Hollywood has always drawn inspiration from the catwalk. So when fashion hits the slopes, it is only the finest that goes up on the silver screen. From the sporty chic of avid athletes to the languid glamour of après ski, some of the most memorable ski fashion can be found in films from the 20th century. Below, a look back at ten of our favorites.
1. Sun Valley Serenade (1941)
When Phil Corey's band arrives at the Idaho ski resort, its pianist Ted Scott (John Payne) is smitten with a Norwegian refugee he has sponsored, Karen Benson (played by three times gold medalist Sonja Henie). When soloist Vivian Dawn quits, Benson stages an ice show as a substitute to save the day.
It’s not surprising that one of tinsel town’s first visits to the powdery slopes takes place in Sun Valley. After all, the idyllic ski town was a favorite among the most famous stars of the day: Clark Gable, Ingrid Bergman, Gary Cooper, Norma Sheer and Rita Hayworth. Singsongy sleigh rides in fur throws sound heavenly, but we are more interested in the campy headgear of the era. Newcomer Sonja Henie would go on to produce her own ski line.
2. Spellbound (1945)
When Dr. Edwardes (Gregory Peck) is appointed the head of the Green Manors mental asylum in Vermont, he instantly connects with the young and brilliant Dr. Constance Peterson (Ingrid Bergman). But the handsome doctor is not all he appears.
For the psychological mystery thriller, Alfred Hitchcock enlisted surrealist artist Salvador Dali to create an elaborate and unnerving dream sequence. But one of the film’s most suspenseful scenes is much simpler. Peck and Bergman ascend a secluded snowy peak, strapping skis on before a gripping nose-dive toward a perilous cliff. We’ll take the Nordic star’s alpine prowess, along with the charm of her windswept coiffure. And while those sports coats certainly do not look warm, they do make a convincing argument for physical exertion in proper lapels.
3. Charade (1963)
Cary Grant stars as Peter, who may or may not be a flimflam man who aids the recently widowed Regina in her mission to recover a fortune hidden by her late husband. But three sinister crooks who’ll stop at nothing also covet the loot.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Sabrina are often touted as exemplar instances of Hollywood sets meet Parisian ateliers, but the best example of Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy’s fruitful collaboration may 1963’s Charade. Hepburn’s wardrobe hits the mark of understated glamour, an autumnal palette and neat pillbox hats set off the City of Lights to perfection. Her incognito trench and scarf are a dream made in Jean Paul Gaultier heaven. But the best look of all is the opening number, a hooded brown cat suit with matching mittens and Jackie O shades that will send even the most committed beach bum to the French Alps. The pinnacle of après chic.
4. The Pink Panther (1963)
Bumbling and conceited French police inspector Clouseau tries to catch The Phantom, a daring jewel thief whose identity and features are unknown - and is acting right under his nose.
The plot involving a jewel thief is a nod to Hitchcock’s classic To Catch A Thief, but instead of the ritzy Cote D’Azur, a slick swindler heads to another enclave of the rich and famous: the exclusive skiing resort in Cortina d’Ampezzo. Claudia Cardinale’s wardrobe befits a princess in possession of the world’s largest diamond, but our favorite scene takes place around the open-air hearth of a cozy ski lodge. “Greek cousin” (Fran Jeffries) performs an enchanting rendition of Meglio Stasera. Her unbeatable look features three elements essential for the proper ski bunny: a snug turtleneck (preferably jewel encrusted) an elaborate updo, and a saucy wiggle.
5. Ski Faszination (1964)
International ski champion Willy Bogner gathers 27 of the world's best skiers who conquer the treacherous mountains of Switzerland in this documentary that is a must for fans of downhill skiing. Bogner spent two years and $75,000 on this feature that is sure to delight aficionados of the sport.
With this innovative documentary, Willy Bogner introduced the world to synchronized ski accompanied by specifically composed music. And truly, watching the matching packs of four glide down the mountain is utterly mesmerizing. The feature is also proof of Bogner’s revolutionary hand in the sport’s fashion trends; the bold saturated monochromatic suits would become standard by the 1970s. Scroll down our list for a glimpse of Britain’s most famous spy in one such ensemble.
6. Ski Party (1965)
College buddies Todd Armstrong (Frank Avalon) and Craig Gamble (Dwayne Hickman) put on pumps and lipsticks to infiltrate an all-girls party at a ski lodge.
Swap out the polka dot bikini for a white fur hat and you get all the fun of the beach movies in a cozier setting. The gimmicks are a bit tired, but all we’re seeing are psychedelic prints, fringed pullovers, and matching headbands. Plus, James Brown brings his particular flair in a red sequined button down. With such a spirited romp put on by the fire, who needs to go outside?
7. Downhill Racer (1969)
In a beautifully understated performance, Robert Redford is David Chappellet, a ruthlessly ambitious skier competing for Olympic gold with an underdog American team in Europe. Downhill Racer is a vivid character portrait buoyed by breathtakingly fast and furious imagery that brings the viewer directly into the mind of the competitor.
This small budget film signaled the evolution of ski to a serious competitive sport. Redford’s Chappellet has an air of Jean-Claude Killy to him, and while that dapper manner makes us a bit weak in the knees, its Camilla Sparv’s style in the film that really wins us over – a neutral palette, beehive knit cap and bubbly bug-eyed shades. We might even sport the pigtails.
8. Après Ski (1971)
Set in the beautiful mountains of Quebec, this lusty downhill skiing adventure follows the exploits of a handsome ski instructor as he teaches a class full of curvaceous beauties how to glide gracefully down the slippery slope. The film was released in Great Britain as Sex in the Snow and in the United States as Snowballin’.
Moustaches, pipes, bell-bottoms and neck scarves – the only thing missing from this 70s cliché is a pot of fondue. But this clip of a Bardot-styled bombshell (Mariette Lévesque) posing for a swarthy photographer alongside some mischievous bears has enough undertones of The Eyes of Lara Mars and Funny Face to win us over. Leave it to the French to maximize the sexiness of a wintery escape.
9. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
James Bond investigates the hijacking of British and Russian submarines carrying nuclear warheads with the help of a KGB agent whose lover he killed.
What would a ski fashion top ten list be without an appearance by 007? The snowy pursuit by evil henchmen has become a trademark of the franchise, the agile British spy dodging bullets in his sleek Bogner suits. This particular chase ends in a blaze of glory. Bond skis off a cliff, falling to safety with the aid of a Union Flag parachute.
10. Ski Patrol (1990)
While having fun and keeping the mountain safe, the Snowy Peaks ski patrol tries to save the lodge from greedy land developer, Sam Maris.
This 1990’s cult film was part of a wave of ski comedies that encapsulated the ski bum culture that sprung up around the me generation. All the aesthetic cues from the era are here: bulky shoulders, a commitment to neon, bikinis featuring high-cut briefs, and copious amounts of hairspray holding hair flips in place. Say what you will about the decade, there was no lack of a good time.