots, aviators, and visors.



Hair wasn’t the only thing that got larger in this decade. Everything in the ’80s was bigger, brighter, and much more vibrant featuring geometric shapes, abstract prints, and loud patterns. Royal blue, jade, and red were popular colours, along with anything neon, shiny fabrics, and technicolor spandex. This was the decade where riders began to truly have options to customize their ski look.

With the laissez-faire, “anything goes” attitude, overalls, rompers, and onesies emerged in this decade. They were warm, cozy, and allowed the flexibility one needed when whizzing down the hill. The ‘80s also saw the true beginning of snowboarding, as snowboards were officially allowed on most hills, becoming an official competitive sport alongside downhill skiing and racing.

Relive this decade on our annual ‘80s day and do your best to recreate a look of the past.



It’s our favourite decade that we love to hate when it comes to fashion! The ‘90s were all about practicality and the essentials. Styles began to calm down, and the colours became a tad more neutral (but not completely). Balaclavas and toques made their introduction, and gear became waterproof and windproof. Lycra was also introduced, which was smooth and fit comfortably, making it the perfect material to wear as an under layer on those chilling days out on the hill.


2000s +

The turn of the century brought many changes to the look and feel of ski fashion. Aesthetically the look hasn’t changed much, as colour blocking became the new trend and the style became boxier and baggy, rather than the tight and curve fitting. Personality began to be shown more through accessories and accents, rather than the vibrancy of one’s suit.

Instead, over the last couple of decades we have seen an increase in the prioritization of performance driven styles and the actual technology behind the clothing, rather than the style behind each piece. Keeping the look simple, we have been able to add more light weight base layers with materials such as recycled polyester and merino wool, both soft, itch-free, and incredibly warm. Containing anti-microbial features, they also work to absorb the moisture on your body while keeping your ski gear feeling and smelling fresh after a weekend of shredding.

Today, wool beanies lined with fleece and goggle compatible facemasks are also becoming popular due to their UV protection and the prevention against the ever dreaded après google sunburn. Abstract patterns and vibrant colours are definitely beginning to make their way onto the hill again, but not nearly close to the same extreme as the ‘80s. Snow pants continue to get more high-waisted and jackets are getting longer and puffier, which is evidence that the cozier the style the better these days.

Where do we think ski fashion will be headed next? We truly have no clue, but if fashion has taught us anything, it’s that trends always get brought back in style, one way or another. Mt. Norquay has certainly not seen the last of the crazy trends that are to come!


Start typing and press Enter to search