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Women's Skis Lighten Up

In 2014-15, lightweight doesn't always mean less burly.

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Lightness is a trend throughout ski equipment, from boots to skis, from men’s to women’s. But retailers know it’s an especially appealing feature to women, and manufacturers are competing to make their gear aggressively lighter without sacrificing performance.

Meanwhile, retailers and manufacturers report continued and steady growth in the sales of women-specific skis, and there are signs that even rippers are grudgingly gaining respect for skis tailored to a woman’s needs. “I think they are buying in,” says SIA’s director of research Kelly Davis. “In terms of women’s participation in skiing overall, it’s up slightly, while men’s participation is down.” That’s due in part to the fact that male Baby Boomers are starting to leave the sport, while many female Boomers have already left.

Sales of women’s gear is up slightly, which lines up with the participation numbers. “It’s a pretty stable trend, in- creasing 1 or 2 percent every year over the past few years, with the exception of 2011-12,” says Davis.

The Incredible Lightness of Skiing

Among companies unveiling comprehensive updates to their women’s lines are K2, Rossignol, and Head. “A complete redesign of our women’s line is our main focus in ’14- ’15,” says Head’s alpine product manager Andrew Couperthwait. In the new Joy line, Head uses a new proprietary material called Graphene, already used in its tennis rackets, to make skis up to 20 percent lighter. “Its thickness is essentially one atom. We use it as a laminate to replace metal or fiberglass; it has such an incredible strength-to-weight ratio you don’t lose performance,” says Couperthwait.

Rossignol, meanwhile, applies Air Tip weight-redistribution technology to frontside models, including the all- new Temptation 88. Air Tip reduces swing weight, making skis easier to manage and reducing tip flap. “The key is to reduce weight without losing performance,” says Rossignol’s director of alpine product Thor Verdonk. “You can have the lightest ski on the market, but that doesn’t mean anything if it gets nervous and chattery.”

Nordica’s new Belle series features wi-Core construction that reduces weight by about 25 percent. The Belles will incorporate the new shapes and rocker profiles of the new NRGy line, in slightly narrower waists, ranging from 78 mm to 105 mm. Liberty will continue to use bamboo in its cores throughout the line, including women’s skis like the Envy All-Mountain and Envy Powder. “Bam- boo saves weight,” says Liberty’s VP of marketing Tom Winter. “But it’s also renewable and durable, so it works across the board.” K2 makes a major overhaul of its women’s line, utilizing

nomenclature to communicate better where skis fit in (i.e., waist width numbers in model names). “The new Potion series is a direct reflection of ten-plus years of award-win- ning technologies and designs led by the K2 Ski Alliance,” says K2’s global marketing director Mike Gutt. “It’s a culmination of everything we’ve learned.”

Waist Widths

At the Show, you’ll see waist widths are moderating, settling into the range of maximum versatility. “The pendulum swung to the wider side for a few years, and now it’s coming back,” says Salomon’s sales director, winter sports equipment, Erik Anderson. The new W-24 (in 72 or 74 mm) and Quartz represent the brand’s rededication to front- side performance. Kästle will launch its first ever women’s model with the MX70, “a 100 percent on-piste model.” The company plans to offer a full lineup next season. Fischer introduces the Trinity, a 68-mm waisted, frontside ski with a new lightweight rail system called “Womentrack.”

Not all the new women’s skis are frontside carvers: Völkl introduces the powder-ready One W, with 116-mm waist and early-taper sidecut. The One W, along with the new 100-mm Aura, mark the company’s first use of taper in women’s skis. Also at the Show, Blizzard will launch the Sheeva, a 104-mm twin-tip powder ski.

(From the SIA Snow Show Preview)