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Owning the Vertival Runway

By Kelsey Fagan

The frosty winter weather is upon us, and for many thrill-seeking New Englanders, this means it’s time to head for the slopes. Kathy Benharris, a successful Boston-based fashion show producer and stylist, is among these snow-chasing adrenaline junkies. With 30 years of skiing under her belt, Benharris has found a way to fuse her devotion to style with her love of zooming down the snow-clad hills.

“I started skiing because I loved it so much, both the thrill of flying down a mountain and the alpine lifestyle and its fashion. Once I started producing fashion shows and styling, I realized, wait, here we are with skiing and snowboarding, to me the most fashionable sports there could possibly be, and nobody in the East is showcasing on slope and après fashion in this way,” said Benharris. "We all check out what each other is wearing when in the lift line, in the lodge, and from the chairlift above. Let's celebrate alpine style and not pretend we don't notice or it doesn't matter."

When it comes to skiing and snowboarding attire, she stresses the necessity of “performance over pretty.” Given the conditions—whipping winds and frigid temperatures—skiers and snowboarders must consider ways to equip themselves well for the environment. One effective way to combat the chill? Layer, layer, layer.

“I definitely have a uniform that I think really works well. To start, I wear a base layer. A really thin, wicking kind of fabric. I like it [to be] nylon, actually. You’re working out and sweating and the wicking helps pull that moisture away from your body,” said Benharris.

For extra-cold days, Benharris suggests the addition of a mid layer, such as a zippered fleece, to provide additional insulation. Thumbholes are also ideal, as they allow the sleeve to remain tightly tucked within the glove.

“You have to think about wind coming in every way it can, right? So, a lot of times, there will be thumbholes. You are looking to build this seamless scenario so that the wind can’t get inside…With that, the glove comes up over it and cinches, so that you’ve made this seal, and there’s nothing getting in there,” said Benharris.

Although each layer, top and bottom, is essential, Benharris considers a good ski jacket a closet must-have for anyone heading out this winter. Selecting a jacket that will trap in the warmth, while still allowing for movement and technical precision, is fundamental. For women, she suggests a jacket that is slightly formfitting, this season.

“I’m especially loving seeing the silhouette of females. I like the curves and all of that; I think, why do we need to tone that down to be considered good athletes?” said Benharris.

For those seeking skiing and snowboarding essentials locally, Benharris recommends Country Ski and Sport in Westwood, Massachusetts. This family-owned business not only offers the latest products but also demonstrates a dedication to customers that creates a personalized shopping experience.

Country Ski and Sport sells brands like Burton, Völkl, Marmot, Obermeyer, SCOTT, Spyder, and Karbon, all of which are Benharris approved. Each of these brands was featured at the 35th Annual Ski and Snowboard Expo held in Boston in November 2016. This collaborative celebration of skiing and snowboarding fashion, which Benharris produced and styled, featured show after show of this season’s newest trends, lines, and innovations.

Created and run by Bernie Weichsel of BEWI Industries since its inception 35 years ago, the Expo acts as a meeting ground for passionate skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts. The engaging four-day event included live musical performances, an extreme trampoline show, interactive presentations, giveaways, and the latest on skiing and snowboarding attire.

The event demonstrated that within this realm of performance-enhancing, functional apparel, there is an abundance of room to experiment with style. Benharris is constantly finding ways to stay fashionable and have fun with her skiwear. As a brand ambassador for SKEA, a popular ski line, she is up to date on the latest trends for the season.

SKEA’s new holographic design, which incorporates a reflective shine that is sure to beam off snow-covered hills, is one of the many ways to spice up skiwear. By playing with color, skiers and snowboarders can personalize their look, while staying stylish.

“I definitely am always loving black. It’s timeless, and you tend to see a lot of that in New England. It’s a safe, go-to color. Neon is making a real comeback, but not just in a catchy way. It pops against the snow and it looks great…It’s something you see people of all ages gravitating towards,” said Benharris.

Adding accessories is another way to enhance this relationship between style and sport. Little touches like hats, headbands, and fur bring a level of individuality and flair to every look. Whether bold or subtle, these pieces make a statement. When it’s time to head to the lodge for some refueling and relaxation with friends, hats can also act as a great tool for taming unruly hair.

“My hair, when I take off my hat or my helmet—it is what it is. Sometimes it’s all frozen and crazy; if that’s the case, I put on my little pom-pom hat. The higher the pom-pom, the closer to God,” said Benharris.

It’s safe to say that after a long day on the trails, one might need a quick touch-up before retreating to the lodge. Benharris suggests tucking a little lip balm and concealer into a pocket and keeping it simple. Wearing waterproof mascara is also a great way to maintain a fresh face during long hours out on the slopes.

“Everybody looks prettier after a day skiing because you’ve been out playing. You’re like a kid, you know? You’ve been out in the snow all day, smiling and laughing. There’s nothing better than that,” said Benharris.

Benharris draws inspiration from ski fashion icons like Lindsey Vonn, Suzy Chaffee, and Barbara Alley Simon. These three women are revered both on and off the slopes for the roles they have played in the skiing and snowboarding fashion industry. Benharris had the immense pleasure of meeting Simon, a true pioneer of ski fashion whose approval would later become a true testament to Benharris’ success.

“When I met her, I totally fan-girled out; I couldn’t handle it. And the fact that she and I are now friends and talk frequently blows my mind! She’s like, ‘You’ve picked up the mantle,’ and I could just die,” said Benharris.

For those in search of skiing and snowboarding spots in the area, Benharris recommends Loon Mountain in Lincoln, New Hampshire, for a day trip. Sunday River in Newry, Maine, although farther away, is one of Benharris’ absolute favorite locations.

It is clear that Benharris is passionate about what she does. She encourages everyone to hit the slopes and have fun this winter, all the while taking advantage of the opportunity to be expressive with a personal skiing and snowboarding style. Follow her lead and make a mark on what she calls the vertical runway.

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