Fat girl ski pants, selfies and the lost soul of skiing

I don’t own bathroom scales. I threw them away over 20 years ago because I had spent too many years asking an inanimate object if I was ok each morning.

Yet, still, every year I struggle with my ski pants. They are clearly now the barometer for personal happiness. Too tight and I beat myself up, too loose and, oh, god, what would I know because that’s never happened.

I wear my life on my body. I’m a stress eater, addicted to sugar and finding a numbing solace in carbohydrates the way an alcoholic searches for grief release in a bar. This makes me public fodder, ripe for the thin societal taking because unlike the alcoholic or the gambler or the compulsive shopper who can function by day, I take my disorder with me for all to see.

I went in search of new ski pants this week. Let me tell you battling unflattering ski pants and jackets when you’re at the end of the large spectrum on the shop store rack is akin to trying on a bikini at the end of winter in a fluorescent lit change room with the mirror on the outside the door. Don’t do it.

Despite the average Australian woman being a size 14 – 16 (Australian Bureau of Statistics), when it comes to skiing and snowboarding I’m guessing some brands would rather tall, short and overweight men and women stayed home than play outside. Yet the most common search terms that lead people to our SnowsBest site is “skis for fat people”. I kid you not.

Alas, the world that pushes sugar and stress from long working hours in a culture of busy is the same that judges when the two combine and stick to your body. It’s my fault though. Silly me for daring to need an XL in one brand when I’m clearly an L in another brand and an M in another and an S in another (ok that last one’s a lie).

One shop assistant just looked at me when I walked in and started shopsplaining what skiing is and what clothes are needed, no doubt assuming from my archaic age and non Kardashian size that this was my first rodeo – no matter how many technical terms I dropped into the conversation.

I wanted to tell her the stories of my body that had carried my soul on this earth until this point. See this strapping right thigh, it’s bigger because it leads and takes the first step into the unknown so my left can follow in safety.

It has led me into planes to faraway places filled with wild lions and yawning hippos, down pathways through rainforests and bushland onto white sand, it led me into nightclubs where I should have known better, it helped me run from strangers filled with evil in the dark and it kicked them away when they caught me in clutches I’d rather forget.

This left thigh, it kept me dancing on a full moon beach in Thailand until dawn in my twenties and it propelled me into my mothers arms when I was five. I could not have climbed the altitude heights of Portillo with skis on my back without it, nor floated through powder a gazillion miles from nowhere in the wilderness of British Columbia, tracked Rhinos in Africa or played backyard cricket at Christmas on a hot Australian day. I’ll keep this left thigh at every size, thank you, so please wrap it up in Gore Tex that fits.

That muffin top filled with sweetness that pokes out over the top of my ski pants? That’s a band of self love right there, filled with butter croissants in French bistros in Paris, garlic trout baked in an ancient oven in Longuedoc and Michelin stars in Montpellier. 

While it also holds painful stories of self enforced starvation, of nights doubled over in laxative pain, of ipecac syrup taken after bingeing and of drinks spiked in a ski town, it also holds the years of healing and the act of simply staying alive.

These pendulous breasts that push the seams on this ski jacket have been touched by a United Nations of exotic lovers who delved down to break open the cast iron door that held my heart. They’ve been sun kissed in Tahiti, Thailand and the Greek Islands, if they had wanted they could have grown babies from newborn to walking. Yes, they’ve also been groped by others who thought they owned them, not caring about the person who did, but they remain forever mine.

The upper arms that swing in the wind like dough thrown high for a pizza, they hold the biceps and triceps that have carried my bags on a thousand flights, they’ve dragged skis across pistes, dug avalanche pits, hoisted friends babies and they held my dying mother in a hug that ended forever. Feel free to unpick the arm seams on that jacket if you have to but I’m not skiing without them.

This face filled with lines that affront. It’s a canvas for life art and wrinkles painted by laughter straight from the belly, tears of frustration, grief and heart break, and frowns filled with concern. These eyes were once lit by a fire that still sparks when I find powder in trees on skis that float like a cloud so I can be free.

But I didn’t tell her any of these things because stories take time to tell and time to be heard and time is now measured in miliseconds of attention in a world lived, and compared, on mobile devices. 

I fear the soul of skiing is being lost amongst the need to capture every Instagram moment, film every turn and post envy inducing staged moments and forgetting to live them while we do. I fear what we look like while skiing means more than how we feel while skiing or boarding and that real connection is being lost on a man made wifi wave filled with pouting lips not guffawing smiles.

