Love Letters From a Lady Skier: The Complexities of Shopping for Women’s Ski GearPublished on 05/07/2021 · 5 min readSki expert Virginia G. offers some insight into the complex relationship between women and the ski gear that is designed for them.
Photo by Parker Ulry
Dear Women’s Skis,
With you I find myself perpetually standing at a crossroads, trying to decide if I should dare indulge in your fresh innovation and female-specific features or if I should continue my well-traveled path of choosing men’s (or should I now say “unisex”) skis that I’ve had a stable and trusting relationship with for so long. I was fine before I met you, but I can’t deny that you bring some desirable qualities to the table… You say your construction materials, flex pattern, and core placement will be perfect for me, that I will feel better about my weight distribution and balance, and that you will actually listen and be responsive to my needs.
So I’m left to wonder, do I not know what I’m missing? Or are you too good to be true? I mean really, who are you to assume how stiff I would like my skis to be anyway? With you, surely comes sacrifice, as I will be trading imaginative masculine graphics for pastel-hued, floral-laden topsheets.
And don’t try to fool me… no matter how you smudge the pinks and purples into an abstract design or insert an androgynous bird among the flowers, it will still be evident; I am riding a women’s ski. For many ladies this won’t be a turnoff, they’ll appreciate the sprinkling of femininity on their sticks, but I can’t say the same which makes me think we’re just not right for each other.
Alas, every time I resolve myself to walking away, I am reminded of the alternative… a world of unisex skis that aren’t offered in my length. Too often I have been excited by a ski’s description only to discover that it’s manufactured in lengths no shorter than 176cm or even 180cm… and what is a girl of very average stature like myself to do? Now, this isn’t the case with all of them, I don’t mean to disparage the lot, but the “cool” ones, the “niche” ones, the “limited editions” remain untouchable, playing hard to get with lady skiers everywhere, keeping us at bay.
And so, until I can sit down with men’s skis and get that resolved (along with whether or not they would officially like to be deemed “unisex” as it seems they can’t decide), I will be stuck in this love triangle. It is difficult enough to find the perfect ski among the long-established myriad of options and now, there you always are, standing in the wings, diverting my attention. Will I ever really know if I need you in my life? I fear I won’t, and will forever be left to remain at a crossroads.
Dear Women’s Ski Boots,
Why must you be so elusive? You don’t need to play hard to get to win my affections… You already have me, for I cannot ski without you. Believe me, I have tried, tried to convince myself that you and your constant unavailability in higher flex values were not worth my time, that I could get over you by settling on the ever-present and reliable men’s boot… all I had to do was chop down its high cuff, insert a better footbed, and I would finally find peace. Alas, despite my best efforts and even those of professionals, all I was left with was an unsatisfying fit and a heel cup, toe box, and heart that could never quite be filled.
You tempt me by offering increased flex indexes, those for advanced to expert ladies, and then fail to appear in any ski shop. I ask why and all you can muster is the same tired excuse, “There is not enough customer demand for retailers to stock boots in any flex above 105… Most women aren’t looking for boots that stiff.”
As I survey the wall of boots brandishing numbers of 65-100, I find myself once again stood up by you for another season. Unable to try you on and forced to leave yet another shop unfulfilled, I retreat home to my laptop, toggle my boot-flex search filter from 105-120 and proceed to order a variety of brands.
In my living room-turned personal sales floor I can only hope to find “the one”... but even if I succeed, our relationship will always be shadowed by the mountain of return shipping costs I accrued in my search. Surely this self-inflicted fiscal hardship is the sign of an unhealthy relationship. I feel alone, trapped, and at the mercy of your whims, ever conflicted in my heart but ultimately beholden to you in my gear purchases.
Dear Women’s Ski Apparel,
We should probably just break up. For years we’ve been caught in a vicious cycle of broken promises and dysfunction. Every fall you say it will be different, that you’ve changed, and to your credit, sometimes it’s true. You reinvent yourself, offering non-traditional color schemes, boxier fits, and non-feminine items and model names. You say this is the new you, that you’ll never go back to your old ways, and we spend a blissful winter together.
Then spring and summer pass, fall circles back, and I find that you’re back to your old ways… berating me with slim-fit aquamarine snow pants and narrow-waisted jackets, bright white helmets, and sparkly google straps. They say fashion is cyclical, but I thought you, being ski gear, would be different. Let us part ways so you may be free of my constant judgment and I, free of disappointment. I hope we can still be friends.
To all my fellow lady skiers out there who can identify with these letters, I would love to commiserate with you. Through my turbulent relationships, I have gained much wisdom and would love to share it so you may successfully navigate your own journey with women’s ski gear.