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Ski Apparel: How Should My Outerwear Fit?

Posted May 1, 2021 @ 8:44am | by Tate O'Brien

There are few things, save skiing and Harry Potter, that I love more than shopping. It is like going to an art gallery, snatching your favorite piece off the wall, and walking out with the goods attached to your body. I love shopping so much that I basically made it my full time job — as a buyer here, I get to spend my days shopping for the store and then helping everyone else shop for themselves. Every time that I come into work, I get to fill my cup with two of my three favorite things. (No need to worry, I fill my Harry Potter cup on the side and believe me when I tell you that goblet is overflowing). Yeah skiing is fun, and, in my opinion, the best sport, tradition, hobby, lifestyle out there. But what good is skiing if you can’t look cool doing it?

Let’s say its been six or seven years since you last bought a pair of snow pants. You were in college, invited on a ski weekend with some friends, and go to dig out the old kit when you realize the pants, which you haven’t worn since freshman year of high school, are a hand-me-down from your brother — you are a girl. Because you barely had enough at the time to scrape by on a diet of peanut-butter crackers and keg beer, and shelling out really was not an option, you made a quick run across town to the sports outlet store to grab the cheapest pair of pants you could find. They weren’t the cutest, but hey, at least they fit your hips and fell somewhere below your calves. But now it’s 2021, you have become a pretty serious skier, and you are ready to ditch those puffy old pants and search for a dope ensemble.

If you, like me, are a serial shopper, you probably have a few tricks for finding the perfect fits. Maybe you have mastered denim sizing, found the best shade of blue to go with your eyes, or swear by the twelve-dollar t-shirts at your favorite shop. But when it comes to ski and snowboard clothing, you are likely a lot less experienced. Kits are typically only re-upped every couple of years, and the pieces you wear on the mountain don’t resemble much else in your closet — in look, fit or functionality. These pieces are an investment, and because the ordinary rules don’t apply, we want to help you make the right decision. And while style is personal and subjective, correct fit is super important and pretty objective.

What do these sizes mean?

The first step is getting the sizing down. Don’t worry, it’s easy. When you walk into the store to buy a pair of everyday pants, you choose from a whole heap of sizes — lengths, waist size, stretch factor. But when you walk into the store to buy a pair or ski pants, things look different. For the most part, ski pants are going to come in a few basic sizes — either a small, medium, large situation, or some sort of truncated number system. You absolutely will not become overwhelmed by new sizing methods or paralyzed by choice. There isn’t going to be a “tailored fit,” and there doesn’t need to be. Most of this stuff is bulky (sounds bad, isn’t bad) on purpose, and has the versatility to fit a range of body types.

So you throw on that first pair of pants, or slide into the first jacket, and you are probably going to find yourself staring into the mirror and thinking: “this is too big.” The reality is that, yeah, when you are in the store, barefoot, wearing a pair of sunglasses on-top of your head instead of a helmet, the kit is probably going to look too big!

How long is too long for ski pants?

Why don’t we talk about the correct lengths first, yeah? For, like, eight out of ten of you, any one of these pair of pants is going to get all bunchy around the bottom and feel way too long. You are going to step out of the fitting room and ask me if there is a pair of pants that is shorter in the in-seam. But for the most part, what you have on is going to fit — just remember that when you throw on your boots (snowboard or ski) that not only are you going to be lifted a few extra inches off the ground, but that you will need all that extra space down there to fit around the outside of the boot.

Take a look at me here: pretty average height (5'4 on a good day), wearing the freakin' cutest Burton Avalon Bib with sneakers on. I look totally shrunken, like this is a oversized piece of clothing.

How Ski Pants Should Fit In Sneakers

Now, with the (in reality not-so) simple act throwing on my boots, they seem to fit just right.

How Ski Pants Should Fit

Worried about getting the bottom bits dirty booting up at the car or parking-lot-apres-chillin? Just cuff ‘em! (@Superga)

How Ski Pants Should Fit Cuffed

Still not working out?...It is almost more uncomfortable to have pants that are too big than pants that are too small. It gets pretty tough to move around all that extra fabric, and pretty pricey when you rip up the back of the pants after they get caught in your bindings. 

