words by Melody Forsyth
As I pulled into the parking lot, it was obvious to me that I looked different. To be honest, it was my first time ever pulling into a ski resort parking lot during ski season. I was used to the resorts during the summer for the amazing trails for hiking, but I had never been skiing before. As I got out of my car, it was kind of like what I had always imagined. I saw people walking around in ski boots (by the way, I had no idea that this is a skill in and of itself!), in their color-coordinated outfits, with skis over their shoulders, walking around knowing exactly where they were going.
I, on the other hand, did not know where I was going. I was terrified. Luckily, I was set up for a lesson, so I had some basic directions to help me get where I needed to go. Once I checked in, I had the lovely experience of being fitted for ski gear. The first step was hitting the registration site where you input your information including height and weight. I understand that this information is needed to find the right gear, but it’s still nerve-wracking to share these numbers with strangers.
Then, onto getting outfitted with gear. They explained that the boots needed to be tight. I understood that, but on one foot, I immediately felt a weird pinch around my calf and on the top part of my foot. It hurt a lot, and I said something, but the response was “they are supposed to be uncomfortable,” so I figured I would just have to cope with the discomfort. The other foot didn’t feel that way, and I wanted to speak up. However, sometimes because I am plus size, I have come to expect that gear isn’t designed for me. It’s not going to be comfortable on my body, and I don’t expect the comfortable fit that others experience with a lot of outdoor gear.
The experience with my lesson was amazing. I had a great instructor that really gave me some good tips, explained why I needed to position myself a certain way and gave me praise when I did things right. I had a great time with my instructor, and even though my foot was hurting, I realized that I really did enjoy skiing. I kept thinking about how much fun I was having.
I have been back two more times since my first lesson with my daughter Ruby, and I continue to love it. I am totally a beginner and keep practicing those basic skills. I hope to continue to learn alongside my children so that we can all participate and ski together. I decided several years ago that I wouldn’t let my weight stop me from trying new things. I hope more people will feel this way.
Here are a few tips I have learned that I hope will encourage more plus-size skiers to get out there.
1. Plus size snow pants are a game-changer
There is a huge lack of plus-size outdoor gear on the market. Most of us have to make modifications and go without the specially designed gear because it’s not manufactured for plus-size people. For many winters, I just wore extra leggings when snowshoeing or tubing. I couldn’t find any plus-size snow pants. So while my friends were dry and having fun in the snow and able to move their bodies without concerns, I had to be careful to not fall or get my leggings wet because then I would freeze. I felt like I wasn’t prepared because everyone else had the gear to protect them against the cold and wind, and I would just have to keep adding extra clothes in a hope that it would help. It didn't.
This winter, I finally found an amazing pair of snow pants that fit me! I paid full price, but after counting the number of days I spend outdoors in the winter, I decided it was definitely worth the investment. I wear them over and over. I love that I have a pair of pants that keep me dry and warm and allow me to move around with ease while enjoying the snow. I finally feel that I am just like everyone else in the snow and am able to move my body however I see fit. It feels great!
2. Find a great shell jacket (and bonus if it’s a fun color)
Again, I know the hunt for plus-size coats is a hard one, but there are a few companies that make plus-size coats up to 6X. A good shell will keep you dry and keep you warm. While there is a common misconception that plus-size people don’t get cold, this is not true. It's especially false if you have wet clothes on in the cold. Any wilderness survival expert will tell you that regardless of size, being wet is the number one way to drop your body temperature, so a water and wind-proof jacket is essential for your skiing wardrobe. Hopefully, you can find a shell in an amazing color besides black because another misconception is that plus-size people only like black. It’s always fun to stand out with a little color! A shell will also allow for layering up underneath on cold days and down on warmer days without losing the wind and waterproof qualities.
Some of the best brands that I have found that are committed to carrying plus size outerwear include: ColumbiaLL BeanObermeyerREI
3. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for boots that fit your calves
I learned this one the hard way, but not all boots fit larger calves. The first pair I was fitted with was way too tight on my calves and caused quite a bit of discomfort even after I took them off. The next time I skied, I told the person at the gear shop, and he said that he had a different boot that he could try that was designed for larger calves. They fit like a dream. Of course they were snug around my calves, but they didn’t hurt, and I could move my leg around without discomfort.
4. Take a lesson or two
Taking a lesson is what gave me the confidence to actually get on the mountain. It is intimidating to arrive at a ski resort and know that I don’t look like a typical skier. However, having some basic knowledge and skills has really helped me. As I continue to practice those same skills over and over, I realize that I enjoy skiing. I don’t feel anxious while on skis now, and I feel comfortable putting my gear on. I am also comfortable getting in and out of skis, riding the “magic carpet” (believe it or not this was a huge source of anxiety for me) and don’t feel as panicked when I pick up momentum.
5. My biggest tip? Own it. You belong on the mountain just as must as the next person!
I felt inadequate the first time I showed up to ski at the resort. I felt that my body size wasn’t designed for skiing and that my lack of knowledge at my age would prevent me from learning how to ski. I felt that others would judge my size and think that skiing isn’t for plus-size people. WRONG! We have a place on that mountain along with everyone else. I changed my mindset and recognized that I had to stop putting limits on myself. I’m not concerned what others think anymore. I just get out there and have fun. I am loving skiing and will continue to do it because I CAN and because I love it. I will continue to take up space on the slopes, and I hope that you will too.
To learn more about Melody and her quest to experience the outdoors, visit her IG profile @downwithadventure