Why is That Tree Covered in Bras and Beads at the Ski Area?

Luke Guilford | LaughsLaughs | BrainsBrains
Panty Tree
A decorated tree in Sunshine Village Ski Resort, Alberta, Canada. Photo Credit: Get Me Outdoors

Every ski resort seems to have that one tree covered in bras, beads, boots, panties, and whatever people choose to toss on it. Many refer to it as the “panty tree.” There have been conflicting reports that debate when, where, and why panty trees came to be, so today, we must try to piece together the puzzle.

Our earliest theory seems loosely backed by factual evidence and more so of a tall tale. People report that the panty trees, or as this theory refers to it, “bra trees,” began in the 1960s as proof of particular conquest from the night before. I have nothing against this theory, and it makes complete sense, but it seems there was no major spark to spread the tradition across resorts.

To uncover the second theory, we will travel back to the 1980s, when the first panty tree was rumored to sit under the Bell Mountain lift on Aspen Mountain. This report comes from the veteran Aspen Mountain ski patroller Tim Cooney. As the story goes, someone threw a rather large bra onto the branch of an aspen tree under Lift 5 (the Bell Mountain chair). On that bra included the name of the controversial Aspen Skiing Co. Vice President. Although the point of the message has long since been forgotten, the spirit of the humor has lived on.

At one time, the tree sported 40 to 50 bras and panties. Many believe it was a sign of rebellion, classic skiers fighting “the system.” During that time, particular types of underwear were outrageous to others. Perhaps it was a message to the previously male-dominated ski industry that women are here to shred too. Ski patrol threatened to chop down the tree and revoke the ski passes of underwear/bra-shedding skiers.

A good captain goes down with their ship. Eventually, Aspen discontinued the Bell Mountain chair and cut down the panty tree with it. This didn’t stop the tradition, a new tree quickly took over the throne bearing bras and panties.

Bell Mountain Lift
The retired Bell Mountain Lift. Photo Credit: LiftBlog

Word got out, and soon Vail picked up the panty tree idea. It didn’t stop there, resorts everywhere began crowning a tree as their own panty tree. Resort management has cut down some of these iconic trees, to only find a different tree decorated the next day. It seems this tradition regardless of its origin, is here to stay.

A third theory may solve the mystery of the beads, Mardi Gras. Beads are a staple of the celebration of Mardi Gras. Consequently, a method of earning beads involves flashing someone eager to throw you a set or two of beads. So yeah… I can see the correlation between bras, beads, and Mardi Gras here.

Breck Bra Tree
Breckenridge’s very own Bra/Panty Tree. Photo Credit: Pintrest

The last item I typically see hanging in trees is ski boots. I mean why toss a perfectly good pair of boots that run hundreds of dollars? After digging around the internet, I unearthed far too many theories to share, so I will brush over a couple I thought were compelling.

This conclusion takes us far from the slopes. The Great Depression invoked hard times for many and affording everyday items became impossible for those struggling to get by. This led to people hanging extra pairs of shoes on trees for others to take and use. It is logical for the ski community to follow suit, sharing the love of the sport and helping those out.

Shoe Tree
A famous shoe tree in Michigan. Photo Credit: mlive.com

Our journey ends here. This is where I toss my laptop into a tree, just like this last theory suggests people toss their boots into the trees when they close a chapter of their life (or SnowBrains article). Whether you arrived home from war, broke up with your significant other, quit your job, or whatever chapter you closed, why not throw up some shoes?

Maybe this article will bring you clarity for the next time you hit the slopes and see your ski areas bra/panty tree(s). Maybe you’re the skier from the 80s who potentially started this wave… if so, please share your story, the world wants to know what was written on the bra!

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5 thoughts on “Why is That Tree Covered in Bras and Beads at the Ski Area?

  1. I think someone, male or female, just did it because he or she was young and it seemed funny and it caught on with
    mainly teenagers who are easily bored.

  2. I believe that you missed the actual start to this tradition. I believe that a group of Women Patrollers started this as a protest to Aspen hiring practices.

  3. In North Idaho there a bra tree! No ski lifts, no explanation. It’s 5 miles from a paved road and the top trophy is 40 feet in the air. Saw it wolf hunting a few years back.

  4. Gentlemen of culture, we gather here today to recognize the long standing tradition which is the Bra Tree of our local ski area.

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