Shopping for women's skis is becoming a lot like shoe shopping: There are more great choices than you need. But with skis, unlike shoes, all you really require is one great pair to make you happy.Especially if the ski you choose is designed for a woman.
In the past, differences between unisex and women's models amounted to different graphics, shorter lengths, lighter materials and a forward mounting point to accommodate a woman's more rearward center of gravity. Now, most companies have taken it further, re-engineering flex patterns to suit smaller skis and trimming weight in ways that yield optimal performance.
Does every woman need a "women's ski," and are none of the Gold Medal skis on previous pages appropriate? In general, the advantages of women's skis are most apparent at the intermediate level, where women benefit most from the confidence boost of a gentler ski better matched to their size.
Advanced skiers are used to adjusting to unisex models, and may find the advantages to be subtler. Certainly, unisex skis can please a wide range of skiers. But if you've ever felt you needed something a touch more agreeable, one ride on a women's model may show you the difference between something that is really good and something that is perfect.
To guide you to your perfect fit, we've divided the medalists into three categories. On the first page you'll find the Nice 'n' Easy skis. Like slippers, they are designed first and foremost for comfort. If you're just getting into skiing or are a bit intimidated, you'll appreciate the ease of these forgiving rides. They'll lead you into the turn, without forcing you out of your comfort zone.
More experienced skiers can flip ahead to the Multi-Taskers. Like sensible shoes, they'll take you most anywhere with minimal effort. If your biggest problem with skiing is that you don't get enough days on snow, your time on the slopes is precious. You want a ski that will let you let you keep up, have fun and explore without arguing back at you. The Multi-Taskers will keep step with your moods and expectations as you improve.
Finally, there are the Red Hot Mamas-the stilettos of the bunch. They demand more attention; but as you hone your skills, they'll make you a goddess. For women who have done just fine on the top unisex models but have always suspected that there was something just a touch easier and more responsive, here is your custom order.Whatever your skill level, finding the right fit among these winners will allow you to enjoy your time outside, inspire you to improve and be much more fun than picking out shoes.
For A Woman's Foot, A Woman's Boot
What makes a good "women's boot"? The same things that make a good men's or "unisex" boot: accurate fit, smooth progressive flex and proper stance. Beyond that, though, manufacturers do make adjustments to accommodate the physiological differences between men and women.
For instance, most women's boots have shell cuffs that have been flared and trimmed to a lower height to make room for the relatively larger, lower calf muscles of women. Macro-adjustable buckles allow still greater expansion. Women also tend to be lighter, of course, so their boots are built with softer-flexing plastics. And since a woman's center of gravity is further aft than a man's, some women's boots have heel lifts beneath the liner to move them forward.The best women's models have interior cavities shaped to fit women's feet: narrower heels, wider forefoot areas. Usually, however, manufacturers attempt to address this by tailoring the liner alone-a less expensive and less effective solution. (Check out the BootFinder and taylor make your search)
WOMEN'S TEST ROSTER
Our assembled testers, many of whom specialize in women's instruction, all have extensive in-the-field knowledge of women's gear needs. Avid skiers and outdoorswomen, they represent a broad spectrum of ages and sizes, as well as skiing and teaching styles.
Roberta Boyd Beaver Creek Ski School Adaptive Coordinator.
Brenda Buglione Former U.S. Ski Team racer; TV host; mother of two.
Linda Guerrette Beaver Creek and Vail ski instructor; graphic designer.
Michelle McClinton Aspen ski instructor for 23 years.
Rebecca McNamee PSIA Examiner; Beaver Creek instructor.
Ann Nelson Beaver Creek ski instructor; Colorado rancher; mother.
Patti Prinz Beaver Creek ski instructor.
Sarah Richardson Director, Timberline Ski School; PSIA examiner.
Chrissy Rumford Vail instructor; real estate broker; mother.
Kathy Ryan Beaver Creek instructor; trainer; one of SKI's first testers.
Jeannie Thoren Women's' equipment guru and clinic leader (see "Ski Like a Girl").
Cathy Wallace Australian national; Vail instructor.