A Pair of Pants: How Outdoor Clothing is Keeping People Inside

A Pair of Pants: How Outdoor Clothing is Keeping People Inside

I am a lucky woman. My mother instilled a love for being outside in me when I was young. Horseback riding, skiing, and camping were regular events that happened in my childhood. My Girl Scout leader was a biologist, and we learned things that other girls in scouts didn’t get to—we set up tents, cooked our breakfasts on tin cans, hiked, and investigated wildlife with more science behind it than a 7 year old needed. We camped multiple times each summer. We spent our time riding bikes on the Great Allegheny Passage and paddling kayaks across local lakes. There are so many memories that I am privileged to have. These were the experiences that shaped my passions long before I was shaped by a society that told me I needed to be thin.

Four girls stand on skis with a mom. Faded picture of a printed photo.

The Coveted Beginner… But Only If They Fit

The National Ski Area Association (NSAA) focuses greatly on converting beginners into a core winter sports audience. I am sure we can see similar goals across all outdoor sport associations. This is an effort that I am passionate about, from not only a professional standpoint, but personally, as well.

Christina Skis smiles in a red jacket.

Countless studies have been conducted to figure out how to grow participation in outdoor sports. Out of the entire ski and snowboard demographic, only 8% are classified as beginners and a mere 17% of those beginners continue to enjoy it, according to the NSAA. “In order for the ski and snowboard industry to grow… it is necessary to overcome unfavorable demographic trends, time poverty, increased alternative leisure activities and an overweight population needs to be addressed.”

I’ll address the last part: Within the outdoor industry, it needs to be acceptable to get outside and try something which encourages movement in the outdoors regardless of weight.

It is common knowledge that “the Average American Woman wears between a size 16–18, with greater distinctions found when considering race and ethnicity.”

I would love to try and ski and feel it’s something [my fiancé] and I would bond over because he loves it, but I went to a ski shop last year and tried on every pair of pants I could find that I thought would fit me, and nothing did. I would’ve had to resort to men’s bibs and I felt so bad about myself and still haven’t gone skiing because of that experience.


For some reason, outdoor retailers continue to ignore the facts when it comes to providing appropriate sizing in their clothing options. Through this, we are excluding a major percentage of the “never-evers” that everyone in the outdoor industry is working so hard to acquire and convert. Why can’t that include a plus size skier… or snowboarder, or hiker, or climber, or kayaker?

My Own Experience… I Don’t Fit

Let me note that this does not affect only beginners. I’ve had multiple experiences like Gena, quoted above. I am your Average American Woman, size 16-18. This usually converts to an XXL. Classified as a “fat girl” in just about any industry, and obese in the medical field. I’m fat… but I ski, I hike, I lift, and I do yoga. I am fat and I try to shop at REI, Backcountry, Patagonia and local retailers. I’m fat and have spent more money with the outdoor industry before the age of 30 than I care to calculate. And maybe one day I will be lucky enough to spend even more money getting my future children outside. I am your ideal customer, yet I still can’t find my size.

I have been skiing for over 25 years, and rode close to 30 days from December through April in Pennsylvania this year. And I almost couldn’t even find pants this season.

Skier doing a happy dance.

It’s not that I didn’t try endlessly to fit into how I am supposed to look. But I realize—how much longer do I have to stomp my own self-worth into the ground because I don’t fit into a specific standard pair of pants? My relationship with food and perception of my body’s size are going to be things that I have to continuously work on, and I envy the confidence of the body positive movement on The Gram. For now, the goal is a life of self-love and body acceptance and health. That’s where this post is coming from.

For the last 8-ish years, I’ve worn Men’s Bonfire pants and an XL Men’s Burton jacket. I looked pretty fly although the jacket ends halfway down my thighs, tight on my chest, and I ski with my pants unbuttoned (they fit when I bought them!). Looking at Bonfire’s sizing chart, Men’s XL pants would most likely just fit me without having an inseam to my knees. But the Women’s XL waist measurements cut off right before numbers are even is in my range. They don’t offer Women’s XXL. Unbuttoned is literally how I’ve skied the past few seasons because I knew it was going to be difficult and depressing to find a new pair of snow pants. But it was time to enter the shopping minefield again.

