As the snowsports industry struggles to adapt to the serious challenges posed by climate change, a maturing participation base and the on-going ambiguity surrounding Brexit, there’s no doubt our community is facing a tricky and uncertain future. Yet in amongst all the high altitude doom and gloom, the women’s sector has emerged as a leading light of positivity in recent years, injecting a much-needed surge of girl power into a rather tired, male-centric industry.
If you’re in any doubt of the power of the female punch in the snowsports industry right now then the fact that the number one selling ski in the US in 2015/16 was the women’s specific Blizzard Pearl should make you sit up and take note. Outselling 1,200 other models both in units and dollars sold, the success of the Blizzard Pearl reflects a wider trend in growing sales of women’s specific products across the board. From regular alpine skis and boots to backcountry ski touring gear, sales of female-specific ski kit are increasing whereas demand for unisex equipment is shrinking in comparison. In 2015/16 for example, the UK wintersports retail market recorded an 8% rise in female specific skis (down 11% in unisex) and a 5% increase in women’s boots (down 3% for unisex).
This growth in demand for women’s specific gear can be attributed to a variety of factors. Firstly, in very basic terms, brands have finally woken up to the fact that the market exists and have started producing kit for women. When you consider that women constitute 40% of the skiing population, it then follows that they represent 40% of potential sales. Gear companies have realised that by overlooking this demographic they’ve been missing out on a massive opportunity and are now beginning to focus their energies on addressing the needs of this market and producing products optimised for the female anatomy. When it comes to ski boots for example, women have very specific requirements as boot-specialist Josh Parry explained in a recent interview with digitaltrends.com: “Women have smaller skeletons than men, so they will have narrower ankles. Another big factor is women’s calves tend to attach lower than on men and this has a tendency to cause pain or cramps in the calf.” After all, women are not just mini-men and experts such as Parry are increasingly recognising the very real need for female-specific ski gear.
In addition to producing more female-specific options in recent years, snowsports gear manufacturers have also started producing more credible products for women – a fact that has proved to be absolutely key in the growth of this sector. Whereas previously the majority of gear companies would throw all their innovative energies into men’s models, resigning any female-specific ski or boot to the entry-level shelf, brands are now recognising that there are a hell of a lot of hard charging, female skiers out there who demand more from their equipment than just pretty graphics and glitter.
Now that the ski industry has decided that the female sector is actually worth taking seriously, increasing numbers of high end and well thought out women-specific products are coming to market having undergone a rigorous R&D process to ensure validity. When the 2015 SIA Snow report revealed a spike in sales of women-specific snow products for example, Tecnica took these figures on board and set up several focus groups made up of female skiers from across Europe and North America to test, develop and improve equipment. The result was the Blizzard Pearl - the game-changing ski designed for specifically for women that ended up outselling any other ski in the US during the 2015/16 winter season.
The increasing availability of high-end women’s ski gear is in no small part down to the emergence of a more adventurous type of female skier in recent years. The general global shift towards gender equality has seen more and more women smashing through glass ceilings in all aspects of their lives and skiing is no exception. The ‘This Girl Can’ attitude to skiing has been helped in no small part by the existence of a number of high profile, high achieving, hard-charging female athletes who have changed the face of snowsports forever. The likes of Angel Collinson, Lynsey Dyer, Jenny Jones and Lindsey Vonn are global superstars who have revolutionsed expectations of what women are capable of by demonstrating that they are every bit as ballsy and talented as their male counterparts. Their achievements have inspired a new generation of female skiers and snowboarders to accept nothing less than the best of themselves and their equipment and that’s proving to be incredibly powerful stuff. Success breeds success after all.
With the availability of decent gear on the increase, a host of iconic female figureheads spearheading the development of the sport and an industry that’s finally demonstrating a genuine desire to communicate directly with women, there has never been a better time to be a female skier than right now. The patronizing days of ‘shrink and pink’ are dead and the future looks very bright indeed.
PrettyGrittyGear.com founder: A female specific gear advice and review site for women into the outdoors.