Editor’s Note: This post was written by Nathalie Couët, one of Go Girl’s contributing writers.
Our first snowfall hit Québec this past week, and while everyone is whining about the cold, I’m just daydreaming about riding some powder on my snowboard: the one I’ve had for the past ten years that just doesn’t ride like it used to, no matter how much I sharpen and wax it. She is far past retirement age at this point. I refer to my board as a “she,” because she is in fact a women’s board.
But is there really a difference between winter gear for women & men?
For snowboards, the difference between the two is this: Men’s boards tend to be wider, stiffer, and heavier. Women tend to be lighter and have smaller feet than our male counterparts. Therefore, women’s boards need to be smaller (both in length and in width), lighter, and more flexible to allow for easier handling. Many manufacturers will also produce men’s boards no smaller than 148 (which would be ideal for a 5’6’’ person), and so a smaller woman would find these boards far too long.
Men’s boards are also more aggressive at higher speeds. That said, many professional women riders will use men’s boards simply because they ride powerfully enough to need the aggression of a heavier board; they can handle it. Regardless, I still ride with my lighter women’s board, as I particularly enjoy the flexibility it allows me.
Women’s equipment has not always been easy to find (especially without giant pink flowers in the design). But women wanderers, take heed: nowadays, some of our favorite brands are coming up with products made for the frame and power of your everyday adventurous Go Girl:
- Burton has one of the largest women’s selections, with board prices ranging from $350 to $750, and some very not-too-girly graphics.
- Rossignol also has decent choices and excellent value. You can even select your skill-level or the desired flexibility, and they will suggest the best boards for you. For beginners, I would suggest the Myth Amptek or the Gala Amptek with the Myth or Gala bindings that go with it – less than $400 for the combo (all you need are the boots), and you get to ride on a flexible, forgiving board that still allows you to develop as a rider.
- If you (like me) are fantasizing about a split-board, look no further than K2. A split-board is a snowboard that can be split into two simili-skis for backcountry boarding. Formerly, women had to buy a downsized version of a man’s split-board, but a few companies are now finally making some for us. Burton and Gnu both make one, as does K2. Be sure to save up though – my fantasy split-board baby comes out at $950 for the board kit (board, skins, and basic split-board hardware only).
- Some other excellent board makes are Salomon, Bataleon, Arbor Collective (eco-friendly boards), Nitro, Ride and Lib Tech.
For the skiers out there – while women’s skis will, like snowboards, be lighter and more flexible than men’s, women’s bindings will also be slightly more forward than men’s. This is because our center of gravity is lower on our body, as we carry more mass below the waist, whereas men tend to be heavier above the waist. In order to keep our center of gravity in the optimal position (particularly when turning on our skis), it’s helpful to push our bindings forward approximately one centimeter.
Skiing ladies are lucky in the sense that there is quite a fair bit of choice in the women’s ski department. It is important to remember what type of skiing you tend to do, either front-side (mostly groomed trails), all-mountain (a little bit of everything, including groomed trails and off-trail powder), or freeski (knee-deep powder, back-country, and aerial tricks).
- One of my favorite places to purchase skis is Armada where you can select your gender, your type of skiing and the camber profile you’re looking for (the curve of your ski).
- Rossignol also allows you to select your skill level and the type of usage (powder versus groomed), suggesting the best skis for you.
- Finally, if you’re looking for selection, go no further than Salomon. With over 30 types of skis (at all price ranges), a dozen bindings, and a dozen boots, it would be impossible to not find the perfect fit.
- Volkl, though they produce very good skis, were slightly disappointing not only with the small selection for women, but moreso with the fact that all women’s skis were drowned in pink and purple (superficial I know, but disappointing nonetheless).
- A few other excellent ski makers are Atomic, Black Diamond Equipment, Nordica and K2 Skis.
And with that, see you on the slopes! I’ll be the one on my new split-board…