Once there was a time when there were no specific skis or boards for women! Pretty crazy when you think about it, since many of the best and most creative riders on the hill are in fact the girls. Like the way things usually happen, once it started happening it went wild and women’s specific skis and boards were selling like crazy. But then, a funny thing happened. In an effort to out-market and out-communicate each other, the companies developed all kinds of philosophies on what women needed. The general feeling regarding skis was: girls have a lower center of gravity, more weight in the hips and are not quite as strong, so they need help getting forward. Companies developed special plates and bindings with more ramp angle and the waists on skis were designed more forward... and guess what If you are not really athletic and not skiing fast, the skis felt easy and forgiving.
Was this a male female thing or athletic-non-athletic thing? I have been demoing skis and boards to people for over 30 years and made some interesting observations. When I skied with Olympic Gold Medalists like Donna Weinbrecht or Picabo Street (both members of the RAMP Team) neither preferred these “women’s features”. I couldn’t help but notice they’re both beautiful women. What I finally started to realize was if you are very athletic and ski fast, you like the same features and characteristics whether you’re male or female. If you’re not, then you like product that’s easier to use and more forgiving.
So, how do we address this when developing performance products? Essentially itcomes down to making every size of every model unique in it’s flex characteristics so that the average size person using it is getting the absolute best possible ride. Sometimes even the widths and shapes change within a model (the Peacepipe has 3 different shapes/widths for the 3 different sizes: a 110mm waist on the 169, a 112mm waist on the 179 and a 115mm waist on the 189).
Snowboarding always had it more right, they never really went all over the place with marketing features vs what was really the case. High end women’s snowboards really were high performance snowboards.
My friends who are really strong girl skiers used to all use unisex skis because that was the only product that skied at their level, even as recently as three years ago. Now with skis like the Beaver, Chickadee, Hysteria and Hula, women can get the same ultra high level performance but with a women’s specific look that they love.
Next week I’ll talk about testing skis and boards.
President and C.E.Snow