The bumbag renaissance
A ski word came to me as I flicked through the coats in the thrift shop, searching for a ski jacket on the Under £10 rack. Thrift shops are doing well at the moment, and there were quite a few other smelly old men in there, so it may have been word association that suggested the word Bumbag to me.
This long neglected component of the skier’s wardrobe is surely due a revival. When did you last wear, or even see one? Was it around the time North Sea oil came on stream, soon to be followed by the scrapping of exchange control and the Thatcher boom? Perhaps there is a history book to be written, of the bum-bag as an economic indicator.
In times of plenty we hide it away at the bottom of ski drawer, filled with spring-loaded lift pass holders and other useless ski curios. But in hard times the bumbag bounces back.
It was designed with the lady skier in mind, for those vital accessories that would otherwise ruin the line of the figure-hugging all-in-one suit: compact, lipstick and a handkerchief to drop in front of the instructor. But what it usually carried, in the late 1970s which may be considered the golden age of the bumbag, was lunch.
Before decadence set in and gave us a taste for tartiflette, tiroler grostl and other overpriced versions of Alpine stodge, the packed lunch was a key selling point of the chalet holiday. Never mind the fact that leaning back on the chair lift squished it all into a mush of raclette cheese, sun cream and ski wax, with the added risk of lumbar puncture from the Swiss Army knife. The bumbag was our exchange rate hedge, and the relative merits of the Supertravel picnic vs those provided by John Morgan or Small World were potent marketing tools at the sharp end of the holiday industry.
I always felt you got a better class of packed lunch from Supertravel, until our chalet girl’s cold fish pie rolls drove us into the arms of the rapacious lasagne merchants of Sauze d’Oulx. We went with John Morgan the next year.
Staring down the barrel of austerity, the poor man of Europe must know his place: the Salle Hors Sac, or failing that a restaurant table out of doors and out of sight of the proprietor. (Order soup and a vin chaud, and prepare to plead ignorance when he waves the “Pique Nique Interdit” sign). A ride on the Gornergrat railway will be our lunch break on a snowy day at Zermatt. Prudent skiers prefer Easter, when we can plant our bums on an off-piste rock.
If I were a chalet operator, a packed lunch is what I would be offering this winter to give me an edge over the competition, with free branded bumbags for advertising – perfect product placement in the male field of vision. History teaches us that the British keep skiing through adversity. But we need help. Packed lunch might easily save a family £500, at a fraction of that cost to the operator.
Hoteliers could do the same, although their mountain restaurateur cousins would not thank them. If the ‘3/4 board’ formula can work in Norway, why not in the Alps? Prudent kronor-counting skiers butter their rolls at breakfast, fill them with sweet brown cheese and carry them out to the fjell …. in bumbags. www.thebagshopltd.co.uk has a nice selection, very reasonably priced. It’s not quite too late to buy her one for christmas.