Women's skis enjoyed rapid growth during the past decade, with dozens of new models appearing every season. 2011/12 isn't as banner a year for new product launches, but ski manufacturers have worked on perfecting established ski models for this category, which accounts for upwards of 30 percent of the adult ski sales.
The buzz around the SIA Snow Show 2011, however, was the growing interest in women-specific freeskiing models. Women see wide-waisted unisex skis on the walls and look for their own model, one with perhaps a forward mounting binding position, a softer flex, or shorter length options.
"We are seeing more women go with a second pair of skis (fat skis), but there are definitely still a lot of women that prefer to spend the majority of their time on the groomed runs, thus the mid-waisted skis (74-84 mm) are the strongest category for us," says Tracy Gibbons, co-owner of Sturtevants in Bellevue, Wash.
Many manufacturers added new technology to their lines for 2011/12, with mid-waisted skis at the helm. Blizzard uses Flipcore technology, which builds reverse camber into the mold of the ski, in the new 88 mm-waisted Black Pearl. Elan combines WaveFlex technology with new Amphibio technology, which enhances the rockerd profile with a right and left designated skis, to a new model called the W Studio Insominia Amphibio.
Head uses FlowRide and Diffusor technology in a series of newly designed Chanel-inspired skis such as the MYA No. 8. Nordica unveils new skis such as the twin-tipped Cinnamon Girl XBI CT and the all-mountain, lightweight Conquer I-Core XBI. Salomon offers a new range of all-mountain Origins (such as the Origins Bamboo) with wider shapes, lightweight systems, and anti vibration system.
Manufacturers found that rocker not only helps with floatation but also with turn initiation, so they continue to add rocker into many women-specific models. Volkl updates both the venerable Aura with a wider sidecut (96 mm) and new tip rocker profile as well as the Kiku. K2 unveils a new series of lightweight, rockered skis called the SuperModels-with flagship models SuperStitiousFree and Miss Directed.
Atomic adds Adaptive Rocker Profile to the new 84 mm-waisted Affinity Storm. Black Diamond introduces the Amp and Element, both with a 115 mm waist and full rocker in the tip and tail. Rossignol caters to the female big-mountain skier with the new S7 W, at 117 mm underfoot. Dynastar adds more rocker to the 85 mm-waisted Exclusive Eden and Active.
Manufacturers cross the gender barrier with a new breed of unisex-friendly skis. Not cross dressers, these models have a unique personality that suits a wide range of tastes. Salomon's new BBR ski-a buzz itself- has tips that look like a cross between a surfboard and a canoe paddle, but this shape creates a user-friendly ski for both genders.
Kastle never has made a ski specifically for women, but continues to offer shorter lengths in models such as the uber-wide BMX 118, from their new BMX (Big Mountain Cross) line. Among smaller ski manufactures such as Armada, Icelandic Design, HeidiSkis, G3 and Scott, more women-specific models emerge, particularly in the freeride category-which with fun graphics and wide platforms, captured the attention on the slopes and in the trade booths for 2011/12.
Krista Crabtree is the apparel editor for Snow Show Daily and gear editor for PEAKS Magazine.