Women's Ski Equipment Tips

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Where can I find professional workshops about women's ski equipment?

Jeannie Thoren Theory

If you have been reading about women's ski equipment, you probably realize that your equipment selection process can be complex and confusing. Despite the suggested guidelines, no two women's bodies are the same. As such, there are no one-size or model fits-all skis or boots that are suitable for every female skier. That said, if you find the ski and boot selection process a bit daunting, help is on the way. This help comes by way of the name Jeannie Thoren.

Jeannie Thoren's mission is to help women choose the best possible ski equipment that will hopefully advance their technique. She accomplishes this by traveling throughout the country giving women's equipment workshops. These cutting edge clinics begin with a cocktail party, boot-fitting session and lecture. The next morning, you go out on the slopes. As Jeannie watches you ski, she will make suggestions about possible adjustments to your equipment. In the afternoon, you will be able to demo from a choice of over 100 skis. Jeannie will make suggestions based on how you ski. Then you can demo additional skis on the second ski day.

Here are some of Thoren's solutions to some of the gender-specific problems that are typical of female skiers.

  • Wider Q Angle: The Q angle is the angle that connects the thigh to the pelvis. Because of her wider Q angle, a female's skis are rarely flat on the snow. This can cause her skis to either “catch an edge,” or behave erratically during turns. For women with wide Q angle issues, Thoren suggests footbeds and canting.
  • Lack of Ankle Flexion: While women tend to be more flexible than men, ironically, they seem to have less ankle flexion. As such, the female skier will often bend at the waist as opposed to flexing at her ankle or knees. For this problem, Thoren will move a woman's bindings forward and prescribe heel lifts.
You can find information about Thoren's workshops by visiting http://www.jeanniethoren.com/theory1.htm

I am a new skier. Which K2 should I get?

The K2 T9 Series

While many manufacturers now make a female-specific ski, few have done more for the concept of women's ski design than K2. The K2 T9 line of skis was named after Title Nine, the law that required schools to give girls equal opportunities in school athletics. When the T9 skis first came on the market, the reviews were incredible. Even the women who took offense at the girly graphics had to admit that the skis themselves were rather amazing. Some of the skis were so popular that male skiers would paint the top sheet so they could enjoy them without ridicule.

The K2 T9 Series features skis for every skill level. New skiers are welcomed to the hill by the K2 First Luv, agile and flexible skis that turn easily and promote confidence. Once you've developed some skills, the K2 True Luv, with its 72 mm waist, allows you to occasionally ski on ungroomed snow.

Next in line is the Burnin' Luv. When this ski first came on the market, it was a frequent sell-out in ski shops across the country. These skis are magical, in the true sense of the word. Even the most timid female skier will feel confident at high speeds. However, it is less than ideal in bumps and powder. For that type of terrain, the Lotta' Luv, with its 78mm waist, is a better choice. When female skiers gain their entrance to the "powder room," they often develop a fondness for the Phat Luv. Its 102 mm waist makes it the perfect powder ski.

What are some of the unique qualities of Dynastar women's skis?

Dynastar Women's Skis

As a French company, it comes as no surprise that Dynastar's line of women's skis are designed to put the “oh, la, la” into the skiing experience. The company's exclusive line is indicative of the manufacturer's unique understanding of the female anatomical differences, that can have a significant impact on ski technique. As a result, they have developed a line of skis that can greatly enhance a woman's experience on the slopes.

Because women tend to carry their weight more in the lower body than their male counterparts, they often find it difficult to stay on top of the ski and keep their weight forward. This makes turn initiation a challenging experience. Ironically, as women become stronger and more athletic, some may compensate for incorrect weight distribution by using a compensation method that is usually associated with men: they muscle their way into the turn. Fortunately, Dynastar introduced a variety of key features that address these issues.

An increased ramp angle is a feature of the Exclusive Series. These skis have a 1.5 degree ramp angle under the binding area to tip the skier's weight forward. This makes it easier for female skiers to stay balanced in their fore and aft alignment. “Fore” alignment refers to the body position when a skier's weight is on the tips of the ski, and “aft” alignment refers to alignment that is closer to the tail. In skiing, weight will shift in both directions. However, good fore/aft balance means that the skier is able to make this shift without exaggerating any position, and without losing dynamic postural alignment in the process.

In addition to the increased ramp angle, the center point on the Exclusive Series has been moved forward to help women initiate turns and stay on top of the ski. To balance the forward movement of the skis center point, the sidecut or waist of the ski has been moved slightly toward the tail. This brings the sidecut and “sweet spot” back and allows easier carving from a women's more natural set back position

What is one factor that distinguishes female specific skis from men's skis?