Fast forward to November 2018. I needed black snow pants for work. Determined to find a women’s cut, I looked all around and decided Burton might have stylish pants that could fit me. They had women’s XXL after all! But come early December, any XXL Burton women’s snow pant in black was sold out across the Internet. Thankfully, a customer service rep found a brick and mortar store that had them. Supporting a local shop was for the best, but the chances I could walk in to one and actually find pants were rare. The closest shop that had women’s XXL black Burton pants was 3 hours away from me. And while I had great customer service, XXL sizing doesn’t ever guarantee me a fit that will allow me to move the way I need to ski, so naturally I was nervous. But Lo and behold! I ripped a page out of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and they magically buttoned.

Where do we go from here?

Part of me feels like the only limits we have are the limits we place on ourselves and fat people shouldn’t depend on stores to get their sh*t together, but the other part of me feels like not having a warm down packable coat that fits me is rude and I want to rage about it…


I’ve been trying to comprehend and write about this for a while now. The feelings have always been there, but I’ve been sitting in semi-silence. Thoughts whirling in my head. Drafts written and ignored. Some chirps here and there on Twitter. But mostly I sit with quiet breath, holding it in. Sucking it in.

Follow and support plus-size outdoor advocates. Share their message. People like @samortizphoto are making waves in the outdoor industry. @unlikelyhikers‘ Jenny Bruso wrote an incredibly detailed post regarding Plus Size Activewear and mentions all sorts of brands that can get you outfitted and outside. @fatgirlshiking also has a detailed Resource Guide that supports smaller companies that support plus-size hikers.

I want you to experience winter on a mountain. I am excited to get you out on the snow with me next season. Here’s why: “More than 85% of all women surveyed believe the outdoors positively affects mental health, physical health, happiness and overall well-being, and 70% reported that being outdoors is liberating.” I want this for everyone.

It’s been obvious that REI is working diligently to expand available sizing. “It takes time to balance the science and art needed to create products that truly fit every active woman; designers need to work with developers to create blocks, or patterns, that take into consideration the nuances of the human body.” I hope that with REI taking a stand to work on this, this will inspire more popular outdoor brands to do the same.

A post shared by Sam Ortiz (@samortizphoto) on Apr 9, 2019 at 11:18am PDT

We’re here for the outdoors in all shapes and sizes. We’re asking to be recognized as a part of the demographic, because, well, we are part of the demographic. Get out there and tell your story, even if you have to do it with your pants unbuttoned. The industry is taking a look, we just need to show them that people bigger than their mold are also a big part of it.


Deborah A. Christel & Susan C. Dunn (2017) Average American women’s clothing size: comparing National Health and Nutritional Examination Surveys (1988–2010) to ASTM International Misses & Women’s Plus Size clothing, International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education,10:2, 129-136, DOI: 10.1080/17543266.2016.1214291

Model for Growth. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.nsaa.org/growing-the-sport/model-for-growth/

Parris, A. (2019, April 08). What Is REI Doing About Extended Sizing in 2019? Retrieved from https://www.rei.com/blog/news/what-is-rei-doing-about-extended-sizing-in-2019

Stritzke, J. (2017, December 29). Force of Nature: Let’s Level the Playing Field. Retrieved from https://www.rei.com/blog/news/force-of-nature-lets-level-the-playing-field

My Ski Story: Through the Years

My Ski Story: Through the Years


It started from before I could remember, but I like to think of this scene: 1992. Mom in the blue one piece ski suit I’ve seen hanging in the storage closet, skiing with me between her knees. A wide-eyed little girl with curls of brown hair peeking wildly in tufts from under a too-big hat, small skis two straight lines as Mom holds me up, her skis jammed in a wedge (I know that hurts our knees now, so thank you for that). Tiny pink pony mittens hang on to Mom’s poles, which are held horizontally in font of both of us. Mom’s got each end of those poles in her own hands, creating a gate so her daughter won’t send herself careening down the trail. At three, we bounce.


