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Women's skis, how different or just marketing?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
My wife is looking for new skis. She's tall, about as tall as me, almost 6' and height/weight proportional so she weighs about what I weight 180-190#. She's a couple levels below me in ability, about level 6, and not as strong. So she definitely should be on less ski than me. But, should she be on a women's ski?

I wonder just how different women's skis are. Some claim to have a different center of flex. If they were just lighter versions of men's skis, wouldn't they be the same just one model down in stiffness? Is a lot of it just marketing and graphics?

She's now on a Atomic R8.11 in a 162cm and it was fine four years ago but it is not enough ski. She demoed a Nordica Gran Sport 14.0 in 170cm and really like it. More stable, the tips pulled her into the turn, didn't have to work as much. That's the highest level Gran Sport; Nordica literature says it's the expert level. When I bought my Nordica's the rep told me the whole Gran Sport series doesn't really go above high-intermediate and I should select my skis out of the Hot Rod Series; I bought the Modified which I like a lot and still do not consider a demanding ski.

She wants to demo more and some shops are recommended women's models. Really though, wouldn't she be just as well of better off with a high-intermediate unisex ski???

I happen to think she needs one length longer than she has now, about 170cm, same as me as she is the same height but the skis one or two levels down in advanced-ness of the ski.

Thoughts?
post #2 of 13
Thread Starter 
Oh, the other issue is 167-170cm is the max length for most of the Woman's skis. That'd be the right length for her but it may be hard to find demos. A lot of mountains only stock the most popular lengths. That's why it might be easier for her to demo a unisex/men's ski in the advanced-intermediate level. They're she'd be right in the middle of the range.
post #3 of 13
From my limited experience with women's skis (and skis altogether)... This is my opinion...

Female beginners may benefit fromthem in the short term.. A lot of women's skis ramp up the heel to help lift their butts up, which is an issue for a lot of women.

Women's skis are lighter and softer, for strength differences between male and female..

Women's skis are more expensive than a comparable men's ski and come in limited lengths

If your wife has great balance and stance, have her demo some unisex skis, if they work for her, get 'em. A heavier ski will strengthen her legs which may be awkward at first, but should give her a lot more power when she advances which should help her progress.. As far as ski flex goes, you can find a softer flex in unisex skis... step down one level and see how it works...

The way I see it is this... If you get her a women's ski, you'll pay more now and you'll pay more later because she may start to rely on the ramping, lightness, etc... If you put her in a unisex ski now, she will have to adapt to it, but it should be better in the long run...

My girlfriend decided on a pair of Metron 10s over a set of Roxy Pop Art... I don't know how the Pop Arts would have worked for her, but the Metron 10s will help her develop stronger leg muscles, and she paid $250 for the Metrons compared to the $600 the Roxy's would have cost her.
post #4 of 13
Also, if she has the chance, have her Demo the Metron 10 in around a 160-165... My girlfriend loves hers, I can notice a great improvement in her skiing since she got them, and they have GREATedge hold... she could hold a good edge on ice.
post #5 of 13
I'm coming from the opposite side of the size spectrum, 5'2 and 115 lb. Women's skis work much better for me, and aren't necessarily more expensive. Lighter, easier to turn, and generally less clunky feeling. You may also want to have her try some of the more advanced women's models that are stiffer, like the K2 Burning Luv. But in her size, why not try both the men's and women's.
post #6 of 13
Learn2turn, womens skis are no longer the old standard of "shrink it and pink it". There is some significant technology that has been put into the womens lines. Some differences have been brought up, like the softer flex and lighter weight. Another difference is a binding mount that is slightly forward, to allow for the difference in the way men and women balance.

As for the strengths of women skis. I have found many of them to be very substantial, when you're looking at the higher end of the line up, but when compared to their unisex counter part, they're still missing something.

Example:
I demoed the Nordica Olympia Speed and Speedmachine 14 back to back
The OS is Women Specific version of the SM14.
They performed almost identically, but the SM14 had just a touch more kick coming out of a turn than the OS. This can be because of my ski style.:
At the end of the day, I'd be happy on either ski, but I'd buy the SM14 if given the choice.

I bought the K2 Burnin luv at the beginning of the season, and find it to be very enjoyable to ski, but when I'm keeping up with the boyz, I find a speed limit on it. Still, its a great ski!
post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanx for some thoughts TC. I know my wife isn't going to need a high-perf ski but that really kicks. I still think it may be a challenge to get a women's ski in her length at the demo rack but we'll see.

If the diffs are stiffness/weight and binding placement, I would think you could just pick a slightly lower unisex model, then with most skis having adjustable bindings now-a-days, just set the bindings a tad forward.
post #8 of 13
Not all women's skis are the same. Some companies do a very good job of making sure that the skis really are built differently than the men's. Others, despite the marketing, make the distinctions less clear.

One might think that using the same sidecut (mold shape) would indicate that the skis are suspiciously similar. But this does not always hold true. For example Volkl, which shares molds between mens and womens skis manages to make their women's skis about 6-10 oz. lighter per pair than the men's counterpart. OTH, K2 women's skis weigh the same or even marginally more than the men's versions.

There are many discrepancies like these. In general, the binding position, ramp, and flex differences will have more to do with whether the ski is really a "girl" ski or not.

