Thursday, March 4, 2010

Tips to help women make the most of their ski experiences

Experts may already know this, but for the women who are recreational/vacation skiers, here is something you may not know: there is a big (and important!) difference between men’s and women’s skis, bindings and boots. So much so that it is worth not only taking the time to understand the difference, but also the investment in purchasing your own gear that is designed for women. The time and money you put in will make your ski adventures much more pleasant, I promise!

It’s important to take the time to research before making an investment like this because you will be using this gear for years. The type of skis, bindings and boots you purchase will depend on your ski level, skiing goals, terrain and, importantly, gender. I’ve been hitting the slopes (and researching) myself lately, so here’s some helpful insight…

First, it’s a good idea to demo equipment if possible (but, I realize, that can be difficult… Renting a specific pair of skis and boots at a ski shop or lodge can be next to impossible). Personally, I couldn’t find the brands I wanted to demo. So, instead, my approach was to thoroughly investigate and then buy them directly. (In another post, I’ll let you know how my ski purchase worked out on the mountain!)

After spending several weeks online and at various ski shops, I choose the Atomic Seventh Heaven 76 ski (157 cm length) with XTL9 bindings and Dalbello Aspire 75 boots. My skiing level is intermediate (moving toward advanced) and my goals are: increased speed and better cutting and turning. Here is what I learned and experienced…

Ski Boots

I start with boots because they are the most important part of the package. I researched and tried on 5 different brands of boots, including Atomic, Nordica, Salomon, Lang and Dalbello. Each manufacturer has their own concept of how a boot is made and what they focus on in terms of fit, function (ski level and skier goals), comfort and style.

While all boots had great features, I choose the Dalbello Aspire 75s. This women’s ski boot is for the intermediate to low-advanced skier. The boot was incredible from the moment I put it on my feet. Hard shell material on the outside with the most soft, plush boot lining I’ve ever felt on the inside. It is insanely comfortable! Low cuff hinges allow the boot to fit comfortably around varying leg/calf shapes and sizes (no more pain or bruising!); tapered heels with an added heel lift (or use the ramp angle inclinator to adjust heel angle) allows me to lean forward naturally versus constantly aligning myself forward for more controlled, faster skiing while using less energy; four adjustable aluminum buckles enable fine tuning and a seriously accurate fit. There is also a flip hinge on the back of the boot for easier walking in the lodge (yeah!) Ladies, these are seriously stylish boots – shiny black with gold and white scrolling around the outside – very sweet! Check out this Aspire 75 boot video.

Skis and Bindings

It’s hard to judge ski and binding performance in the shop so I recommend a lot of investigation and talking to the experts in ski shops. I got varying opinions but ultimately pieced it together on the following information... First, you must purchase women’s skis because they are designed specifically to balance the fact that women have less muscle and strength than men. Women’s ski bindings are mounted slightly further forward on the skis, which enables us to have the forward lean necessary for controlled skiing (which men have naturally on their skis). This is so important, not only for control, but so we don’t expend unnecessary energy and tire too fast (when you are tired, you fall more often). Having the correct skis for women also provides us better speed and turning. If you want to know more about women’s skis, check out this video for details.

While I looked at different brands of women’s skis and did my own research, I found the staff at ski shops most helpful. They were informed and focused on three factors; my current skiing level (intermediate); my skiing goals (faster speed and better turning and cutting); and the type of terrain I skied on (hard, packed powder on mostly groomed Northeast terrain). It was pretty simple after that. We talked about quality of the brand, ski shapes, ski length, pricing and that I wanted something to coordinate with my new Dalbello boots (they didn’t care so much about that, but I did!) I choose the Atomic Seventh Heaven 76 skis with XTL9 bindings (their recommendation) 157 cm. Check them out here.

These skis are for intermediate to low expert; have a strong edge hold for great cutting and turning; a little longer length for speed; and torsion flex control sectors, which adapt to specific terrain. The perfect ski for my level, goals and terrain. That worked out nicely based on my goals and I cannot wait to try them out!

A word about ski poles – you need them! Buy a basic pole that is the correct size. To determine your size; flip the pole upside down, grab it just below the basket and be sure that it’s at the same height as your bent elbow. Pretty straight forward.

Getting the right ski gear makes all the different in your overall ski experience—from performance to safety to comfort… not to mention how you will feel afterward!

Ski package pricing can range anywhere from $700 (on the low side) to several thousand. But, again, it is worth the investment. My best advice: compare, shop sales and shop at the end of the season for best prices!

Finally, as I mentioned in an earlier post… do not, by any means, forget your helmet!

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