Sometime between 8 and 12 were the glory days. One thing I can remember feeling was annoyance because my mom made me take a lesson while all my friends went off on their own (I should thank her for that now). I remember the families we came with brought walkie talkie radios. They’d set the channel (9? or 3?) for the weekend, us kids would keep them in our pockets and the dads would close answers to where-are-you calls with, “ten-four.”

I remember being terrified at the top of Stingray, the difficult ♦ sign looming, the edge and trees staring me down as the group of girls dropped in, screeching with joy below me, power “V” in full effect down the mountain. I had to keep up, forced to follow suit. The mountain was big then, and I didn’t want to get left behind.

Back at the condo, all cozy and warm, I would pour through the wooden photo album on the coffee table, depicting happy groups of friends as laughter from the same smiling faces jingled out from the kitchen. I looked through that thing every time I’d visit. After dinner, all of the kids piled into the loft for movies and gossip and drifted to sleep. Après at eleven. I loved those days.



Ski Club. The charter bus was filled with cute senior boys on Thursday nights after school. My friends and I would climb on in, giggling at their antics but would never dare talk to them. A group of us played around on the mountain each week through the winter, shouting and laughing, completely forgetting about the boys until we got back on the bus.

We were required to take a lesson the first night of the school program every season. The club supervisor just so happened to be an instructor, and a group including myself went with him. I remember skiing in the dark while he explained that I should keep my shins glued to the front of my boot and to think about the distribution of weight in my feet as I made a turn, like a pendulum on a grandfather clock. I had never thought of skiing like that before. In fact, until then I don’t remember thinking about the actual act of skiing much at all! This is where my technical abilities started to change. He also suggested I become an instructor so I could get a season pass next year. Done and done.


I finished my first ski season instructing and decided I needed my own equipment. At eighteen, I finally received my own pair of skis and boots. This is essentially life-altering the first time you ski on something that’s for you and not rental equipment. Now with my own equipment, and continuing as an instructor, I had never been a better skier than I was when I was taking clinics and teaching lessons. The way I thought about skiing and how to get down the mountain changed forever.


College came and I lost myself for a while, but then a trip to Killington fell in my lap sophomore year. I just rekindled a friendship with the girl I was going with a few weeks prior, but I couldn’t turn down a trip to Vermont! I ended up making 10 best friends for the weekend. Riders I thought were exponentially better than me agreed over drinks and burnt pizza, “you’re a good skier.” I always tend to think down upon myself, but at that point, I realized: I was a skier. And I could definitely hold my own.

Junior year, I moved to a larger university and followed my heart, teaching at the small mountain nearby. I met some friends that I eventually lost to the west coast, but some of them continue to change the course of my relationship with snow.


Group of FriendsGraduated. Full time job. Singles line. I met a boy on a chairlift, as cliché as that sounds. I know I talk about this ex before, and while I hate to dig up old flames, the fire was squelched long-ago. So friends, don’t fret, I hope to say we’re both eight years of over-it. This relationship, however, contributed significantly to my ski life and I did enjoy the people that were around at this point. Rewind the tape and I was back in a cabin on the mountain, just like I was ten again. Except this time, 90% of movie nights were filled with beer, DiGiorno and a shuttle bus ride to the bar. Sometimes we’d let ourselves melt into the couch with lots of wine, but most nights we were out. And every day we would ski and ride that entire mountain like it was the last thing we did on this earth. Sunday night rolled around and we’d go home to work as only a means of survival until Friday. We were living for the weekend. For two seasons, that dream lasted.


Goggle Reflection

Mid-twenties is no-mans-land for skiers and riders that aren’t living in a mountain town. Your friends will have too many things to do, have big items they need to spend money on, and will start to have smaller humans to take care of. But you could find me on the road, sidekick and friend either driving or telling me to get out of the car in the middle of the snow-covered winding roads of Appalachia so he could.

