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When Tara Clark’s friend, Holly, had a brain tumor removed months after a terminal brain cancer diagnosis, she couldn’t wait to get back to their yearly group Whistler trip. Clark silently worried that even a local hill would be too much. But “the next season, she was still alive,” Clark says. “And she said, 'Everyone show up in a one piece.'”
For Clark, that mandate turned into an eBay obsession: At one point, she amassed a collection of 100 vintage ski suits down in her basement, a parade of gold and silver and hot pink polyester worn by her girlfriends and young sons alike. “I would get asked all the time, Where did you get it?” Recognizing the demand for beautiful, vintage-inspired skiwear, she approached Sherpa Adventure Gear founder Tashi Sherpa with the idea to recreate the suits in modern outerwear fabrics. TaraShakti was born.
Now run by Clark and her Seattle-born cofounder Quan Ralkowski, the company is entering its first true ski season in business with a small line of two retro ski suits in five colorways, from sleek black-and-white to candy-apple red. From each suit sold, $50 gets donated to brain cancer research and the Northwest Sherpa Association, preserving and promoting Sherpa culture.
This is not your mother’s stiff mountain garb: TaraShakti’s head-turning suits are made from a buttery-soft, ultra-stretchy fabric; and lest you worry about how to navigate the high camp bathroom, the top zips right off into a fashionable bomber jacket. “I feel like those vintage suits had the right idea,” Ralkowski says. Technology’s just come a long way since then.
One-piece ski suits have seen a surge in nostalgia-driven popularity in recent years. Shark Tank–launched kitschy holiday sweater brand Tipsy Elves specializes in the purposely obnoxious metallic and rainbow numbers you’ve seen bombing down the slopes (or taking tequila shots in the lodge). Seattle-born Cordova offers a line of high-fashion luxury ski suits (“she heli-skis to the lodge, and takes her drink shaken, not stirred,” reads one product description).
In a sport that can already be pretty intimidating—just think of the gear that has to be acquired before new skiers even have the pleasure of veering off the platter lift—non-experts can be hesitant to don an attention-grabbing outfit. “People say, 'Oh, I can't wear that, because I'm not a very good skier,'” or because they worry about what they’ll look like in a form-fitting jumpsuit, Clark says. “‘That person looks good, I couldn't look like that.’ We have these stories in our head.”
But as a skier who first hit the slopes later in life, Clark markets her suits straight for the hesitant. It’s comfortable. It’s a confidence booster. If investing in a $1,000 suit sounds excessive, TaraShakti offers them for daily, weekend, or weeklong rentals. So what if lodge-dwellers assume you’re a better skier than you are because you’re wearing a bright-red one-piece? “We should be having fun,” Clark says. “Not worried about how we're doing, how we look, or if we're good enough. Because we're all good enough.”