There's something less than elegant about a ski instructor wearing a plastic garbage bag around her hips while riding the chair lifts, but Donna Lawlor Barnes of Utah's Deer Valley Resort isn't concerned with fashion. She's outspokenly practical: "Anybody who skis all day," she says, "will find that their buns get wet and cold."
Thus was born the Tailgaiter, an invention that may be the greatest boon to skiing since the step-in binding. It's now patented, the name is trademarked and the only problem left for Barnes is figuring out how to market the gadget.
The Tailgaiter is fiendishly simple: It looks a bit like the fanny-pack already familiar to skiers, who use them to carry cameras, waxes and whatnot on the slopes. But this new pack, also belted around the waist, is a slightly larger, more oval version that is zippered across the top. Before boarding the chair lift, the skier unzips it and—presto—the pack opens and falls down in back like an apron or, say, the drop seat on a pair of Dr. Denton kiddie pajamas. One sits on the flap, arrives at the top in comfort and ready to ski with a dry bottom—assuredly a great creature comfort to anybody who has ever skied in wet weather.
"Before starting down," says Barnes, "you can zip up the flap. But most people who use it just bomb along with it flapping away. It's a neat effect, and it keeps your tail end warm when you stop along the trail. You can also sit on it in snowbanks while picnicking."
Barnes hired a company in San Diego to produce 100 Tailgaiters in waterproofed nylon and then gave them to fellow instructors for testing. The packs are getting rave reviews and the next step, she says, is to find someone who will manufacture and distribute them nationally. "They shouldn't retail for more than, say, $15," she says.
And just in case the name doesn't sit well, so to speak, with a potential manufacturer, she's also registered it under the name Moonshields.