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Women's skiing: way more than pretty graphics and glitter

Our friend Sophie Nicholson, founder of PrettyGrittyGear.com and Yodel Communications, tells Roped Up about the biggest thing in skiing right now…

Forget fat skis, snowblades, splitboards, and ski bikes. The biggest thing in skiing right now is women. Yup, that’s right - the girls, the chicks, the ladies who rip. After years of being treated as a pink and shrink afterthought, brands are finally listening to the needs and desires of the vast global female skiing community and responding with quality, high end and legitimate gear. Cynics may think that the women centric approach is yet another BS marketing gimmick but the stats suggest otherwise. If you’re looking for evidence of the potential power and validity of the women’s sector then consider this, the biggest selling ski in the US in 2015/16 was the women’s specific Blizzard Pearl. ‘Nuff said.

This growth in demand for women’s specific gear can be attributed to a variety of factors. Firstly, in very basic terms, brands have finally woken up to the fact that the market exists and have started producing kit for women. When you consider that women constitute 40% of the skiing population, it then follows that they represent 40% of potential sales. Gear companies have realised that by overlooking this demographic they’ve been missing out on a massive opportunity and are now beginning to focus their energies on addressing the needs of this market and producing products optimised for the female anatomy. When it comes to ski boots for example, women have very specific requirements as boot-specialist Josh Parry explained in a recent interview with digitaltrends.com: “Women have smaller skeletons than men, so they will have narrower ankles. Another big factor is women’s calves tend to attach lower than on men and this has a tendency to cause pain or cramps in the calf.” After all, women are not just mini-men and experts such as Parry are increasingly recognising the very real need for female-specific ski gear.

In addition to producing more female-specific options in recent years, snowsports gear manufacturers have also started producing more credible products for women – a fact that has proved to be absolutely key in the growth of this sector. Whereas previously the majority of gear companies would throw all their innovative energies into men’s models, resigning any female-specific ski or boot to the entry-level shelf, brands are now recognising that there are a hell of a lot of hard charging, female skiers out there who demand more from their equipment than just pretty graphics and glitter. 

Now that the ski industry has decided that the female sector is actually worth taking seriously, increasing numbers of high end and well thought out women-specific products are coming to market having undergone a rigorous R&D process to ensure validity. When the 2015 SIA Snow report revealed a spike in sales of women-specific snow products for example, Tecnica took these figures on board and set up several focus groups made up of female skiers from across Europe and North America to test, develop and improve equipment. The result was the Blizzard Pearl - the game-changing ski designed for specifically for women that ended up outselling any other ski in the US during the 2015/16 winter season. 

The increasing availability of high-end women’s ski gear is in no small part down to the emergence of a more adventurous type of female skier in recent years. The general global shift towards gender equality has seen more and more women smashing through glass ceilings in all aspects of their lives and skiing is no exception. The ‘This Girl Can’ attitude to skiing has been helped in no small part by the existence of a number of high profile, high achieving, hard-charging female athletes who have changed the face of snowsports forever. The likes of Angel Collinson, Lynsey Dyer, Jenny Jones and Lindsey Vonn are global superstars who have revolutionised expectations of what women are capable of by demonstrating that they are every bit as ballsy and talented as their male counterparts. Their achievements have inspired a new generation of female skiers and snowboarders to accept nothing less than the best of themselves and their equipment and that’s proving to be incredibly powerful stuff. Success breeds success after all.

With the availability of decent gear on the increase, a host of iconic female figureheads spearheading the development of the sport and an industry that’s finally demonstrating a genuine desire to communicate directly with women, there has never been a better time to be a female skier than right now. The patronizing days of ‘shrink and pink’ are dead and the future looks very bright indeed. 

Bio

Sophie is the co-founder of PrettyGrittyGear.com, a gear review and advice site dedicated to women. For the latest backcountry ski reviews, click here.

She also writes for a variety of publications, including Snow Magazine where a version of this article appeared in the November 2017 edition: click here to read.