Women’s physical and psychological differences and buying power were hot topics during the women’s equipment panel at the TransWorld SNOW Industry Summit last week in Copper Mountain, Colorado.

Associate editor of SKI Magazine and panel Moderator Krista Crabtree quickly dismissed the workshop’s title “The Women’s Wave: Is Female-Specific Equipment A Passing Fad Or Is It Here To Stay? Crabtree not only pointed to rising participation levels, but also to the devotion of high-ranking women in companies like those represented on the panel.

Jeannie Thoren, Creator of Jeannie Thoren Clinics, started off the panel with her quirky and poignant breakdown on the differences in men’s and women’s physiology. For more than 30 years Thoren has devoted herself to improving women’s ski technique through equipment modification.

Although Thoren had a strict skiing background, the focus of many of her points transcended the direction a rider faces when going downhill. Thoren explained why women’s specific products are mandatory for the evolution of women in the snowsports market. She used slides and photographs to point out physical differences like a woman’s lower calf muscle, narrower heel, wider pelvis, and wider forefeet.

Taking Thoren’s theories one step further, Rossignol’s VP of Communications and Advertising Jean-Marie Gand touched on the psychological differences in what women want. According to Gand, women’s product needs to be looked at as more than simply one category. In its Alpine division Rossignol tailor’s its women’s equipment into four groups—race, active skiers, adventure skiers, and exhibition.

Companies should offer women’s specific product in all skill levels—novice, intermediate, and advanced, explains Gand: “Rossignol gives women of all abilities the choice of product that is specifically tailored to their needs.

Following Gand, Burton VP of Global Sales Amy Buckalter stressed the abundant opportunity in catering to women. “Thirty-five percent of all winter sports participants are women, she says. “And, while women make up fifty-two percent of the population they control 85 percent of buying decisions within the household.

According to Buckalter, women are looking for specific things from brands they buy. Companies should “get it, she says. Meaning a brand should be consistent and speak to women intelligently while understanding the buying decisions they make. She also says women also looking for products that fit their body type and meet their needs at every level.

Kim Walker, the owner of Outdoor DIVAS—a Boulder, Colorado-based “women’s only outdoor apparel and hardgoods store—expanded on the ideas presented by the panelists before her. Walker implemented a number of women’s specific concepts not only to her ordering process, but also in store design when it opened in November of 2002. “We have specially designed fitting rooms to accommodate room for strollers or small children, she explains.

Women also have an entirely different approach to shopping and therefore require different types of service, according to Walker’s research. She explains that it’s important to start sales to women with why a women’s specific product can help them have a better overall experience on the hill. “For women, shopping isn’t necessary a task but usually a fun activity in itself, she says.

The TransWorld SNOW Industry Summit had gathered more than 300 executives from snowboard and ski manufacturers, retailers, and resorts to discuss issues facing the group. Produced by TransWorld SNOWboarding, with partners Mountain Sports Media and SIA, the SNOW Industry Summit was held April 1 to April 4, 2004.