A Ski Shop Built For Style And Speed

Lee Keating and Performance Ski outfit Aspen’s finest.



Dairinn Bowers in Performance Ski. Photo: Nicola Grigis

By Ray Rogers

Ray Rogers: Performance Ski launched in the fall of 1987, and since that time, it’s become quite the institution in Aspen. To what do you attribute its success?

Lee Keating: A lot of hard work and fun. The shop was started by my husband, Tom Bowers, and two friends, Jan Stenstadvold and Bill Repplinger. My husband was fresh off the U.S. Ski Team, he was looking for something to do, and the opportunity just presented itself. They started as a little ski shop that primarily focused on ski racing. Over a few years it evolved, and his partners decided they wanted to do other things. I started to become involved with Tom, and the next thing you know, the two of us were running the ski shop.

RR: You’ve helped put a lot of fashionable skiwear on the map over the years, including Prada, Moncler, Jet Set, Frauenschuh and Kjus, and the collaboration you did for years with Authier. What was the impetus to create your own brand last year? 

LK: We wanted something that was our identity, so we launched the Performance Ski brand, which is 100 percent our DNA. We’re in a unique situation where not only do we design it, make it, buy it, sell it and wear it, but we’re able to take input from our clients when we’re selling it—what they like, what they don’t like—and try to make the very best product. 

RR: What do your clients love about the new brand?

LK: They like that they look good in it, that it fits well, that it functions well. We don’t have a brand name on the outside. There are no labels anywhere. You put our jacket on, and it feels good, and it moves well and the zippers work. You go up on the mountain and you’re warm, but not too hot. The neck works properly and the hood works properly, and it looks good. It’s hard to make something like that; it took us two years to design a stretch pant that fit well on various types of bodies.

RR: What are you excited about this season? 

LK: Color is really important, and we work very hard on how light hits fabric with the different colors. We, of course, have black and navy and red and white and green. There’s a little pink this year, and not because Barbie is popular, but everything with the collection mixes and matches, from one season to the next. We really focus on not over-designing. The materials are so expensive, but we don’t make it ridiculously expensive for the client. We find factories in Italy for fabrics that have been in business for hundreds of years. You sit, meet with the owner, have a coffee and he touches the textile. You can just feel that he’s so proud of what he made that you just want to use it, because of all the love and attention that he’s put into what he’s doing. That doesn’t exist much anymore.

RR: Style and ski culture have gone hand-in-hand for decades now, from Princess Di to Brigitte Bardot and lots of current stylish skiers. Who are some of your ski style icons?

LK: Maria Bogner, the woman who founded the Bogner skiwear brand, was totally it. I have this vision in my mind of this photograph of her and she was just in all black with black stretch pants. It just looked so good. 

RR: Tell us about your own experience on the slopes these days. What does skiing do for your mental health?

LK: I ski by myself most of the time. Most mornings I go up on the first gondola and I ski until around 11:15-11:30. Nothing fancy—just big, giant cruiser runs—and then I go in for a little lunch at Bonnie’s. Then I come down to the shop, and I spend the afternoon dressing everybody up. performanceskiaspen.com