Skiing + Snowboarding

Resorts and Retailers Look to the Ladies for Skiing's Next Big Spending Demographic

When it comes to planning - and spending - on ski vacations, women wear the Gore-Tex bibs in the family.

By Kirsten Dobroth February 10, 2017 Published in the Midwinter/Spring 2017 issue of Vail-Beaver Creek Magazine

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Outdoor Divas owner Kim Walker in her woman-centric Lionshead ski shop.

When it comes to planning ski vacations, women wear the Gore-Tex bibs in the family, at least according to SnowSports Industries America, which recently reported that girlfriends, wives, and moms collectively control 70 to 80 percent of all ski-related consumer spending. Couple that statistic with a post-recession uptick in ski resort visitation, and you begin to understand the calculus fueling a recent surge in on- and off-mountain events catering to women in Colorado and around the country.

Since 2013, ski retailer K2 has also been doing its part to encourage ladies to hit the hill with its International Women’s Ski Day, a global event (held in Vail and Winter Park in December) “celebrating all things skiing, snow, and having two X chromosomes.” In December, Vail Resorts also hosted Skadi Vail, an inaugural women’s ski festival where the main event was the premiere of an all-women’s ski film—starring local Olympian Julia Mancuso—coproduced by Red Bull Media House, a company known more for action sports films with unlimited budgets and all-male casts. Last season, there wasn’t a single ski movie that featured exclusively women; the year before that, the only all-women ski film was crowdfunded. 

Seizing the trend, last season Kim Walker took over the lease of the Women’s Ski Center in Lionshead, the first women-specific ski shop in the nation founded by local Ski & Snowboard Hall of Famer Jeannie Thoren. Now a ski country satellite of Outdoor Divas (Walker’s Boulder-based, women-specific outdoor retail business, also the first of its kind in the country), the shop continues Thoren’s mission of getting more women on the slopes by equipping them with ski gear and outerwear that’s made specifically for them. 

“When we launched Outdoor Divas in 2002, there weren’t very many women’s skis,” says Walker. “And of the few that existed, a lot of them were ‘shrinked and pinked’—where the manufacturer would take a men’s ski, take all the good things out if it, then give it a ‘girly’ paint job.”

These days, explains Walker, most women’s skis offer all the performance bells and whistles of men’s skis, but are fine-tuned to be more responsive to a female’s smaller stature. And boots are better fitting, tailored to the unique female physiology—narrower feet, ankles, and calves. Even soft goods have evolved; 10 years ago, says Walker, women’s skiwear, patterned on the male physique, tended to be ill-fitting and baggy, while today, women hit the hill in pants and jackets that complement their bodies, provide better insulation, and well, just look good.

“Getting women in gear that works for them is our primary goal,” says Walker. “No matter what their level, when we put women in boots that fit, perform, and are comfortable, their confidence increases, which means their performance does as well.”

Which, for those who hold the purse strings, is the ultimate payoff. Outdoor Divas, Lionshead Village, 970-476-3888

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