1997 Preview Of Women’s Snowboard Equipment

We’re headed into the 1996-97 season, “The Year of the Flying Rat,” according to Original Sin. It’s a time when the snowboarding industry is struggling not for fame and glory, but for a new vocabulary and analytical framework: one that not only incorporates a 720 mute grab and an Olympic platform, but equal footing for women’s equipment. Luckily, we got two out of three. When it comes to “women’s boards,” Original Sin’s Chris Mask put it best when he said that “ergonomically-speaking, a board doesn’t know if you’re male or female.” After looking up “ergonomic,” I’d have to agree. Only, ergonomically speaking, that would mean a boot, a coat, gloves, pants, jog bras, or anything else that functions as “machinery related to a human” doesn’t know the difference, either. Yet the industry does make women’s specific clothes and boots.

The point is this: one’s physicality should determine the making of machinery. Boards are machinery. Physically speaking, most women have a lower center of gravity than men; they have smaller feet; and weigh less. Board manufacturers should include some boards in their line that are narrower in the waist (so we can get it on edge easier), have a softer flex, more sidecut (to accommodate flexing for a lighter-weight person), and mounting options for a narrower stance (we’re not all into wide-stance/fat-pants). But the boards should be stiff enough for high speeds, steeps, and tricks (’cause we’re not all beginners).

Ironically, in 1991 Checker Pig came out with a women’s pro model by Lisa Vinciguerra. That same year Burton tried hard with a scaled-down version of their PJ series. It wasn’t until 1994 with Sims and Kemper that real, women-specific boards arrived on the market. Pro riders Shannon Dunn and Tina Basich got signature boards for light-weight riders (under 150 pounds) with smaller feet. And they weren’t pink or white.

Even though the Dunn model ruled (“Guys always asked me where they could find it,” claimed Dunn) she left Sims for Burton and Basich left Kemper for Sims. But Shannon and Tina got the ball rolling and by 1995, more than 20 manufacturers offered women’s-specific snowboards and/or women’s signature models.

This season, be sure to check out the one-piece, Super Fly-Core boards by Burton: Shannon’s new model ($430), which is a little beefier than last year’s and stiffer in the tail, (yet, surprisingly, is still a 144) does justice to Shannon’s “debutante frame.” Victoria Jealouse’s Freedom 51 ($430) meant for big mountains and free-riding added edge and stiffness to make playing with backcountry Pipe Dragons feasible; and Carabeth Burnside’s CB 40 ($430), is a real jibber with its blunted tips.

K2 gave Morgan LaFonte her long-overdue signature board–a 146 ($360) all-mountain extreme freestyle/freerider with a generous tip and tail for sticking landings and off-piste conditions. “It’s super light woodcore and has ultra dampness–it keeps it light enough for light-weight rider, yet there’s enough shovel for powder,” says Hayley Martin, K2 Snowboards’ Marketing Director. “But women also seem to like the JuJu Slims.”

That’s probably because the slims (around $360) are K2’s narrowest board (comes in a 38, 48, and 49) and include the K2 signature double glass cap construction which, in effect, is a woodcore board wrapped by glass to give it a torsion box construction. According to the ski industry this is the hot combo for mastering stiffness and functionality.

Other sigs include Tina Basich’s pro-model the “Seahorse” by Sims ($469), ruler of the “She” li of snowboards with it’s freestyle flex , narrow width, and seahorse board graphics painted by Tina, and Wendy Powell’s Division 23 board ($405) a 151 free-rider with a slimmer width and softer flex pattern than the other D-23 sig models. Barrett Christy’s got a 145 Gnu board ($373) with a supercap construction and super narrow waist, and Christie Elder has designed a Moss board (price not available).

The “sig-without-a-sig” approach, as former world-class rider Julia Carlson put it, is a board series inspired by pro riders’ input. One is Original Sins’ Team series ($429). It’s aggressive sidecut, light-weight wood core, and effective edge is perfect for women around average height, average weight. “There are different criteria for boards for smaller people,” claims Lisa Palvino of Original Sin. “Boot size is a major factor, for example.” Original Sin may not have a women’s board, per se, but they do have a 145 and 155 that both team riders Beth Trombley and Faces the Sky Rondenet (a.k.a. “Sky”) claim are key for getting on edge without the fear of toe drag. As for the graphics, especially in the Alphabet Series, designer Thomas Campbell may have just outdone himself.

Circe Wallace told Ride what was up for light, small, aggressive riders, so expect to see her influence and name on the freestyle boards (and a cap construction) in the Compact Series ($390). Morrow had the help of team rider Christine Sperber with their 3D Revert Series ($360). What’s cool about Morrow’s Reverts are the torque rods. Designed in a three-dimensional pattern, it helps steepen the angles of the board’s fiberglass as it reaches the tip of the board. The rod, along with the Revert’s sharp sidecut, makes for a mean, aggressive, board for mean, aggressive little riders.

Other board manufacturers jumping on the women’s boardwagon include Generics’ Skim line ($389), which Jamie Meiselman, general manager of Generics, conservatively claims “are as good for smaller men as they are for women.” The Skim’s are directional freeriding boards that pro rider Jaime MacCleod swears and wins by.

“The shape of the board is unique,” says Meiselman, “It’s set so you’re in the backseat over the running surface and yet you’re standing in the center over the sidecut. So you’re balanced when you’re turning, but in the back seat for soft snow–that’s the beauty of it.”

Limited’s All-Around Series ($330) is supposedly intended for small people with its twin tip shape and deep sidecuts as well as their LTD 146 ($389)–a directional freeriding board, which Matt Houghton, Limited’s team manager, claims is “really well-suited for good women riders.”

Pure Snowboards, Goddess, and Girls Rule! are the only, women’s-only snowboard manufacturers so far. What’s unique about these three companies is that unlike, say, Generics meek dedication to women’s boards, they outright claim to make boards made by women, for women. As Pure owner Tammi Raines puts it, “we’re dedicated to building boards to fit the unique needs of women riders.”

This season, Pure’s got all cap construction, foam core boards, ranging from a 110 ($150) to a 155 ($460). Goddess have their light, narrow-waisted Snow Bunny (136) and Snow Angel (145) (both $399). Girls Rule! has a board called, Girls Rule! ($189) which they say is a “promotional thing right now.” Ironically, I caught a glimpse of a Girls Rule! board at Snowbird and the rider definitely ripped on it, which is amazing considering it’s only a “promotional thing.” But then, maybe it was the rider.

Overall, what women’s boards really mean is that more companies are paying attention to our 35% of the snowboarding market. Good and bad boards will result, so shop with care and ask a knowledgeable sales rep (preferably a woman, or at least a guy who doesn’t intimidate or act macho) to show you what’s available.

It’s a challenge, but think of it this way: It took the ski industry about 25 years to make a woman-specific ski, and they still don’t have a woman’s signature ski model. Not to say that we’re “lucky” to be women snowboarders, it’s just that we’ve got the opportunity to show all other sport equipment manufacturers what they’ve been missing for so long.

really mean is that more companies are paying attention to our 35% of the snowboarding market. Good and bad boards will result, so shop with care and ask a knowledgeable sales rep (preferably a woman, or at least a guy who doesn’t intimidate or act macho) to show you what’s available.

It’s a challenge, but think of it this way: It took the ski industry about 25 years to make a woman-specific ski, and they still don’t have a woman’s signature ski model. Not to say that we’re “lucky” to be women snowboarders, it’s just that we’ve got the opportunity to show all other sport equipment manufacturers what they’ve been missing for so long.