Hit the Slopes With Szoosh, Just Like Claudine Longet Did

I have absolutely no explanation as to why, especially given my advantageously low center of gravity, I waited until the age of 40 before learning how to ski. Maybe I thought it would require too much skill-which, incidentally, it doesn’t). Any twit, especially a short twit, can learn to wedge, turn and whoosh in a couple of hours.

And then there’s the glamour factor: How did I resist the Bond Girl allure of the slopes for so many years? Everyone looks taller, cleaner and more interestingly fab in ski drag, not to mention après ski. Yes, skiing, even in the hokiest locales, is intrinsically yah!

If you’re a rapidly aging funster who has yet to embrace this calorie-burning and stylish recreation, don’t wait till your arteries ossify and your bones turn to chalk! No need to subject yourself to the financial and social slings and arrows of Aspen: There are zillions of serviceable Vermont resorts within driving distance of Manhattan.

I recommend Bromley or Stowe.

Bromley Mountain, an unpretentious, antithesis-of-Gstaad resort, is four hours from New York and a guaranteed designer-free environment. With nary a Chanel-logo’d goggle ($110 at 15 East 57th Street or 139 Spring Street) in sight, this is the kind of place where firefightersand plumbers bringtheirkids. TheBromleySun Lodge-located at the base of Bromley Mountain, just yards from the lift to the bunnyslopes-is my preferredhostelry. It’s not exactly the Mercer, but the rooms have amusing bad art, the breakfasts are hearty and, in the après -ski, cabaret acts in the lobby provide the occasional chuckle. On my last visit, the throngs of tired but happy skiers were entertained by a saucy lady who called herself “Dolly Pardon-me” and whose cowboy hatwastrimmedwiththrobbing lights. Whatelsedo you need? Call 802-824-6941 or check out www.Bromley.com.Packages,including lift tickets, start at $59 per person per night. Re designer clothing: If you start having fashion withdrawal, the Manchester Outlet shoppingcomplex(Armani,Versace, Ralph, etc.) is minutes away.

Stowe Mountain, though further north than Bromley, is larger, and you can stay at the home of the von Trapps, as in “bright copperkettlesandwarm woolen mittens,” as in The Sound of Music . Yes,therealvon Trapp family, upon whom the saga was based, set up shop here in the 1950’s and, to this day, manage a 116-room Tyrolean-themed getaway. Scarf down memorable meals (“crisp apple strudel” and “schnitzel with noodles”) in the Austrian tradition, and learn to ski at the acclaimed Nordic ski school. Take long snowshoe fitness walks, as in “climb every mountain.” The six-hour drive is a bit arduous: pass the time inventing smutty lyrics to “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?” Packages, including a fabulous breakfast ( The Sound of Meusli ?), start at $79. For more info, check out www.trappfamily.com.

What to wear? Keep in mind that Vermont, with its closeness to Canada, is as cold as Maria von Trapp’s wimple. Re thermals: make sure they’re insanely flattering, i.e., tight and black. When you get back to your hotel room and tear off your outer ski attire and snuggle up on the bed with a Cointreau and the Toblerone from the mini-bar (indulge!-skiing burns up tons of calories), you want to look and feel like a hip and Emma Peel–ish hired assassin. Therefore, black thermals only, please! The sleekest and blackest pure silk thermals come from Hanro: Black long underwear ($135) and matching long-sleeved T’s ($160) can be purchased at Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Vintage ski jumpsuits are O.K. for mincing round the souvenir shops, but they will not keep you warm on the slopes, nor will they stop you from snapping your coccyx when you’re ice-skating while plastered.

Re those chalky bones: Ralph Lauren has a new ski-line called the Impactor Collection. Co-produced with Italian motorcycle-protection innovators Dainese, these ensembles contain removable impact protectors on the knees and coccyx. (Jacket and pants are $250 and $275, respectively.) You Vermont-bound skiers would be well advised to cough up another $425 for the additional protection of the hooded Impactor shell jacket.

After three trips up Bromley Mountain, your face will be as cold as a nun’s pied-à-terre -unless, of course, you have slathered your face in gobs of Kiehl’s All-Sport “Non-Freeze” face protector with SPF 30 ($15 for 1.4 oz., available at Kiehl’s counters from February through March, in time for the 2002 Winter Olympics). My advice: run back to the lodge every 45 minutes, re-apply your Kiehl’s and get something warm inside you, e.g., hot chocolate.

Re the dangers of skiing: The après -ski milieu can often hold more peril than the slopes, if you know what I mean. I somehow think Claudine Longet does. For those of you not familiar with the story of this Vegas showgirl turned gunslinger, here goes: Claudine Longet has two claims to fame-her 1968 performance in the Blake Edwards film The Party , co-starring Peter Sellers, and her 1976 snuffing-out of professional skier Spider Sabich.

Parisian Claudine Longet was a Las Vegas showgirl when bland-but-fab-in-retrospect crooner Andy Williams saw her having car trouble, pulled over and married her. Claudine and the kids became regulars on Andy’s early-1960’s Christmas specials. A recording career followed: haunting covers of pop hits sung in a strange, ethereal voice that gave no hint of the Armageddon to come. The piss-taking notes on her The Very Best of Claudine Longet CD describe her as being “among the precious few who can effectively deliver a song with near-whispers.” Highly recommended, by moi , for wistful après -ski ambiance.

It wasn’t until after she’d left Williams, however, that Claudine really got famous. In 1976, she shot and killed champion skier Vladimir (Spider) Sabich, her longtime boyfriend. After a highly publicized murder trial, Ms. Longet was convicted of criminal negligence and sentenced to 30 days in jail. Who says celebs can’t get fair trials?

The Best of Claudine Longet can be purchased from Footlight Records (113 East 12th Street) for $14.95, or via www.Footlight.com.

P.S.: On Jan. 29, Mademoiselle Longet will be 60 years old. Happy birthday, Claudine! Hit the Slopes With Szoosh, Just Like Claudine Longet Did