Have you been gone too long from the Northern Michigan skiing world? Make the slopes part of your life again. We’re here to help you rediscover the joy. Because here’s the thing: gear and resorts have changed for the (much) better, and the time to return is now.

Here are some style tips on how to look the part at the top of a Northern Michigan mountain, originally published in the January 2016 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.

Ditch the Straight Boards

When ski business veteran Scott Stillings meets a customer who hasn’t upgraded gear in a decade, he smiles and asks to see their phones.

“Most the time they have a smartphone, and I ask if they googled or texted a lot 15 years ago. Of course the answer is no, because the technology wasn’t there. That’s what it’s like in the ski industry too. Skis have changed. What’s available now is so much more user-friendly. Turning is a totally different experience, and it’s a heck of a lot more fun for people who haven’t been on the hill in a while.”

Stillings, who works at the Bahnhof in Petoskey, said today’s gear makes for less work and more success on the slopes. It’s not just skis, either. Boots fit better and are actually comfortable, and everything weighs less. This season’s price points are better than ever, but if you aren’t ready to invest in a whole new ski kit, try the rental route. Resorts all have upgraded their fleets to reflect new technology. Insider tip: almost every hill hosts demo days where ski reps show up with the latest and greatest to try for free. Added bonus? Those straight boards gathering dust in your garage can get a new life … as a ski chair (google the plans).

Look the Part

The old gear may have to go, but current slope style is all about the retro vibe. Have an old neon one-piece from 1985? A puffy earth-tones vest from the ’70s? A baggy outer-shell representative of ’90s Grunge? Go right ahead and rock it. Chances are, unless you’ve unearthed black ski leggings or serious shoulder pads, there’s a way to make what’s old look fashion-forward again. Trends today focus more on function than form, but there are still plenty of cool clothes to check out at places like Boyne Country Sports, whose buyers are up on the latest colors, fits, and fabrics.

A word to the wise: think about adding a few newer base layers to your wardrobe. Outdoor educator and co-owner of The Outfitter in Harbor Springs, Molly Ames Baker, says there are now more advanced choices for keeping warm and dry.

“Must-haves start with an important question on your part: synthetic or wool?” Synthetics are easier to wash and less itchy, she advises. Patagonia’s updated, refabricated and redesigned mid-weight base layers are excellent when it comes to wicking/insulating. Plus, synthetic base layers are staples that will never need replacing, because the fabric lasts forever.

“Wool rules in terms of feeling cozier when you’re sweaty, and it’s not stinky (synthetics are prone to perma-stench),” Baker says. “Wool today is not your great-great-great-grandfather’s union suit that feels like 300 grit sandpaper, either.”

She recommends a lightweight (200–250) merino wool, like the Oasis by Icebreaker or the fun patterns of SmartWool’s NTS (Next to Skin) midweight.

Helmets Required

Everyone knows helmets look dorky. They can also save your life. One of the best changes in the ski industry has been how helmets—not just for kids anymore—have become as much of a staple as skis themselves. Today’s helmets are light, form fitting, breathable and integrate seamlessly with goggles (unfortunately, technology still hasn’t found a way to stop goggle tans and helmet hair). Color choices make for bold fashion statement points too. We love Poc’s Skull Light bright orange (available at Boyne Country Sports) and sleek black Smith helmet/goggle combinations at Bahnhof Sport, Petoskey.

It’s important to have a professional help dial in the perfect fit, but there are loads of helmet extras; think video camera mounts or built-in Bluetooth speakers that let you play music or answer your cell on the slopes.

When it comes to getting back on the skis, helmets are a no-brainer.

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Photo(s) by Todd Zawistowski