Buying Women’s Skis Can Be Harder Than You Think

Gabrielle Gasser | | Gear ReviewGear Review
top women's skis
Top Women’s skis of 2019/2020/ Photo Credit: Powder Magazine

After skiing the same Völkl Kikus for eight years, it was time for a change.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved those skis and they served me well. They are still my teaching skis for days when I know I’m just lapping the magic carpet.  But those skis have taken a massive beating and it was time to upgrade.

So, I started googling around, checking out companies I liked, generally trying to catch myself up on the current ski technology and models for the upcoming season.  It had been a while since I needed to research skis. And what I found was frustrating.

Vokl Kikus
My 2012 Vokl Kikus.

All I wanted was a stiff, hard-charging women’s ski that didn’t have a pink top sheet.  My Kikus were great when I was younger and still developing as a skier, but now I needed a ski with some more robust specs. That proved fairly difficult for me to find scrolling through the women’s ski tab on each website.

What I found was that broadly speaking, each website had a much smaller selection of women’s skis than men’s, and those skis were generally softer and shorter.  Makes sense, right?  Women are generally shorter and lighter.  However, a better skier, even if she weighs less, wants — no, needs — a stiffer ski that can perform well for her at high speeds in variable conditions.

Needless to say, it took me a while to even identify a pair of skis that I was interested in.  And, no surprise, most of my options were from the men’s side.

Going into the search, I was a huge fan of my Dad’s Rossignol Soul 7 HD skis and potentially wanted them for myself. I ended up moving away from that option fairly quickly, mainly because of the gap in options for lengths. I had been on 170 cm skis for a long time and wanted something longer. I was thinking 176 cm would probably be a good fit.  Strangely, the women’s Soul 7 HD had a huge gap and my options were a 172 length or 180. So, the Rossignols were a no go.

Another company I considered for a while was Line skis.  I demoed some women’s Pandoras. They were very soft and chattered when I got up to speed, definitely not what I wanted.  I then switched to the men’s side of their website and considered the Sick Days. I was eventually scared away from that option, however, because of how stiff they are. Since they are made for a much heavier male and I am a 125-pound female, I worried they would be too much.

I needed to find a happy medium. It seemed my best bet would be a slightly less aggressive men’s ski. I ended up also demoing the men’s Faction Candide Thovex skis in a 178 length which I thought would be too long, but I ended up really liking. Those skis were a blast to cruise on groomers and to explore some heavier snow. I hadn’t been on anything skinnier than a 106 mm waist in so long that even the slightly skinnier 102mm waist was a whole new world. In the end, though I hate to admit it, a factor in my decision not to get those skis was the boring beige and blue top sheet. I didn’t want pink, but I still wanted something fun!

Black Crows Atris Birdie
The women’s Atris Birdie Skis/ Photo Credit: Black Crows

My final purchase ended up being the Black Crows Atris Birdie skis. I was very impressed by Black Crow’s variety of options and their range of women’s skis. I found what I needed, a stiffer women’s ski, still not as stiff as men’s, but stiff enough to do what I needed. I got the 178.3 length and I have loved these skis. They are amazing in powder and heavier snow and their rocker/camber profile still makes them fun on groomers too. They are stiff enough that they don’t shake at all when I get up to speed, and boy do they give my quads a workout, you cannot be sloppy on these skis. Bonus: they even have a fun top sheet, and I staunchly maintain that they are orange and white.

So, why recount the saga of my ski purchase journey?  Well, because it revealed to me a gap in the ski industry. A very specific gap, that companies already seem to be moving towards filling in. But a gap, nonetheless. The gap that encompasses female skiers who want more out of their skis and who are presented with fewer options.

I was impressed with a few companies during my search who were working to bridge this gap that I unwittingly stumbled into. Black Crows was an exciting find featuring a reasonable range of options for me to explore. While there are still only 12 models of women’s skis as opposed to 17 models of men’s skis on their website, the gap is closing, and I was stoked to see that.

Faction's website
A look at Faction’s website and their unisex filter./Photo Credit: Faction

Another company that impressed me was Faction Skis. At the time of my search, their website was still split into men’s and women’s and I spent all my time on the men’s side.  However, now, the two filters on their website are unisex or women’s. I have started noticing this on other ski company’s websites as well. I haven’t noticed another with only women’s and unisex. I’ve started to see men’s/unisex or women’s and I have seen unisex as a third option now. I just noticed this option this year which is an encouraging sign that ski manufacturers are recognizing the shortcomings of their women’s ski offerings.

This all brings up an interesting question, why do we even gender skis at all? It seems, after analyzing and comparing a lot of different skis, that it would make more sense to group them by the skier’s ability.  Because at a certain point, physique stops mattering and ability determines ski selection. So, a petite woman, if she’s a crusher, may need much longer and stiffer skis even though the sizing charts tell her to buy shorter, softer skis based on her height and weight.