Female Ski Design: Core and Binding Position

If you ever get the chance to visit the history museums of Breckenridge Colorado, you might see some rather amusing pictures of female skiers in the 1800s. Back in those days, women skied in their long dresses. Needless to say, there were no female-specific skis, just as there was no female ski apparel. It took the ski industry some time to come a long way. Female specific skis and boots only became popular in 1999. Nonetheless, skis and boots designed for women are definitely here to stay. Let's take a look at their unique design.

Since women weigh less than men, for the most part, female-specific skis have a softer flex and a lighter weight than their male counterparts. In many cases, the core of these skis is made from lightweight wood or foam, which makes them easier to flex, and therefore easier to turn.

Because of women's wider hips, smaller feet and lower center of gravity, they often have difficulty putting pressure on the tips of their skis. Some manufacturers have rectified this problem by mounting bindings 1-2 centimeters in front of the center of the ski. This brings the female skier's center of mass closer to the tips, thereby allowing her to exert more pressure.

If you are a female skier whose bindings are not mounted in this forward position, you can speak to the ski shop about adjusting them. This can be helpful if you find yourself in the "backseat" while skiing. However, every female skier is different, so ask a ski instructor to evaluate your skills before changing the position of your bindings.

What's wrong with stretch pants for skiing?

Women's Ski Wear

In the 1800s, women used to ski in their dresses. Fast forward to the 1940s till the 1980s, one-piece ski suits with stretch pant legs were the norm. According to ski film maker Warren Miller, a revival of the stretch pants craze would be a surefire way to revive skiing. Unfortunately, while stretch pants might revive the sport for middle-aged men in the midst of a midlife crisis, these foxy but dysfunctional garments will do precious little to improve a female skier's comfort on the slopes.

A somewhat snarky writer from Skiing Magazine describes this by saying that anyone who wears stretch pants fails to understand the concept of a shower curtain. Simply put. If your ski pants are tucked inside your boots, how in heaven's name are they going to keep snow and water outside of your boots? However, if you still like the sexy fit of a nice pair of stretch ski pants, you might be in luck. Some manufacturers have designed a new type of stretch pant that fits over the boot, thereby providing the female skier with both style and comfort.

Aside from style, fit is another factor that should be considered when choosing women's ski wear. Any woman who has ever been an employee at a ski resort will advise you against wearing men's ski pants. These pants almost never fit the female form. Also, while snowboarders might enjoy pants that fall down below the hip, these are hardly functional. The question then becomes, what constitutes a functional pair of ski pants. Basically, your ski pants should be waterproof and contain an inner liner. Make sure that they have plenty of pockets. While one piece suits may provide comfort and warmth, consider your bathroom experience. Some of the restrooms at ski areas can be rather cold.

Ski jackets also involve striking a balance between style and functionality. Companies such as Columbia, Helly Hansen and Mountain Hardware tend to design jackets that are warm and functional, albeit androgynous. If you're looking for a bit more style, consider jackets designed by Obermeyer and Head. However, some of these might not be suitable for extreme cold conditions. When reading a ski jacket description, you might find yourself baffled by the lingo. Here are some common terms and their meanings:

Breathability: These jackets have been treated with a process that allows body moisture to pass through the materials to the outside of the jacket.

Hydrophilic fabric: The material of these jackets is composed of molecular chains that attract vapor and pass it through to the outside of the garment.

Microporous fabric: These fabrics contain microscopic pores big enough to let perspiration vapor through.

DWR: These jackets have a Durable Water Repellent finish that is applied to the outer fabric of jackets, which allows water droplets to roll off the surface.

Ripstop fabric: These jackets can be identified by the faint criss-cross lines in the fabric. They prevent tears from spreading across the jacket panel.

What is a good park ski for my 14 year old daughter?

Women's Park and Pipe Skis

Gals who have a few tricks up their skis are not at all averse to spending a day playing in the park. With the right skis, this is not a pipe dream. Skis that are designed for the park and pipe are called twin-tips. Both the tips and the tails of these skis are turned upwards, allowing the adventurous skier to ski with her back to the mountain.

Twin-tip skis are usually wider at the tip, tail, and underfoot. Most are constructed from softer materials than traditional alpine skis. This cushions the landings from a jump. Some twin-tip skis are designed with a different type of sidecut under the foot. This type of design facilitates rail sliding, otherwise known as "jibbing." In general, twin -tips and park skiing is most popular with the 14-21 set. This is why K2 created the Miss Demeanor, a dynamic park and pipe ski that was created for young female freestylers.

For grown-up gals, Salomon has created the Salomon Temptress. Its special feature is its vibration-absorbing strip of material that is called elastomer. This strip is placed between two strips of thermoplastic in the Temptress' tip and tail. It absorbs the impact of landing, and silences that annoying chatter.

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Jolyn Wells-Moran