There's that V-word again. It comes up in conversation about cocktail dresses; you hear it again when the subject is shoes. And it's even there when talk turns to skiing.
Value. It's the fashion buzzword of '90s. Even those who can afford to schuss down the mountains of Aspen are looking for more for their money this season. Skiwear designers have responded by offering more versatile garments this winter -- stylish clothes that can be worn equally well on the slopes or on the streets. The new designs also reflect a little less trendiness than in previous years as the direction turns to more conservative looks that will endure for more than a few seasons.
The choicest silhouette these days is slim and body-conscious, says Sherri Davis, marketing director for the ski division of Head Sportswear. While the top may be oversized, the pants are generally sleek.
On a ski trip to Deer Valley, Idaho, last weekend, she observed "lots of stretch pants and shorter parkas as well as parkas with waist accents -- like belts or high elastic waistbands."
"The very broad-shouldered, very full look of three or four years ago is trimming in now," says Jeffrey Slutkin, owner of Geoffrey's Ski Hut. "You don't see as many of those baggy nylon pants."
One of the hottest selling skiwear items at the Edge Set ski shop this winter is a one-piece metallic jumpsuit by Nils that's cut from a four-way stretch fabric. "It's for those with good figures, and it fits beautifully," says owner Michael Holofcener.
The farmer bib-front pant has all but disappeared among fashionable skiers, says Barbara Alley, a Nevada-based ski show producer.
A more stylish option for those who like to keep their waist warm, she says, "is the high-waisted stretch pant that comes up under the bust like a catsuit. You often see motorcycle jackets worn with these."
The cycle jackets are only one of the newer ski jackets that offer crossover appeal for life off the slopes. "Also good for street wear are anorak shapes -- the ones with draw cords at the waist and the hem," says Ms. Alley.
Color is the other major change in ski fashions this winter -- "it's probably the biggest news," says Mr. Slutkin.
"The colors are more conservative with a lot of earth tones, like olive, green, brown and deep purple," he says. "The younger lines, for teens, still have a -- of neon as accent. But the trend away from neons started last year and it's been really noticeable this year."
The shift to more subdued colors, he says, "started in Europe several years ago and about three seasons ago started showing up in high fashion resorts out West and now it's worked its way East."
In addition to the earth-tone palette, there's a smattering of new softer pinks and blues, says Ms. Davis.For her recent trip, she chose a sweet pink jacket from her company's new line that was embroidered in a pale sandy shade.
On the slopes she noticed a lot of men wearing "darker colors and the ladies wearing lots of turquoise and pink and black pants."
Many of the skiers were wearing ski clothes made from the Solar Alpha fabrics. "These are materials that build their own heat from the sun to keep you warm," explains Sonny Davis, owner of Princeton Sports. "They're been around for a few years, but they're being used by more companies now."
The fabric is woven with a special thread that is designed to attract solar energy, yet not in such great amounts that the skier gets quickly overheated.
The look of many of the fabrics is also different this year. "The jackets are often shimmery and textured likes ones you'd wear on the street," says Ms. Alley. The multiple uses of skiwear are also enhanced by the many softer fabrics that have replaced yesterday's shiny nylon clothes.
At Head Sportswear Ms. Davis says, "We have brushed fabrics that feel like washed silk, but they're waterproof and windproof. And we have embossed fabrics that we use overall and as trims. We also have brushed stretch pants that have great crossover appeal."
Terms like "conservative" and "back to basics" are used by many in the skiwear industry to describe ski fashions in the '90s, but with the popularity of stretch fabrics and metallics, it's a relative term.
"There is such an array of different trends out there," says Ms. Davis, that nearly everybody should be able to find styles that reflect their personality.
Skiing in style
Top 10 trends in skiwear:
* Value and versatility
* Earth tones -- from olive to eggplant
* Body-conscious silhouettes
* Textured and embossed fabrics
* Softer, brushed fabrics
* Embroidery and faux fur details
* Solar fabrics
* Black stretch pants
* Street-savvy jackets like anoraks and motorcycle styles
* High-waisted catsuits