When asked to write this article,
my first thought was I would be preaching to the choir. Women would read this
and probably agree with it.
But the women aren’t the problem—the manufacturers are. So
my hope is these manufacturers are reading this also and will try to come up
with some alternatives for us women. I realize that we women are the
minority and in manufacturing it is not cost effective to make patterns for all
shapes and sizes, but we do matter and we can contribute to the sales market.
I also realize that we women are hard to please because we
have “cold” issues as well as “fit” issues. Most guys are easy to manufacture
for. They are rarely, if ever, cold and most men fit into the regular size
My husband (who plays the devil’s advocate very well) said
if the manufacturers did take on the extra costs and develop better women’s
apparel, would women buy it? We girls must admit, most of us don’t spend money
as readily as the guys. We seem to feel
it needs to be spent on the kids, groceries, and of course, the guys who need
sled stuff. But my argument back is I do not want to spend hundreds of dollars
on apparel that doesn’t even fit well or keep me warm. But if I find something
that is just a great fit and does its job, I will spend the money.
Since I am in the snowmobiling business, I know a lot of the
companies out there and what they’ve been doing and what their products are.
Some have been trying and others have pretended to try. But as a general rule,
I think they all could do better to help us.
So, here’s my list of what does and doesn’t work for me in
the world of snowmobile apparel and what I dream of having. Please remember I
am writing of women in general.
Gloves: The past few years I have seen a little
improvement on the selection of women’s sizes, but the problem is a lot of
those are just men’s gloves sized down to a small or if we’re lucky, an extra
small. But they are still somewhat odd fitting. My pinkie finger usually gets
completely lost. I can fold the glove finger completely in half and still not
touch my finger.
And, of course, even with handwarmers, my fingers still get
cold. I know most guys will agree that we women do not circulate blood to our
extremities. It is a cold hard fact (no pun intended).
Since guys sweat, most men’s gloves are created to wick away
moisture plus have some insulating capacity for those really cold days. I can
honestly say my hands have never, in their entire existence, created moisture. There
are those really big gauntlet gloves that don’t do too bad a job for warmth
(I’ve had a pair). But they are so large that it makes aggressive riding
impossible due to the bulk. We need a woman’s glove that is sized appropriately
for smaller fingers and palms and doesn’t dwell on moisture issues (except
waterproofing from the outside). We
desperately need warmth, especially in the fingers, without adding undue bulk.
Boots: While I am on the subject of cold extremities
This is one of the most frustrating of all the clothing
items I need. I’ve spent more money on shipping and return shipping for boots
that I’ve seen advertised as “womens.” My boots (in a man’s size) are ready to
be retired, but I spent all last winter looking and have yet to find something.
Every pair I ordered I returned. After getting them all laced and tightened up,
with big wool socks on, I could completely pull them off. The toe length is
perfect, with enough space that my toes aren’t crammed at the top, but the
width of the boot is extraordinary. I honestly believe these women’s boots are
just men’s boots sized to a smaller length, but they don’t do anything about
It is so frustrating to try to move around in deep snow. The
suction of heavy snow just leaves my boot in the hole as I lift my foot out. So
then my feet get wet and then they get COLDER. Note I said colder. That
is because they are cold to begin with.
I know that air is a good insulator and you don’t want super tight boots
like a street shoe, but that theory works only when heat is generated to
reflect back. Is there a married man out there who thinks that women generate
heat in their feet?
I am an aggressive rider. I only sit when I’m stopped
(trying to warm my hands and feet). I just don’t make heat in my feet,
regardless of how much I jump around. So it’s not just the trail riders who
have this problem, we all have this problem. We need a boot designed for our
feet, not just a smaller man’s foot. We don’t need all that width and bulk,
and in general, we don’t need the moisture wicking (again, no sweaty feet
here). With all the great insulations available, there’s got to be one that
works really well by keeping the foot warm without relying on heat reflecting
back. Then we wouldn’t have to torture our husband’s backside when we get home.