Snowpeople, we called ourselves. Unshaven, unshowered, unfed. We’ll stop at a gas station on the way. He was transitioning back from dry, fluffy champagne powder and I was transitioning out of a one-mountain season pass. So broke and still blowing money, I skied around the mid-Atlantic, visiting every mountain I could get to by first chair. The epitome of not a care in the world… Other than where the next snow storm was going to hit, of course.

Snowshoe, Wisp, Canaan Valley, Timberline, Seven Springs, Hidden Valley, Blue Knob, Whitetail, Holiday Valley… I was everywhere at least twice and found myself continuing to live the ski dream I thought I left behind at twenty-two. Making friends out of strangers, all the two of us needed was good conversation and good bartenders. And the bartenders turned into friends, too. Those were the days that inspired me to start this blog.

Group of Friends 2


Sure, there’s new friends to be had on the mountain, but this season, I think I am just surfacing the the light in the dark ages of skiing alone.  I’ve been fighting my own demons as I’ve grown. As more responsibilities pile on, anxiety rears it’s ugly head and ebbs and flows with the seasons. But I’ve had some almost religious experiences riding by myself. A good playlist in my ear, no thoughts in my head and that feeling when you get it all right.

Best ChristinaIt lasts only for a fleeting second. Just a moment when your weight shifts from one edge to the other, throwing pressure into your carve and before the shock absorbers in your legs throw you into the next turn. I don’t even know if I’m explaining this right, but you might know where I’m getting at. If you don’t, please take a lesson and work on getting there. When you connect these moments all together, it feels like you are floating down the hill. It’s unearthly, heavenly, and combined with some of the most beautiful scenes you can get, you know that there’s a higher power in it all, however you believe that to be.

Lift Rate Roundup 2018: Tri-State / Mid-Atlantic

Lift Rate Roundup 2018: Tri-State / Mid-Atlantic

Oh man! A very late roundup of lift ticket and late season pass pricing is finally on the blog for the 2018-2019 season. Resorts in western PA and more have opened up this weekend, if they haven’t been open already! Check out the alpine skiing and snowboarding areas just a drive from anywhere in Western Pennsylvania and listed in PA, WV, MD and NY. The perfect places for a day or weekend trip–just be sure to check the web first for who’s officially open, because, well, that’s going to be changing on the daily. It’s only November!

Resort Map

Ski Resorts in PA, MD, WV

Rate Chart

Notes about this chart depicting lift ticket rates for the 2018-2019 season: the season pass rates depicted here are non-sale, late purchase pricing. Many of these resorts have spring or fall pre-season pass sales where the majority of them are sold (and when you should buy if you’re seriously considering owning a pass). Unfortunately I missed gathering info on that pricing, so you see the rack rate. All season pass rates are depicted as a single person, full access/classic season pass as purchased today. A few of these resorts are listed under Highland or Peak Pass, which means the resorts are part of a group and the passes have multi-mountain benefits. All lift tickets are set as a single, extended or 8-hour rate, whichever is the “most offered” at each resort.

Highland Pass
7 Springs 33 trails $87 $660 8 visits
Hidden Valley 26 trails $69 $569 8 visits
Laurel Mtn 20 trails $57 $569 10 visits
Peak Pass
Liberty 16 trails $82 $579 7 visits
Roundtop 20 trails $78 $579 8 visits
Whitetail 23 trails $84 $579 7 visits
Blue Knob 34 trails $68 $449 7 visits
Mystic Mtn 6 trails $43 $199 5 visits
Tussey Mtn 8 trails $52 $269 5 visits
Wisp 34 trails $79 $599 8 visits
Timberline 40 trails ___ $499 ___
Canaan Valley 47 trails $68 $497 8 visits
Snowshoe 60 trails $99 $479 5 visits
Peek’n Peak 27 trails $63 $599 10 visits
Holiday Valley 60 trails $78 $989 13 visits

Did I miss one of your faves that you can get to with an easy drive? Let me know in the comments. See you out there! ❄