At a media event in lower Manhattan on Tuesday night, The North Face unveiled the official competition uniforms to be worn by the U.S. Freeski Team at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeong Chang.
By Thomas J. Ryan
“We have worked alongside the freeskiing community since the beginning, and we embrace both the sport-specific needs and artful expression of athletes,” Herbst said.
The line, which includes outerwear, base layers, accessories and footwear, stands out not only for its streetwear looks that are increasingly popular with the freeskiing crowd but also for its high degree of customization.
In our interview at the event, Winter X Games halfpipe gold medalist Aaron Blunck stressed that function is significantly more important than fashion in the sport. He joked, “You don’t want to be soaking wet in a pair of jeans up there.”
But he said that while ski racing is all about the team having a uniform look, the goal in freeskiing is to stand out as an individual. Said Blunck, “You want to look different and rock some style.”
Part of that is because of the competition.
“Style is everything,” stated Olympic silver medalist and two-time X Games medalist Devin Logan. “In freeskiing, it’s a judged sport and not based on time. So it’s crucial to stand out in the judges’ eyes.”
With more than 60 pieces, each athlete will be able to customize their “look” based on their personal style and preferences. Dan Ramos, TNF’s senior product director for Mountain Sports, told us that the options include a number of creative buttons with freeskiers often trading pins with each other. A number of patches are also available that may call out what state the athlete is from, their nickname, or their local ski resorts.
The uniforms feature an even higher degree of personalization on the inside. Personal photos and artwork of the places and people important to each athlete are embossed on the interior of the jackets. These images pay homage to the sport’s small-town roots but are also designed to inspire the athlete and remind them that home is never too far away.
Blunck said the interior callouts are his favorite part of the new uniforms. He said, “It’s really cool and just takes you back to your roots when you were a little kid who just loved to ‘ski to ski.’ And it’s not on the outside, but what’s inside is what matters.”
Blunck, Logan and Olympic gold medalist and four-time X Games gold medalist Maddie Bowman, who was also at the event, all played a key role in the design, including the technical details that incorporate the humid conditions likely to occur during the Pyeong Chang games that will take place in February 2018. The uniform cuts are also more tapered and form-fitting in line with the evolving fit for freeskiing uniforms.
The overall colors, style and design celebrate the sport’s humble beginnings, expression of individuality and spirit of exploration. This notion comes to life in the brand’s “Legacy Starts Here” creative campaign, which is live on TheNorthFace.com.
Key technical elements in the collection include The North Face’s Ventrix and FuseForm technologies; Ventrix helps regulate body temperatures through dynamic venting technology and FuseForm reduces weight via an innovative weaving process.
The seminal piece of the collection is the Outerwear Hoodie, which is waterproof and transforms the streetwear pieces many athletes wear on the mountain into a technical performance piece.
“In freeskiing, your personal style — from tricks during a run, to the apparel you are wearing — is such a huge part of the sport,” said Bowman.
The uniforms were also designed stateside to help gain the athletes’ insights while celebrating the U.S. in the manufacturing process. The North Face has a local development center near its headquarters in Alameda, CA, to keep technical prototyping and assembly close.
“There is nothing like the pride an athlete feels when they represent their country on the world’s biggest sporting stage,” said Ruth Beatty, design director, snowsports at The North Face. “We feel a similar pride in assembling the uniforms in our backyard. The uniforms are also inspired by the humble beginnings of these American athletes and the patriotic red, white and blue of the American Flag – this year in more natural, organic tones that embody embodies Freeskiing culture and gives each athlete the opportunity to wear their style of America.”
Others attending the event included: Tom Wallisch, X Games Freeski gold medalist; Scot Schmidt, the legendary freeskier and the first freeskier North Face ever sponsored; Sage Cattabriga-Alosa, another legendary freeskier; Tiger Shaw, president and CEO of USSA (U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association); and Tom Kelly, VP of communications, USSA.
The North Face will also be launching a Legacy Collection of gear inspired by the uniforms that will only be available at Dick’s Sporting Goods and The North Face’s retail stores and online. Also launching across retail is a more stylish, International Collection, of USA-inspired apparel to wear in celebration of the Winter Olympics.
Photos and video courtesy The North Face