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Women’s ski gear gets specific

ANNA BLOOM Of the Record staff

Cole Sport manager Scott Dudevoir has observed a significant change in women-specific ski and snowboard gear over the last two decades. Companies no longer just paint their skis pink it’s about shape and weight, and about relocating "the sweet spot" of the ski, he says. These days, color is an afterthought.

Friday, Jan. 13, Cole Sport will host a free Ladies Night to discuss the history of women’s products with guest speakers, featuring Holly Flanders, two-time Olympian and three-time World Cup downhill winner and director of The Canyons Resort’s women’s workshops, female ski instructors from Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain Resort.

The Outdoor Industry Foundation recognized two years ago that it was a bit behind the curve as an industry in terms of tapping into the buying power of the female consumer. Thus, the Winter 2005 Outdoor Retailer show last January featured Lisa Johnson, the chief executive officer for ReachWomen, a business that helps companies across all industries make better connections with women. Johnson explained that women make the majority of the decisions when it comes to retail purchases. Women purchase nearly 80 percent of all consumer goods, she claims.

Johnson is also the author of the book, "Don’t Think Pink," in which she writes that companies miss the bull’s eye when they simply translate women’s products has being feminine or "lighter" version of the original.

Women’s products that work best, she says, do more than just change the color.

Dudevoir, who has worked at Cole Sport in Park City for 14 years, has also noticed an increase in women’s interest in winter sports over the years.

"I would say what was once a male-dominated sport, is not so anymore," he says, referring to skiing and snowboarding. The interest, he says, preceded any changes in product, however. A few years ago, he remembers a lot more complaints about equipment at Cole Sport’s retail and rental shops. "I would say women’s interest was always there, but that the equipment didn’t function properly and then manufacturers caught on," he explains. "Women caused the revolution of women’s equipment. Women demanded women-specific products." The change in the ski industry’s approach to women was not radical, but gradual, Dudevoir recalls. In the beginning, 25 years ago, all the industry did was change the paint, he says. Then, about a decade ago, the industry began to realize that men and women stand differently. "Basically, 10 years ago, we began putting women further forward on their skis," Dudevoir recalls. "And companies also started to make lower, shorter boots for women." But companies did not begin to get specific about the overall construction of women’s skis until later on, when Dynastar began to change where the "sweet spot" of the ski was placed. "The ‘sweet spot’ of the ski is where the center of the boot will stand on the ski," he explains. "What Dynastar did was, rather than moving a woman forward, they modified the core of the ski." Women’s ski boots also feel a little different these days, according to Dudevoir. For women, boots are made with much more attention to stance and flexibility, rather than simply giving women a heel lift, as companies had in the past. Dudevoir notes the revolution in women-specific ski and snowboarding equipment, which considers a skier’s weight, has spilled over into the men’s market and free-skiing market as well. Dudevoir says that instead of only height and shape, skis these days focus on weight range. Dudevoir maintains anyone can learn to ski on the equipment they’re given, but new technology has made it possible for people to be able to "hop right on a ski and enjoy skiing" and that has been true especially for women. "Ski manufacturers have 40 lines of skis and a couple of different ladies’ models each year, and every year they become better and more and more specific," he confirms. "Women are aware of women products, but they’re not necessarily aware of the technology and how it’s changed The ladies’ market is one of the fastest-growing markets and we’re just trying to let people know we recognize that, and we’re prepared to talk about it."

Cole Sport will host "Ladies’ Night" at its Park City Mountain Resort location at 1385 Lowell Ave. from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 13. The event will feature refreshments and speakers on the topic of women-specific ski and snowboard gear. For more information, call the store at 649-4600.


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