Sue, the guy at the shop obviuosly does not think you ski very well!
FIRST: the Axis/T9X is a ski that does well in crud and powder - VERY well. The longer the ski, the better it handles that stuff, so there is a trade-off: Sure, a shorter ski is more maneuverable - but it also is less stable at speed and gives less float. A longer ski is stable and gives more float, but there is a point at which you're skiing a locomotive rather than a Jeep. So by going TOO short, you'd be giving up something that this particular ski is known for. My 167 - for this aging lightweight [60 yo and 145 lbs] - is SHORT ENOUGH, thank you! It certainly would be short enough for you, being somewhat heavier and more experienced.
SECOND: You already are looking at a ski specifically made for women - you do not need to go for shorter lengths "because you are a woman".
THIRD: The Escape 5500 is a totally different ski. It is lighter, narrower, and more flexible than the Axis/T9X. It IS a terrific ski, easy turning but not too shabby going fast. It's a BETTER short turner than the T9X would be. The 174 I demoed made shorter turns VERY easily. They did not have it set up in 167, so I do not know how that would have worked for me. It IS an "intermediate ski", but no more so than the Axis/T9X. They're just different. The Axis/T9X is more of an all mountain, all terrain ski. Also, the 5500 costs less. It's a GREAT value for the money. They may also have that in a female specific model. When you're on this site on the home page, look to the left side of the page. Skip down past the forum part and look for "gear info". From there, go to where they list brand names and click on K2. That will take you right to the K2 website, and the info on female specific skis will all be there. By the way, a lot of the advice you need depends heavily on where you ski, what kind of terrain you ski, what kind of snow you encounter, how FAST you ski. Would you please fill me in on this info? Then we can "fine tune" the information passed along to you by me and perhaps others. But I DO believe that, if you get the T9X at all, you should NOT go shorter than 167, and depending on the considitions in which you ski, even the 174 could be ok. In the 5500, I myself would hesitate to go as short as 167 - but since I have not demoed that length in the 5500, I can't say that for certain.