There are plenty of jokes about the differences between men and women, but from a skiing standpoint, the important differences are that women generally have a lower center of gravity and a lower body mass than men do. Why it took ski manufacturers so long to notice the physical differences between men and women, while comedians have been capitalizing on observations about culturally learned gender stereotypes for years, no one really knows. But the good news is that things are getting much better for women in the world of skis.
Back in the day, ski makers used to cater to women by offering them smaller versions of men’s skis with florally inspired topsheet graphics. Known as the ‘shrink it and pink it’ mentality of a male-dominated industry, this concept offended hardcore female skiers. Accustomed to working harder to get the same performance from their skis as men, many continued to buy men’s or unisex skis anyway.
Thankfully, ski companies have gotten savvier, and now offer women skis that are actually designed to perform specifically for women. Compared to men’s or unisex skis, well-designed women’s skis are lighter and softer, with more sidecut, and with the waist closer to the tip. For female skiers this means better performance and less risk of injury.
Why Women’s Skis are Lighter and Softer
The stiffness of a ski should reflect the amount of weight that the skier can put into flexing it. Because men are generally heavier than women, they are able to more easily flex a stiffer, heavier ski. Consequently, since women are generally lighter, the typical men’s ski would require a female skier to exert more energy in order to bend it. With this in mind, ski manufacturers now make women’s specific skis lighter and softer so that women don’t have to work extra hard for the same turns. There are still instances of manufacturers taking this concept perhaps too far, especially for the preferences of more advanced skiers.
Why Women’s Skis Have More Sidecut
Compared to men, women have a lower center of gravity with more weight in their hips than in their shoulders (the opposite being generally true for men). This gives female skiers less leverage to turn skis over to carve on their edges. To address this, many women’s specific skis feature a narrower waist as compared to the tip and tail. This exaggerated sidecut makes skis easier for women to carve since they are designed with the physics of the female body in mind.
Why Women’s Skis Have a Different Waist Placement
With their higher centers of gravity, male skiers generally have an easier time moving their weight forward to control their skis from the traditional binding placement, which is designed for men. To level the playing field for those with a lower center of gravity (and therefore less leverage), the waist and binding mount of a women’s specific ski is usually around two centimeters closer to the tip of the ski than it would be on a men’s ski of the same length. This small difference in placement makes a big difference for performance – putting women in the optimum position for balance, turn initiation, carving on the edges of their skis, and preventing knee strain.
Women’s specific skis make skiing easier and more comfortable for women, and also much safer, since being on the right ski causes less strain and makes injury less likely. It’s not that you need a women’s specific ski because you’re not as good a skier as the guys; it’s that women’s and men’s bodies are different, and therefore different skis will respond better for women.
If you’re in the market for new skis, Jans firmly believes in testing a number of models before choosing which ones to buy. To narrow your focus, check out the jans.com selection of high quality women’s carving, powder, and all mountain skis.
Kendall Fischer, Content Writer