Goggles: I wear an open face helmet with goggles
(that are too big). Most manufacturers make an adult (which is synonymous with
“men”) or a youth. Women’s heads are smaller and their eye spacing is narrower,
so a man’s goggle is just not going to fit properly. You can find smaller
skier’s goggles but they are not created to fit a helmet. Since mine are too
big, I have two problems—my eyes are not centered in the lens and it doesn’t
seal well around my face so air gets through. The lenses are so big that my
eyes are actually “centered” just on each side of the nose piece. My whole day
sledding consists of looking at my nosepiece with an ice cream headache. I have
tried the youth size, only to find that they assume kids are not going to be
outside very long because the insulating foam around the goggles is truly not
very thick. But I have to say the fit is a whole lot better.
I have seen, and tried, a newer goggle made for “the smaller
face.” Again, women were not what they had in mind when they created these. I
believe they were thinking jockey size compared to linebacker size. But they
work a lot better for me than the standard adult and that is what I use now.
I’m not quite sure why the industry has not created a goggle with a woman’s
smaller face in mind.
I will mention that helmets have never been a problem for me
or other women I’ve talked to. We all have our personal preferences in what we
want or how it feels, but I don’t think there are helmet fit problems.
Coats: Men and women are built differently—we all
know that. Women have hips. Men have wide shoulders. That means we are a
triangle and they are an upside down triangle. It doesn’t take physics expert to
see that just isn’t going to work. So we have struggled for years with wearing
a man’s medium or large size just to get it to fit over our hips and then we
drown in the rest of it up top. And the arm length … does the word monkey
conjure up images. I think men should spend a day in a fitted woman’s coat and
then we’d see how fast they came up with a solution.
Clothing manufacturers do make women’s coats, but they are
not winter sports coats. They are work related, dress related or for skiers
(who have different needs than sledders). Along with the fit issue is the
warmth issue (I know, I sound like a broken record with that cold thing). Again,
men sweat and maybe get a little teensy chill occasionally. So these
coats are made to wick away moisture and have zippers all over to open up for
venting. Venting in the winter—isn’t that an oxymoron? I want one zipper, and
trust me, it will always be closed. On those deep powder days when I am
working hard, I am not cold. But I’m sure as heck not hot and the minute I stop
I will be cold. We need good insulation and a woman’s fit. Most of us
don’t want the layering system. We will
rarely, if ever, be removing a layer.
I have to admit this used to be an area of big frustration
but this spring I actually had my choice of several coats that were women’s
sizes with the claims of good insulation for warmth. I did buy a coat but it
was at the end of the season so I have not used it yet. But it fits great with
a flattering fit and feels like it will give me the warmth I need. I think the
manufacturers have finally stepped up to address the issues we have.
Bib/Snow Pants: I used to really get on my soapbox
about these things. There was absolutely nothing for women snowmobilers (skiers
have a different pant/bib) so I had to deal with a man’s bib that I had to get big
enough to pull up over the hips so of course they were huge everywhere else.
But lately it seems there are more and more manufacturers
who are making a women’s pant or bib. I ride with pants as they give me a less
restricted feeling and I was thrilled when Klim finally made a pant for girls.
What a liberating feeling to have such a great fit in all the right places. A
gal just has to be careful when looking to buy. Some retailers will have the
man and woman’s sizes with the exact same product number. That tells you it’s
the same pant and they’ve just created smaller sizes for the woman. You can
also tell by the cut, which will be fuller in the hip area. Younger gals have a
straighter body shape than we older girls, so I have found that some women’s
pants, especially the snowboarder type, still have that narrower cut in the
hips, so watch for that.
And, because I couldn’t really complain much, I will have to
say that I think it was a guy who came up with the “drop down seat” on a pair
of bibs. I think it was just to make us feel better for having to wear their
bib. While it looks good on paper, without going into details way too personal
for this magazine, let’s just say it really isn’t a Nobel peace prize idea.
So, I know you are laughing, but it is very hard being a
girl in a guy’s world. I was a rancher (wearing guys ranch wear), I co-own a
manufacturing business (where tools absolutely don’t work for our small hands)
and I snowmobile (thank God I have access to custom made sleds just for me).
But on a more serious note, I hear from women all the time
saying they don’t go sledding with their men folk because they get too cold or
they have to ride an older model sled that just can’t keep up with the men
(which is another soapbox I have).
So, for all you guys in the clothing business, remember—Happy
Wife … Happy Life.
(ED—Cassidy is co-owner of Fabcraft in Florence, MT—406-777-1200.
She has been snowmobiling for more than 15 years.)