By Roger Lohr
(Jan. 2016) Using the simple premise that women’s products need to be different from men’s, some cross country (XC) ski companies went to work designing lines of women’s skis and boots that incorporate various differences between the male and female physical characteristics and their interests. For example, women generally have narrower feet, so companies have built boots to accommodate this difference. A woman’s whole center of gravity may be shifted compared to a man, which means that application of force from the legs to the skis is shifted, so different flexes in a ski are appropriate.
Some product differences are cosmetic (feminine colors) but they can also address fundamental interests such as stability or downhill control. Moreover, they are not just for the touring lines—companies recognize the need for women’s products in each equipment category, from touring to backcountry to performance and racing.
Jan Guenther owner of Gear West, a retail dealer in the Minneapolis area commented that women are often shorter and lighter than men so they might be matched to a ski with a shorter length or softer flex that corresponds to their ability and skiing goals.
Alpina Sports designed a line of women’s XC ski boots after analyzing 2,500 women’s feet using a patented Optical Measurement System and 3D Scanner to arrive at the “ideal” proportions. The fit of the Alpina’s women’s boots is dramatically different than the typical men’s – women are often sold differently lasted and smaller sized boots. The flex patterns are totally altered, the heel pockets are much narrower, and the cuffs are redesigned for the slightly different calf/ankle configuration of a woman.
Leading brand Fischer is making a big splash with its women’s XC line of skis and boots referred to as the My Style collection. The skis have a stable platform and excellent grip and the package includes color-coordinated skis, boots, poles, and a ski bag. The skis with names such as Inspire, Mystique, Desire, and Passion include a Fashion product line and the Sport line option.
These skis are configured lower than their unisex counterpart to account for lighter body weights and designed for the classic technique with less effort required. The ski camber is adjusted to a lower height (from the floor or snow) so it will accommodate the skier who can use less energy to get the ski base waxless grip pattern on to the snow. And there’s a new specially developed, very light binding for fitness-oriented women that is very user-friendly with an automatic step in/out mechanism.
Fischer has 14 models of women’s boots ranging for high performance skate and classic to recreational and off track backcountry. Behind the fashionable designs lie numerous specific developments for enhanced female performance on the trails. Additionally the individual models are tuned to the varied individual skills and sporting ambitions of the respective skier.
Salomon Nordic has women-specific boot models in classic, skate, and combi (can be used for either skate or classic skiing). These boots include lightweight carbon chassis, heel adjustments and dialed-in flex for women.
Mariah Frye-Colie of Cross Country Ski Headquarters, a Michigan cross country ski retail and area operation commented, “Women like to feel good with product options that flatter a women’s body, but also are functional and comfortable. The Nordic ski manufacturers have woken up to the demand and it’s great to have more feminine equipment and clothing.” Photos: Fischer My Style XC Comfort Pro My Style Boot and Fischer Spirit Crown My Style Ski.