Camille married Chris Robinson, lead singer of the Black Crowes, a while ago. The Black Crowes have sold more than 30 million albums, allowing the Robinsons plenty of residence choices. For years, they inhabited Marin County, California, where Camille grew up. Relentless wildfires, however, stressed them and in 2020, the couple moved to a mesa above Telluride even though Chris doesn’t ski.
Mrs. Robinson (not the “koo-koo-ka-choo” one) learned to ski at three years old and raced for Squaw Valley junior squads before burning out on gate-bashing and I-80 commutes at 13. She went 25 years without making a turn. Then, her husband landed a wintertime gig at Alyeska, Alaska. Gifted a lift ticket, Camille was promptly born again as a skier.
Her NorCal dad, a Squaw Valley die-hard, celebrated her two-plank renaissance by bequeathing his old fanny pack. “You might need this now,” he told her. “This” being a circa-1979 cherry-red and navy-blue butt-bag from Kelty that never fails to startle Telluride lift attendants with its retro eminence. “When I first got it,” says Robinson, “there was Dermatone from the ‘80s inside, as well as hand-warmers from a company that’s no longer in business.”
Small pockets at each end of the waistbelt now hold car keys and Advil. While the volume of the cavernous main compartment isn’t listed, it must hold 15 to 20 liters. But who the hell knows, given that 1970s America hated the metric system (and for that matter, soccer). I think we still do, on both counts.
Anyway, a shitload of stuff fits in there, including a vintage, red-and-blue Squaw Valley headband and glamorously oversized tortoise-shell shades that once belonged to Brigitte Bardot (maybe). They co-exist with a lighter, hand sanitizer, dental floss, Benchmade knife, goggle chamois printed with Telluride’s trail map, and neoprene beer koozie from Jackson’s Million Dollar Cowboy Bar.
There will also be provisions. “I carry Clif Blocs, both caffeinated and decaf. Patagonia energy bars, turmeric chocolates, water, and an airplane bottle of Casamigos Reposado tequila,” she says. “People flip me crap for skiing with a hard-boiled egg. But sometimes you need a quick protein boost. I even bought a plastic holder for my daily egg.”
A fascinating artifact of 20th century ski culture, Mrs. Robinson’s butt-bag is highlighted by 16 embroidered patches—the old kind that require painstaking sewing with needle and thread. The adornments exclusively honor resorts in the American West, primarily California. “Squaw Valley, USA” proclaims a small green one. It refers to Squaw’s hosting the 1960 Winter Olympics, but not in a legal fashion: The insignia features interlocking rings, alright, but there are six instead of the vigorously trademark-protected five.
A “Badger Pass, Yosemite” badge vibes both historic and modern-day: California’s first ski area dates back to 1935 but did not open in 2020-21 due to Covid. Other patches appear older than Baby Boomers. Consider: The USPS began using two-letter abbreviations for states in the 1960s, but no one told the fanny pack. Hence, accolades for “Mt. Bachelor, Bend, Ore.” and “Sugar Bowl, Norden, Calif.” The flair for another Sierra stalwart features a smiley mastodon and eliminates all confusion by spelling out “Mammoth Mountain, California.”
The Establishment didn’t ski much in the 1970s, freeing resorts to indulge their e e cummings tendencies. Hence, the (long-since changed) usage of all lower-case letters for “bogus basin” and “northstar-at-tahoe.”
Robinson skis every day she can, and never leaves her massive fanny pack behind. “I love all the flair on the Kelty,” she says. “I’ve paid at least $40 on Ebay to add vintage-looking, but new, patches to match the old ones.” Alongside a yellowing “Aspen” brag on the top flap, there are three faux-old patches, including “Telluride” and “Jackson Hole.”
The third is a shout-out to the mountain where she returned to our tribe. “I didn’t know if I could do it again, but skiing Alyeska was like riding a bike. I experienced a come-to-Jesus moment. Since then, I’ve never wanted to do anything else. Later, when the Chris Robinson Brotherhood band toured Colorado, I demoed skis in every resort I could. I skied all day [with the fanny pack] and slept all night. I never saw a single show the entire tour!”