Finding the right women’s skis

Ladies, ski moms, the family glue on snow, are often the last to get properly outfitted in ski gear. Sure, we gals pick out a nice color-coordinated outfit for skiing, but the ski equipment is whatever is available, left-over, in the garage in a pile of gear. I grew up skiing on my brothers’ hand-me-down skis, or whatever was on-sale “used” at the local ski swap. Then at 16, I bought my first new pair of skis, for ME! Oh the pride and joy of earning and choosing my own boards… Rossignol FPs in neon green. That was revolutionary, to my self-esteem, and my ski technique too – the right length, width, and the kind of carver I wanted for the skiing I wanted to do!  

Tips for finding the right woman’s ski for you:

Read up on ski and snowboard trends, so that you are a little bit knowledgeable about what’s out there on the racks of ski gear.

Visit your local ski shop or resort shop, find a pleasant, polite, patient rep and explain the type of skier you are. Outline the level of skier you are (honestly), the snow and trails you prefer, the shape and speed of turns you tend to make – short quick turns or big arcs. Also explain where you plan to ski – East vs. West, groomers vs. glades, on-trail or off-piste, steep, mellow, or deep pow, bullet-proof or bumps… a good sales rep should take it from there, plus your budget… Note: If you don’t find a helpful rep, move on!

Don’t be intimidated if your ski tech drops terminology like reverse camber, rigid core, recycled top sheet, beefy sidewalls, and vibration dampening. Blah, blah, blah…   they’re just showing off! What really matters is finding you the appropriate ski and a well-fitting pair of boots!

Millimeters matter! Two important number exist in selecting the right size ski for you.
1 – The length – in centimeters, ranging from 150- 185 centimeters for women generally – depending upon your height and your ski level. The measurement is from the ground with skis standing straight up – the ski should be  between your chin to slightly above your head, go on the shorter size as a newbie, longer for a more experienced skier.
2- The underfoot measurement – in millimeters. Ranging from 75mm to 115mm. The smaller the underfoot size, directly under your binding on the skis, the shorter the turn size the ski will make. A “slalom” ski is 75-88mm and makes quick, short radius turns, and tends to carve and rebound quickly. A “GS” or powder ski is wider underfoot, 90-110mm, making bigger arcing turns, more stable at high speeds given its girth. Also a wider ski floats better in powder or mixed snow, and spring “crud” as you have more surface area to glide.

Novices as a rule should be on smaller radius skis, as bigger skis are just more to wrangle in a turn and harder to manage at speed and on flats. All mountain skis strike a balance, in the 90-99 millimeter underfoot range, giving you a diverse ski that is pliable and floaty enough but performance-oriented in various snow conditions, and terrain. I call it the one-quiver ski!

Used skis are ok! Most skiers don’t put that many miles on their gear. Gently “pre-owned” skis can be a significant savings over brand new (retail sticker = sticker-shock) gear. The key to finding quality used skis is knowing what you want – size, mm underfoot, ski type, and then inspecting the ski for damage as follows: Are the binding and ski brakes tight, not rusty? Are the ski bases (the underneath that slides on snow) in good shape- no big dings, divots or “core shots” as those snags will affect the skis ability to track and glide. Are the edges sharp and smooth, and rust free, or do they need a good tuning (which costs $50-75 to sharpen the edges, smooth and wax the bases)? Also be sure the binding can accommodate the size of your ski boot length (also measured in millimeters), with minor adjustment by a professional binding fitter.

Demo – “try before you buy”! It’s ideal if you can pay to “demo” a new ski, try it on snow for a few laps, then apply the cost for renting out (demo’ing) that ski to the purchase. If you can sample a few skis, you will feel the differences, and ultimately find your preference in a particular ski.

If you see an “On Mountain Demo Day”, go (with your ski boot sole length and DIN memorized (see our blog about DIN) and enjoy this unique opportunity to ski on the latest gear, a run or two on each. It’s like being a kid in a candy store. Manufacturer reps typically ask you for a credit card as a deposit, and have you will sign a waiver to take out the equipment.

Renting skis makes sense! If you only ski a week every year, and travel for that ski holiday, consider renting at the ski resort. This way you get the latest gear, don’t have to pay the airlines for ski bags, or have to lug your equipment around, never mind storing it and maintaining it year round. Renting skis can range from $20 a day to $50 for performance gear. I love Ski Butlers – who deliver your ski equipment to your ski condo or hotel, professionally adjust your boots and binding, and will even swap out skis the next day if you prefer to try something different.  As a ski journalist, I have the privilege of going to industry on snow demos- I feel like a kid in a candy story with so many skis to take out for a run or two…

Ladies skis rock! Don’t be talked in to a men’s ski as “better”. Women’s skis are (finally) being designed by women for women. They’re not just shorter and lighter with pink graphics. K2 led the pack with their Luv series, now Head, Blizzard, Rossignol, Volkl, Atomic, Nordica, are all making quality women’s specific gear. Coalition is female exclusive designed gear. Female-centric skis are designed ergonomically with our lower center of gravity and different ski style. Of course the prettier graphics are a bonus! Funny, I now see men demo’ing ladies skis, they know we’ve got great gear dialed in.

We ski gals are fortunate to be in an era where the ski industry recognizes woman are vital to the sport, women are the decision makers and the travel planners in the family, and women deserve well-crafted alpine gear! Also, female skiers and riders are amazing athletes – just look at Mikaela Shiffrin, Lindsey Vonn, snowboarders Kelly Clark, Hannah Teeter and Chloe Kim!

See our Top Women’s’ Skis reviews and find your best ski sticks that rip for chicks. “Ski Like A Girl!