(SKIING Magazine by Helen Olsson) -- Since the time of Adam and Eve, it's been clear that men and women are not the same. But it's only in recent memory that Eve's had gear designed for her special needs. Golf clubs, tennis rackets, backpacks, sports bras, and, of course, skis.
Most (though not all) women are lighter and have less muscle mass than most (though not all) men. And because most women are pear-shaped, with the bulk of their bulk below the waist, they have less leverage than a T-bone-shaped guy when it comes to pressuring the ski tip. Basically, turning a ski is harder for a girl. To make it easier, women's skis are lighter in weight and softer in flex. On many women's models, the bindings are mounted several centimeters forward of the men's setting, putting women in the driver's seat.
The most obvious point of differentiation is looks. The graphics on women's skis are designed to appeal to women, which these days can mean bold red or steely gray. Fortunately, it rarely means your skis will match the baby's room.
If you think you're too macho for a women's ski, know this: In our ski test, when we pitted the women's models head-to-head against their unisex counterparts, our female testers most often preferred the women's model -- even our super-strong, superhero girl testers. If Eve had been a skier, she probably would've, too.
K2 T: Nine X
For intermediates looking for a ticket to ride off-road, this is the ski. It has a passion for powder and a craving for crud -- it's adept pretty much anywhere there's snow. All that in an easy-turning and forgiving package. To develop this ski, K2 enlisted a team of women, from a ski mom to an extreme champion. You can meet this K2 Alliance during a 25-shop tour this fall. For dates and sites, log onto www.k2women.com. $625
Rossignol Bandit XXL
Ranked number one by female testers in the Freeride Expert category, the XXL is a stable, long-turning ski that's ideal for blasting through junk and floating through untracked. In short, this stick rules the off-piste. Multidimensional, it's also versatile enough for hardpacked groomers. Testers say: "Go big!" $719
Salomon Scream 8 Pilot W
Energizer Bunny meets Ricochet Rabbit. This advanced-level ski-binding system earned top marks from female testers in the energetic, short-turning department. On steeps and in trees, that translates into big-time maneuverability. It's an easy-turning, light-feeling ski that doubles as a hard-charging all-terrain vehicle. $895 (includes bindings)
Völkl Vertigo G2 Energy 20/20
"What a versatile ski!" raved female testers, who rated this ski their favorite in the Freeride Intermediate category. Roll it on edge, and the tips just pull you into a turn. It's stable and confidence-boosting all over the mountain. $575
ALL-MOUNTAIN CARVING SKIS
Rossignol T-Power Saphir CX
For intermediates who stick mostly to groomed slopes, the Saphir CX is an ideal game-improvement tool. It's a quick, short-turning maven. "Energy is this ski's middle name," said testers. "Have a ball." $499
Rossignol T-Power Viper XL
Ranked number one in the Carving Expert category by female testers, this ski is a snappy, short-turning slalom star. If the fall line is your thing, this is your ski. It dives into turns and explodes out of them. On steeps, it's maneuverable; in bumps, it's nimble. $739
Salomon Crossmax 8 Pilot W
A carving ski in freerider clothing, this ski-binding system is a versatile tool for advanced intermediates. It has a big sweet spot and turns with ease. In tight areas, the ski has great quickness; in soft snow and crud, it motors on through. $875 (includes bindings)
Volant Vertex Super
A versatile ride for intermediates, the Vertex Super is a corduroy carver that doubles as an attack-minded ATV. It sports a big sweet spot and is supeer easy to turn. $549