This whole process left me with much food for thought and while I am sure there are many good arguments for why skis are gendered, it feels like the industry is moving in the right direction with their unisex tabs for ski shopping online. Women’s ski technology has become much better already and I am seeing many more great options on the women’s side, still lots of pink top sheets, but you can’t win ‘em all.


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12 thoughts on “Buying Women’s Skis Can Be Harder Than You Think

  1. They look orange to me
    Did you know that originally pink meant
    ‘boy’ and blue meant ‘girl? until it somehow got switched around and has
    stuck for generations and is still being perpetuated even today. ?
    Unbelievable.

  2. As a 130 pound 67 year old male with bad knees from 52 years of icy bump skiing (about 20 years of which were on 200 cm skinny skis), I use women’s skis now. I agree that we should do away with gender specific skis. If the skis I buy are pink (Rossi Saffron 7 comes to mind), I paint them black and gold to show I am a Steelers fan.

  3. Coalition Snow Skis and Snowboards! It a company by and for all Womxn. Its also much more than a ski brand, y’all should check it out. Coalition is doing great things. I love being a part of the community and riding my coalition snowboard.

  4. Huh. I actually find it incredibly easy to purchase women specific skis and snowboards, because there already is a brand that has filled the exact gap you are speaking of! Have you heard of Coalition Snow? (https://www.coalitionsnow.com/) The company is “a woman-owned and operated ski and snowboard brand.” Their products are phenomenal – coming from someone who lives at the base of Kirkwood Mountain Resort. Their designs are unique, beautiful, and badass. Because of Coaition Snow, shopping for new skis and snowboards, and making recommendations to women friends, family and colleagues, has become easy. The only challenging part is to be sure to buy before they sell out because some models (SOS) and designs (Taken for Granite) sell out quick! What’s even more, is the brand is actively anti-racist, and putting voices of women from all backgrounds (trans, plus size, indigenous) in the forefront through their publication SISU Magazine. This is a brand you want to support, for your own epic powder days, and for the good of our freaking nation.

    1. I definitely agree with Nat. Coalition Snow has a killer line up of skis and boards for women that hold up to high speeds, steep chutes, and technical terrain. As an avy instructor, ski guide, snow science enthusiast and former pro patroller, I definitely feel like I can charge on my La Nieves and the top sheets (Alpenglow) are perfect for my muted yet tasteful style. Definitely go check out Coalition if you haven’t already. The skis are bomber and so is the media content and their voice in speaking out against inequality.

    2. I second this!! I will only support Coalition because they make stiff, long, beautiful, badass skis and are actively working towards a more equitable and inclusive outdoor community:

    3. Reading through the comments & I couldn’t agree more! Coalition Snow SLAYS. You won’t find their “women’s version” at the end of the line – NOPE, its front & center, in your face. Which honestly is why the Myth is the best snowboard I’ve ever ridden. It’s not a “women’s version of the company male model” (aka the same board with pink) – it’s actually just a sick board that truly fits my body and riding style. All of these ski companies making it “hard” to buy women’s gear . . . there’s the issue, buy woman-owned and operated Coalition

  5. Hoji 4frnt best women’s ski ever!!! Ice, powder anything none of these other skis even compare…. don’t waste your time or money.

  6. Coalition Snow (https://www.coalitionsnow.com/) has a women’s ski for every type of skier and terrain! They even share tips on their website or via email on how to pick a ski that would be right for you. Super cool women owned company to check out! They are definitely not just “pinking up” a men’s ski and calling it a day.

  7. Check out Coalition Snow!!! Women owned and operated company. Their skis and snowboards are women specifically designed. They have a good selection for every skier/rider and there’s also a lot of information about skis/snowboards in their « Tips » section. My favorite article is definitely « What ski is right for me ? » Their graph makes it so much easier and it’s quite visual!!!
    https://www.coalitionsnow.com/blogs/tips/what-ski-is-right-for-me

  8. Coalition snow is a fab brand of womxn’s skis. The whole point is to make skis that are for womxn, by womxn, and they’re a solid ski. I ski the SOS in a 180cm, I’m 5’10”, 160lbs, and I haven’t been on anything else in 4 years. I am an ex racer and current patroller and highly recommend Coalition!

  9. I had this same problem 2 years ago, and then I found Coalition skis. This ski brand solves literally every issue you were having with finding a decent ski for yourself. Now that I’ve skied them for a full season (also at jhole), I can say with confidence that I’ll only shop Coalition skis moving forward. The companies purpose goes well beyond good skis and boards too- an all around win.

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