You can lose and find yourself while skiing but you can’t do either if the ski world locks you out at the shop counter because of your size, nor can you do either if you’re too busy wondering how you look while doing it. 

Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of SnowsBest.com. A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.

14 COMMENTS

  1. Beautiful and real words MISA. I fear the need to take a photographic document of every and any occasion is robbing people of the first & most important seeing; the one where you just breathe and enjoy. As for the mansplaining, fat shaming, “how could you possibly know what you’re doing in this sport” crowd, well jog on people. Being in the mountains is one of the loves of my life. I’ve pushed, toured solo, worked very hard, ignored the “you can’t do that” crowd for over 25 years to satisfy my desire. And I’ll keep at it. See you out there sisters, brothers, family, and friends. I’ll be the one with the big smile and the warm heart.

  2. A million thank yous for writing this!! I went through the hell of buying new ski pants last Nth Hemisphere season. I even documented my struggles via my Instagram stories to show people how ridiculous the sizing of some brands is and how the clothing never accommodates curves. I often think many women’s ski clothes are designed by people who think we’re only planning on sitting in the bar/lodge all day. It makes me so mad!!!!

  3. Best post!!! Thank you so much for writing this!! I’m a 179cm size 14 that likes to wear protective bum shorts and finding pants can be very tricky business. In some brands an XL is like skinny leg jeans! Might be good for sitting in the bar but no good for riding. I would like to publicly thank Rojo for making their “adventure awaits” pants a decent size!

  4. Im a bit of a skinny old man so my comment is a bit out of place as you seek oversized female validation but i say good on you and i celebrate your endorsement and partipation of adventure in all its guts and glory which many others will never know or do.Well said and done!

  5. This article arouses a mix of sadness and frustration as I relate to most of what it says. So wish I could help young women to have the confidence and self esteem to make none of this matter. And to educate people like the shop assistant not to do this stuff. to their customers.
    Whilst things have improved I still find a lot of women’s ski gear “lesser” than men’s. It was either a very brave or a very stupid shop assistant that told me women’s clothing did not need to be as waterproof as men’s because women did not ski in blizzards. I doubt they ever worked out why I left the shop without buying anything..
    Anyway, articles like this are so important so people know what ever size or shape they are it is ok. Just get out there, do your thing and enjoy!

  6. Yep. I’m a size 16. Tall and big. I’ve always been this way! This year I’m wearing my dad’s XL pants with braces. I just could not deal with the too-tight, falling-down lady pants. I’ve been so much happier with extra room so I can move! The colour is revolting though. Hahah. Great post.

  7. This is beautiful! Absolutely perfect! I’m a ski intructor, and I definitely don’t look like the instagram skiers, finding pants to fit me, or rocking up to work and the company saying they don’t have pants that fits you, killls me, almost makes me wonder why I bother with the humiliation. Then I put my skis on, and go for a rip, or I get a really good class on a beautiful blue day, and that’s when I remember, it doesn’t matter if I’m wearing Xl or 5xl I’m still a bloody good skier, with the passion to follow!

    Curvy, thick, fat people do ski too!!

  8. LOVE you work! As a very normal sized kiwi woman at 80+kg and 160cm tall finding ski gear that is comfy, fits well and looks great has been a challenge!
    I’ve skied all my life, now 49 and plan to keep on going for ages yet.

    Manufacturers need to recognize this market. Design waterproof and warm gear with room to move, use stretch fabrics, accommodate big busts without making us look like we’re stuffed into a jacket. Produce size 16, 18, 20, 22 etc. Oh and just because my back and hips are wide doesn’t mean that I have orangutan arms! Not every measurement needs to be made longer just because there is more of me to love!

    There are some great websites, but buying expensive gear online is risky when it may not fit or be the expected quality.

  9. Phew! I’m not the only one! I’m a 12/14 in most clothing till it comes to ski pants. I had to resort to Guys Large so they cover my butt & I don’t overflow out the back of the girls hipster fit styles. Seems they’re designed for girls with no hips, booty or pudge. I have to give a thumbs up to Rojo this year though, I’ve noticed this years gear has sizes for those un-catered and average sized adventure girls trying to get out there. Mountain bike shorts are just as bad too 🙁 Maybe I should have a smaller butt and a lil less chub… but at least let me have fun while I try to reach those goals.

  10. Brilliant piece xo I needed this today! My fav line I can relate to “These eyes were once lit by a fire that still sparks when I find powder in trees on skis that float like a cloud so I can be free.” Oh and the reference to muffin tops! I will remember as I try on my ski pants for this season – great work 🙂

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