For a skier of this stature, I would not be loath to suggest a unisex model with possibly a binding position adjustment. Rather than getting "lost forever in demoland" I might suggest demoing one really good mid level unisex ski in a 170. Start her with the boot on center, ski a few runs, then have the shop readjust the binding set up at +1 cm. forward. Do the exercise again, then come back and try 1 cm more (+2 from original).

This will probably tell you more about what will work for her than trying a batch of different skis, in different (possibly wrong) sizes.

SJ
post #9 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by learn2turn View Post
If the diffs are stiffness/weight and binding placement, I would think you could just pick a slightly lower unisex model, then with most skis having adjustable bindings now-a-days, just set the bindings a tad forward.
A "for instance" of this would be me going with the Nordica Nitrous instead of its couterpart with the metal.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SierraJim View Post
Not all women's skis are the same. Some companies do a very good job of making sure that the skis really are built differently than the men's. Others, despite the marketing, make the distinctions less clear.

One might think that using the same sidecut (mold shape) would indicate that the skis are suspiciously similar. But this does not always hold true. For example Volkl, which shares molds between mens and womens skis manages to make their women's skis about 6-10 oz. lighter per pair than the men's counterpart. OTH, K2 women's skis weigh the same or even marginally more than the men's versions.

There are many discrepancies like these. In general, the binding position, ramp, and flex differences will have more to do with whether the ski is really a "girl" ski or not.

For a skier of this stature, I would not be loath to suggest a unisex model with possibly a binding position adjustment. Rather than getting "lost forever in demoland" I might suggest demoing one really good mid level unisex ski in a 170. Start her with the boot on center, ski a few runs, then have the shop readjust the binding set up at +1 cm. forward. Do the exercise again, then come back and try 1 cm more (+2 from original).

This will probably tell you more about what will work for her than trying a batch of different skis, in different (possibly wrong) sizes.

SJ
I think the biggest flaw in the WS market is the marketing strategy. I know there is some women stuff out there for the substantial female skier, but I am reluctant to give it a try at this point because of disappointment in the past. When I finally gave in and got on the K2 BL, I was all grins and knew women's skis were going in the right direction
post #10 of 13

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

Many years ago I read a marketing study that claimed 70% of women buy skis by color. Except for the fur lined rich high end resort ladies, most of the women skiers I see now dress practically and not necessarily fashionably first. I have the pleasure and priviledge of skiing with a lot of women (alpine, tele and AT) who are strong, independant, and appear liberated in the feminist sense. I have been totally amazed over the last 5 years how every damn one of them has bought K2 She's Piste, Dawn Patrols, Fat Luvs, etc. Putting flowers on their "women's skis" was the most brilliant move the K2 marketing department ever came up with. I don't know if they are really any better for women skiers, but they sure seem to reel them in with pretty colors and flowers. K2 has managed to create a "gotta have it" mentality in women alpine, tele and AT skiers that is unmatched in the anything I have seen in the ski industry. From what I can tell most of these skis are simply missing a layer of metal which makes them softer, exactly like tele skis, and now some new models have added a slight ramp.

My wife has women specific and "men's" alpine skis (mounted 1 cm forward) and has never found the women's skis to ski any better. They tend to be soft and designed to ski with less weight and and at slower speeds. I think your ski choice needs to be based on your weight and how you ski and not your gender, but it appears that a large portion of women like to be catered to with pretty skis beyond what I ever suspected .
post #11 of 13
If she likes to go fast, get the stiffer unisex skis and have the bindings mounted 1-2cm forward of center, it made a hugh difference for me. At a level 6 and her size, she should be able to handle a substantial ski, downgrading will only hamper her ability to improve (not talking race ski here).

If she likes to cruise and technique is more important to her than "keeping up with the boys" I would go with a high end women's ski. The women's skis are usually a bit softer, plus the different shape, etc makes them really fun to ski and easier to dig in to carve a turn. You should be able to find a lot of 167-170 on clearance or on e-bay easier an cheaper than the shorter sizes.

I'm about the same weight, about a level 7 and I usually ski 160cm. I've skiied both women's and the unisex and it just depends on the conditions and who I'm skiing with as to what I like better. I would definitely have her demo both, let her tell you what "feels" right for the way she wants to ski.
post #12 of 13
learn2turn:
At your wifes size and weight, she may not need the softer ski. Also if she is trying to improve and challenge her skiing, buying down for her may not be a great thing either. A ski is not necessarily more difficult to use just because it is higher performance.

Binding positions are not all the same and cannot be directly compared. So 1 cm forward on a K2 for instance will not get you the same thing as 1 cm forward on a Volkl, for instance. If you can get her balanced. If you can't I can give you some idea of best binding position.

Many women's skis have ramp built into them which when combined with the ramp in their boots may cause them to sit back. Generally women's gear is too ramped up.

Buy her a good performance unisex ski, like women have succesfully used forever.

Lou
post #13 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by hydrogen_wv View Post

Women's skis are more expensive than a comparable men's ski ....
I don't know about that. Volkl's are priced pretty much the same (Karma=Queen Attiva, retail $695, Mantra=Aura, retail $795). Some of the systems actually have more expensive men's skis, but I think that's probably due to the bindings.

Other brands may be different, but Volkl is the one I know best.
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