Chaud Cham: Euro gear trends

What outdoor gear trends are hot in the centre of European adventure? We sent a British ultrarunner who lives in Chamonix into the local shops to find out.

The hunt begins inside the huge glass doors of Snell Sports, a local institution dating back to 1934; not long after Chamonix’s début as a ski resort. I’m a journalist on a mission, I explain proudly, in French, to gathering shop staff. Someone calls: “Rémi!” (gather plenty of phlegm and roll the ‘r’) “Une journaliste!

Quel magazine?” they enquire. “Oh! Américain!” Faces are pulled expressively, condescending and intrigued. Complimentarily, they don’t switch to English; French people have to, as ear protection, if you brutalise their language too aggressively.

“So what,” I ask, pen poised, “are people wearing and carrying dans les montagnes above Chamonix these days?” “Pastis,” (an anise-flavoured apéritif), deadpans the Frenchman behind the counter, pursing his lips thoughtfully, “et Saucisson.” Then Rémi arrives, gallant with a bow. Kisses linger on both cheeks. “I mademoiselle, I am en vogue. I make the trends,” he purrs. “Your French is very good. You are not une Américaine?”

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Click the image to read as a magazine page (page 2 is further down).


COLOURS.

Led further into Snells, I don sunglasses. The colours still assault me. Wincing, I can’t pick out anything in particular, but with shop assistant Emilie’s help I notice pink and orange tops are prevalent in womenswear this summer. Apparently you should team them with very bulbous violet or burgundy climbing pants, made from corduroy. French brand ABK lead the way here. Running and yoga pants, conversely, must be skintight. Getting wilder season by season, they are practically raving off the walls this year in LSD-inspired patterns. Over in French budget brand Quechua’s store, meanwhile, Marie shows me the hot colours for men: bright green, blue and red. Mix and match however you like, as long as everything clashes violently. To be honest, I love it, but back home where a splash of red jacket is a trifle attention-seeking, people ask why I dress like a Eurovision Song Contest star (Google it) for the outdoors.

SPEED.

Découvrez le Fast-Hiking’, I read in the outlet of top French outdoor brand, Millet. It’s unusual. Other European countries do this all the time, but France has an official Language Academy to prevent such atrocities creeping in. Desperate times: it’s hard to make ‘walking quickly’ sound cool in any language. Yes, under this “anglicisme barbare” (barbaric), I discover, lies a strange new Euro-sport: looking swish in pseudo trail running gear, while actually… walking. Basically, running got all à la mode and now hiking wants in. Official blurb explains that this pace burns maximum fat, which makes enough sense for me to skip the rest and start shopping. Shoes must combine ‘the best of hiking and trail running’: light and flexible with strong cushioning, like the Millet Switch GTX, which resemble weightless hiking boots. Free-moving shorts are essential, to prove you are walking fast enough, and for really difficult conditions a lurid soft shell jacket like the Millet LTK is acceptably slight, and will also multi-task for Ski-Rando come winter.

POLES.

I’ve heard poles aren’t marketed for trail running in the US; let me tell you they are handy in a landscape where every trail is straight up, all day, then straight down. In Intersport, probably France’s biggest sport chain-store, I notice these beauties are looking increasingly fit and slinky. The ultra-svelte BD carbon ones practically float. Impressively, there’s also a lot more shock absorption combined with superfast systems to fold them up and pop them out again, like cartoon extensions of your hands. Dynafit have the offer I can’t resist: limited edition ‘DNA’ poles. Some are lurid 80s green; others magenta. At first I think it’s a choice of colour options, then I realise the full beauty: no, of course it’s one of each.

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