As you head out to charge the mountain, which ski do you reach for? The ski that is shorter, pink and ‘girlie’, or do you choose the same skis as the man’s, because you can?
Yes, it’s a debate that is swirling around the industry once more: is it necessary for brands to have female-specific skis?
It’s come to light again after Scott announced that their female-only range for winter 2015/16 will consist of only one ski.
Most female skis out there are for the girls who aren’t riding at a high level…
Women make up 41 percent of alpine skiers. So what sparked their decision to change their female-specific range to a broader ‘unisex’ one?
“It’s not because Scott no longer want to appeal to female skiers,” says Mark Wood, Sales Manager at Scott Sports UK. “It’s because Scott believe women who buy from Scott are perfectly able to ski the men’s main line… and, in fact, prefer it.”
Manufacturing a ‘watered down’ ski to sell to women are not what Scott are about. “Our advanced and expert female riders are more than happy to ride [the men’s] 178s.
“It’s like a car. A woman wouldn’t expect to be offered a toned down 2L version of a more powerful 3L model just because they’re female.”
Ski instructor Jenny Liard agrees. She prefers to ride a ‘man’s ski’, as it is the only way that she is able to ski confidently. “Most of the female skis out there are for the girls who aren’t riding at a high level.”
Jenny believes it is because the women-specific ranges have catching up to do when it comes to technology. She’s not the only one.
Jen Gurecki, CEO of Coalition Snow, also thinks it’s women’s skis that are holding female skiers. She believes some women-specific ranges “lock women into the beginner/ intermediate categories, yet they are capable of progressing beyond that”.
Based in California, Coalition Snow craft skis and snowboards for women, by women, seeking to overcome the problems that some female ski ranges pose.
They want to create high-performance gear for the hard-charging female skiers who want to push their riding to an advanced or expert level.
Brands like Dynastar, Nordica, Atomic and K2 are constantly developing technology within their female range, bringing flex, stance and geometry into synchronisation with a lady’s physiology.
This means that women can choose an advanced model suited to their body type, rather than just being given a singular ‘shorter, lighter’ model cut from a generic unisex design.
However, Jen thinks the need to have female-only skis carves deeper than this. “What really counts is how many women does a brand employ in executive positions, how do they support female athletes, and how do they further women’s engagement in the sport?”
Faction Skis are one major brand that are really supporting female athletes. They believe that a strong female team in turn creates a strong female-only range.
Half our staff are women, we want our own products to ski on… – Faction Skis
“We are ardent believers in having a women’s range. This is largely driven by the fact that about half our staff are women and we want our own products to ski on,” says Faction Skis’ Global Marketing Manager, Beanie Milne-Home.
Much like Black Crows’ new female range, Faction don’t believe women who want longer advanced skis should just buy the men’s.
Next year, their adding longer lengths to their women’s range, stretching up to 182cm.“If you give women the option of a hard-charging women’s ski, then they will take that every time.”
Faction Skis also collaborate with artists to create unique graphics and artwork that aren’t the ‘butterflies and pink’ graphics of some traditional female ranges.
Lots of women in the ski and snowboard industry agree – female skis don’t have to feature pink and feminine graphics.
Short, soft, pink skis are an insult to our talent…
“Of course ski brands should have women-specific skis,”says snowboarding brand Nikita founder Heida Birgisdottir.”But, they don’t have to look that much different to the men’s skis, that is colour and graphic.”
Jen from Coalition Snow agrees. “Short, soft, pink [skis] are an insult to our talent, so if that’s your idea of women’s-specific, you probably should stop making them.”
If a female skier can hold an edge, keep their balance powered forward, slay powder and possess the strength to flex a stiffer ski, then it is their preference to ride whatever ski pushes their skiing, even if it is aimed at men or ‘unisex’.
However, what is important is women are now slowly being given more options in women-specific ranges, beyond the beginner range of skis.
“The market has finally understood the need for female-specific design, and that there are all levels of women skiers out there,” says big mountain rider Josephine As. “But I still ride men’s skis some days.”
The ‘shrink it and pink it’ method is gradually being buried – not only by the main ski manufacturers, but by a fresh influx of women’s-specific brands.
These are brands who create skis for real female skiers. So, which ski would you reach for now?