Frustratingly, ZERO data exists for the plus-size winter outdoor community. Without data, companies just aren't paying the attention we deserve.
We asked, and boy did you answer. In fact, an incredible, 1,117 of you participated in our first-ever plus-size global winter sports survey, and we can’t thank you enough for the time and thought you put into sharing your experiences.
Thanks to you, we now have an incredible data set that will help us continue to build a community of plus-size skiers, snowboarders, and general outdoor enthusiasts (i.e., people like YOU!). Most importantly, we will use the wealth of data you shared to continue conversations with our suppliers and the wider outdoor industry to promote inclusivity, better design, and more choice for curvy outdoor recreationists.
So, what did we learn? Here are some of the things that stood out most to us.
The Plus-Size Outdoor Community is Global
Plus-size people across the globe are demanding more from the outdoor industry. We had skiers, snowboarders, hikers, climbers, and winter warriors participating from across North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. Here’s what our community looks like:
‘Plus-Size’ isn’t One Size Fits All
While some sizes were more common than others, it’s clear that plus-size outdoor enthusiasts come in many beautiful shapes and sizes. Many of you reported owning clothes in an astonishing array of sizes, sometimes encompassing up to 5 sizing levels. While this didn’t come as a great surprise, it puts fuel in our fire to keep asking for better, more consistent sizing from outerwear brands. No one should be a Medium in one brand and an XXL in another.
Just as we know that ‘plus-size’ is in fact many different sizes, it’s also clear that our bodies come in many different shapes. There was a relatively even split between those that described themselves as an hourglass, pear-shaped or apple-shaped. A slightly smaller number described themselves as broad-shouldered. We also note that a number of you rejected these descriptors altogether, and we get that. This question was never about slapping a label on you like a piece of fruit at the grocery store. In our many years of business, we have learned that shape is way more important than size when it comes to finding plus-size ski and snowboard clothing that actually fits as it should. By asking these questions, we’re hoping to see a more diverse range of sizes, that leads to less gape, less pinch, more good times.
We asked how you prefer your body to be described. Of course, many of you told us that you’d rather it wasn’t described at all (obviously! None of us wants to feel examined or discussed, that’s icky. But because we work in this space, we want to make sure that we, and the wider industry, are talking about the bodies we clothe in a way that’s inclusive, welcoming, and positive AF.)
Generally, we heard that our community prefers to refer to themselves as curvy. Gotcha, loud and clear, curvy babes. That said, we’re assuming that most of the gents out there may prefer a different descriptor, so go with us as we use plus-size and curvy interchangeably.
Wondering what that ‘other’ slice of the pie is? They’re our fabulous, creative, confident respondents who came up with their own damn label. Queen. Goddess. Athletic. Strong. Viking Warrior. More of that, please.
Plus-Size People are a Sporty Bunch
Unsurprisingly, none of you are particularly intimidated by winter. While the vast majority of respondents identified as skiers (downhill and nordic), so many of you indicated that you participate in multiple sports over winter, from fishing to ice climbing and generally having fun in the snow. When factoring in that most respondents selected multiple sports, hiking and backpacking came in strong as the second-most popular outdoor activity after skiing, with nearly 75% of you participating.
We’re so here for this! And, speaking of which, we are always looking to represent the plus-size winter sports community doing what they do best. We’d love to feature you in your #curvystoke element on our social media accounts, so next time you snap a selfie outdoors, please think about tagging @Plus Snow so we can create a library of images of outdoorsy peeps that show the world that the outdoors are for EVERY body.
But There’s Still Not Enough Plus-Size Outerwear
A somewhat staggering 97% of respondents said that they had had difficulty finding plus-size winter clothing that fit them properly. At the same time, 60% said that lack of the right gear had prevented them from participating in the winter sports that they love. First of all, this sucks. Everyone should be able to access the gear they need to do what they love. But what this also tells us is that over a third of you are getting outside despite not having gear that fits. We are so thrilled to see the strength and tenacity of this community, but we can see how much work needs to be done to outfit curvy bodies in gear that fits, performs well, and keeps you warm. This is about more than looking good or being comfortable, although those things are really important too. Well-performing, technical plus-size winter gear is a safety issue. It prevents you from cold exposure and ensures that you can have the correct body positioning to do your chosen sport correctly and avoid injury risk.
Often, the Plus-Size Outerwear You CAN Find Isn’t Comfortable
When we asked what your primary challenges were with your existing outdoor clothing, 53% of you cited the key problem as plus-size clothing options being uncomfortable. 12% said that gaping or lack of snug fit was the key concern, while over ninety percent of you reported that most plus-size ski gear is not cut for your shape.
Shopping for Plus-Size Outerwear Hasn’t Been Fun
Shopping for new ski gear should be fun, no matter what your size. But for our community, it hasn’t been. In fact, with heartbreaking transparency, you told us that if you’re plus-size, finding the right ski gear has been the opposite of what it should be. Here are just some of the words you used to describe the experience:
We spoke to our ambassador, Charlotte Buell, a lawyer by trade and one of the Directors at Women Who Explore, about her experience shopping for plus-size ski gear.
So What’s Next for Plus Size Skiers?
It’s clear that much needs to change, but thanks to people like you, we’re starting to see positive shifts. We hope that, for those who completed the survey and didn’t know about PlusSnow beforehand, that you’ve now found a resource, and a community, for plus-size skiers, boarders, climbers, hikers, travelers, photographers, dog lovers, parents… in short, for everyone who wants to embrace winter in all its glory.
We’re working hard to create this space, and to offer as wide a range of plus-size outerwear to make the snow accessible to anyone who wants to play in it. As our ambassador, Britta Nelson says,
Although we don’t make our own plus-size ski and winter clothing, we are in regular communication with our suppliers about what our customers need. We’ll be sharing the data we’ve collated through this survey, and using it to drive informed fact-based conversations. We know that there are thousands of plus-size (curvy, heavy, athletic, strong, Viking warrior) outdoor enthusiasts, and we believe with all our hearts that size and shape shouldn’t be a barrier to participating in activities that fill us all with joy.
Want to know more? We’re happy to share the raw data with anyone interested (particularly manufacturers, cough cough). Please email us with questions or comments.