Meet the skier who’s still wearing the Flylow ski coat he bought on sale 15 years ago.
Andrew Branagh walked into a ski shop in Truckee, California, in 2005 and went straight to the sale rack. He needed a new ski coat, but he didn’t want to spend a ton of money. A former collegiate ski racer, Branagh was low on cash at the time, but he still skied a ton and needed gear that would hold up to the rigors of the mountains.
The coat he liked on the rack—a simple, black jacket from a brand he’d never heard of—was marked down to $70. Great, he thought. He bought the coat and he’s been wearing it ever since. It was a Flylow Lab Coat, the first hardshell, three-layer ski jacket the start-up out of Colorado produced. In that era, the Lab Coat would have been designed in a basement by a couple of college friends and fervent skiers—Flylow’s co-founders Dan and Greg—and packaged and shipped by hand from that very basement by, you guessed it, Dan or Greg. (The company had no other employees at that time.)
The jacket is now 15 years old and it’s taken a serious beating. “I skied hard in that jacket,” Branagh says. “I bet it’s got 15 years of 60 days a winter on it.” Branagh had to replace the front zipper at some point. Some of the fabric got torn and is hanging on by threads. But it’s still getting the job done. It’s still waterproof—and he’s never re-treated it with a new Durable Water Repellent coating all these years later.
Even though he’s purchased new jackets over the years, Branagh still reaches for his trusty Lab Coat first on a storm day. “It’s still the jacket I grab every morning,” says Branagh, who’s 52 and is now the president of Mustang Survival, a manufacturer of durable marine gear. “It’s all about the fit—it’s perfectly cut. And it still keeps me dry. After this many years, there are parts that are wearing out, but I kind of like that, too. The fabric is super soft and worn in.”
The traditional fit is perhaps the old Lab Coat’s strongest asset, according to Branagh, who estimates that he’s in between medium and large sizes. “I’ve bought new jackets since then, but the styles have transformed a bit,” he says. “Now things are oversized. I like the fit. When you’re really skiing hard, you don’t want to wear too much stuff underneath.”
The jacket is very well-traveled. It has skied in Alaska alongside pro skiers Reggie Crist and Daron Rahlves. It has been heli-skiing in Canada and ridden powder in Japan. Branagh has also taken his favorite coat to Austria, France, Germany, Wyoming, Montana, and beyond.
“It smells like stinky sweat,” Branagh says. “I’ve never once washed it.”