Ski Pants Are Too Long

How short is too short for ski pants?

For the remaining two out of ten, the pants are either going to fit just right without boots on, or fit a touch too short. Take a look at Andrew, a taller than average guy, trying on a Norrona kit in the store.

Ski Pants That Are Too Short

You have a few options here: a) just roll with it — the pants could look a little short, but IF they are comfortable and moveable, you should be going so dang fast that no one even notices, b) go with a pair of bibs so you can just make the pants longer with adjustable straps, or c) size up to add a little bit of length to the in-seam and tighten the waist down with a belt or keep them up with a pair of suspenders.

Ski Pants That Fit Just Right

Are they too short, for real? Or too long, for real? The occasional brand that will throw in a long or short style for those where it really just isn’t going to work out.

What is my ski pant waist size?* 

*That was a mouthful...

Once you are feeling good on length, you can turn attentions to the waist and thighs. There are two things you have to keep in mind in deciding whether pants are a good fit here: skiing is a sport — you are going to want all the dexterity and mobility you could ask for, and skiing is a layering game — you want space under there for a thick layer on the coldest of cold New England days. When in doubt, always go for the size that feels a bit big. Most pants have adjustable waist lines built in, you have the option to use belts and suspenders, and you don’t want to be uncomfortable sat on the lift, ripping the slope or drinking in the bar. Unlike the visuals of deciding the correct length, the correct waist size is mostly a feel thing. 

The exception, of course, is for all the saucy ladies making the switch to (or back to) soft shell, hip hugging, curve loving stretch pants. Totally different look and fit, totally similar function. 

What about jackets?

If you thought finding the right pant size was easy, finding the right coat size is going to be even easier. Just like with pants, your immediate first thought is going to sound something like, “jeez, this coat looks huge.” Like, yeah, ski coats are huge! You have to keep all that snow out! But by no means does that make this coat too big.

How Should My Ski Jacket Fit

Why are the arms so long?

Let’s talk arms first — this is where we see a lot of people get caught up in a coat being the wrong size. Without gloves on, the arms usually feel way too long. The long arms on your coat serve a very important function, and you aren't really going to find a coat with anything much shorter.Take a look at me in this STUNNING Norrona shell. The arms are, admittedly, extremely long. However, you have to be able to slip your gloves on under there or velcro it back to keep the snow out. When the sleeves are being used in the way they should be, it looks totally normal. 

How Should Ski Jackets Fit How Should Ski Jackets Fit in ArmsSee what I mean? Kind of like the extra space you need in pants for boots, you need extra space in the arms for gloves or added protection.

Is this coat too tight?

When you move into the actual body of the jacket you will find if the coat really fits. Is it too tight across the chest? Is the back pulling when you cross your arms? Do you have to tense up to get the zipper to your neck? If yes, the coat is too small — no matter how long the arms are. Not to sound like a broken record, but just like with pants, you need to remember that you are, in essence, playing a sport in the cold, and you need movement and layering options. Always go for the jacket with a little extra space.

You can see the difference in Andrew, who is much happier in his mono-chromatic Norrona kit that fits than his too-tight blue shell. 

How Should Ski Jackets Fit Just Right

How do you know I won’t be cold?

A common, and not necessarily unfounded, concern among jacket-buyers is that you won’t be as warm in a jacket that is too big. If its too loose and baggy, you run the risk of getting snow up your back or a less tight seal against the wind. While I am sure that this is possible in a coat that is really, really big on you, these coats also have a ton of features to protect against just that. See the gap at the back while I am wearing this insualted, heavenly Norrona jacket? It is easy to imagine getting blasted with snow and wind right there. However, snow skirts, thumb gaiters, seam seals and hoods should keep you (nearly, if not just as) warm even if you like your jacket on the bigger (read: swaggier) side. 

How Should Ski Jackets Fit Too Big

Of course, the very most important part of finding and sizing your new kit is making sure that you like it. What makes you feel best? You are (hopefully) rocking this outfit pretty frequently, and we want you to love the way you look.


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