Some of the following equipment I was able to “test” at the Snow Industries of America on-snow demonstrations at Solitude. Given that we had loads of light, fluffy powder for three days during the show, it made every piece of equipment feel just perfect. Such is the problem with testing in Utah powder. The other problem was that many manufacturers with so-called women’s equipment didn’t bother to bring their women’s samples to the on-snow demonstrations. Perhaps they thought we wouldn’t be there to test? Surprise! Anyway, Burton Snowboards was the only manufacturer to actually have every piece of women’s boots and boards they manufacture available for us to test. This, I think, should influence your decision as to what it truly female-friendly and what may be just manufacturer hype. So with these bias’ in mind, I give you a brief overview of the best and most efficient hardware to land on this woman’s earth for the 1997-’98 season.

Let’s just put an end to the on-going argument that a board doesn’t know the difference in gender and therefore, should not be made gender-specifically, by suggesting, for example, that pro extreme rider Tom Burt try riding the 151 Victoria Jealouse. Most likely, Tom would tweak that board until it bent because the Victoria is not built for his body type. On the other hand, put Morgan LaFonte on a K2 Fatbob. OK, bad example because Morgan is probably the only 5-foot two-inch woman that could actually carve a Fatbob, but you get my point. The Victoria is built for aggressive small riders and the Fatbob is built for big-footed rippers. To accommodate both, the differences in body types are built into different board designs.

Two years ago, when board manufacturers were first developing women-specific models, many boards were too light, flexy, and therefore lacked control during high speeds or in the steeps for hardcore riders. But things have improved this season. Mostly, many women’s boards are longer (perhaps because many women taking up snowboarding are taller than the average woman pro), and a little stiffer flex-wise, which provides more control on aggressive terrain. As for women’s pro signature models, not only are there more of them this season, which reflects the increase in pro women’s snowboard status worldwide, but there are a number of “non-sig” boards with narrower sidecuts, softer flex patterns, and narrower drill-hole patterns for different stances to accommodate a woman’s build and lower center of gravity.

K2′s Morgan LaFonte got a little longer (from 148 to 152) and stiffer to compensate for more speed down big terrain. K2 also tweaked it’s JuJu Slim for women by adding a torsion fork with lighter construction and adding more kick in the nose on their Dart Series, which they hope will add control in the big mountains. Tina Basich and Shannon Dunn-the first two women to have signature boards in 1994-are still among the hottest selling boards on the market. The Tina from Sims has this new Light Beam construction, which is basically a funky lamination process that makes the board stronger, but lighter than last season. For people with small feet (7 and down) the deep radius sidecuts of the Tina (and the Shannon from Burton, for that matter) make it way easier to control becse of quicker edge-to-edge performance. Tina dropped the castle-graphics and opted for elegant long-stemmed roses this year.

Burton’s back again with it’s Super Fly II Core on all their women’s signature models, the Victoria Jealouse, Cara-Beth Burnside, and Shannon Dunn models. But the II part means its up to 45 percent lighter than last year. The difference in these pro women’s models is based on the way each woman rides. For example, the Victoria (which I was able to ride at the on-snow demos) rules in powder and the backcountry, yet is so light, you can get more runs in in a day because you don’t have to “work” the board so hard. If you’re more skate-style, the Burnside might be for you. All-round pipe and freeriding is a toss-up between the Dunn and the Jealouse. Also, for beginners, Burton offers a super cool “Virgin Book” that explains all sorts of techy info from equipment to clothing. (Burton also offers pint-sized riders equipment and clothing in their Backhill Series.)

Funny thing about Ride is that two years ago, when Circe Wallace came on board, they wouldn’t actually dedicate a board to her, rather opting for the “influenced-by-her” philosophy. Avalanche had the same problem with Bev Sanders. Well, both are on the chick pro model band wagon for ’98. Circe didn’t get pissed at Ride, she got even. First she took the Compact series, then tweaked the hell out of it, turning it into a hardcore little 150 that’s lighter than the Compacts, stiffer overall flex (it was rather noodley before), and less weight in the tip and tail for easier spins and quicker turns. The result is the 148 Sanders mostly known for it’s Hardcap Construction tip to tall for killer edge control on ice and hardpack.

Other pro signature models include Gnu’s Barrett Christy (compact board good for pipes, especially) and Rossignol’sTricia Byrnes Circuit Series-which I guess, doesn’t really qualify it as a pro-sig model since it’s called the “Circuit Series” rather than the “Tricia Series.” Other non-sig models worth mentioning for their narrower sidecuts, softer flexes and narrower drill holes options include Goddess Snowboards (the only manufacturer dedicated solely to women’s equipment and clothing), Original Sin (which I personally ride), Morrow, Generics, and MLY Snowboards.

Boots-Laugh next time someone tries to offer you a “woman’s boot” and say it is a scaled-down version of their men’s’ models. Ask them if it’s made from a woman’s last. Does it have little bits of foam that tighten like a vice grip as soon as it we step outside pumped into the ankle to fill up left over space? (Foam, inform them, is not a proper substitute for “filling space.” There should be no space to fill.) If they don’t know what you mean, try a different snowboard shop. For the record, a woman’s last is a mold made form the prototype of a woman’s foot. In general, women’s boots molded from a woman’s last will have a narrower heel cup, higher arch support, tighter fit around the ankle, and accommodate a wider calf lower in the design of the cuff. The trend this year in women’s snowboard boots is more performance, lighter, less boxy boots. Overall, boots are styled less like a moon-walkers and more, shall I say it? like apr*s party style. Top on my list are Burton’s Drifter, Ruler, and Freestyle, but then again, it’s probably because I was able to test all three at the on-snow demos. The Drifter lulled me to sleep it felt so good. They have huge support and lots of cushion in the bottom-mostly intended for soft landings from big airs. The Freestyle is shorter and feels like a Sorrel, but wider at the top (it used to pinch the back of my calves). They’re intended for freeriding and pipe tricks. The Ruler helps get you on edge, mostly toesides, with its Hytrel tongue that’s kind of stiff but necessary for high-speed edging.

Airwalk’s Freeride is way better than the first time I wore a pair of these boxy moon puppies. Maybe Tina Basich had some influence in all of this, but basically, it’s a lot smaller, less clunky, and has a tighter area around the ankle for more control. Big steps were also made with K2′s four women’s models in its Clicker collection. I got a pair and at first couldn’t tell if it was the boots or the Clicker System that improved my edge-to-edge control so quickly. I decided it was the combination of the two. The Clicker boots are less boxy this year and have less volume around the ankle, but order a size larger than normal-I think they goofed up the sizing on the boxes or something. They may still be best for women with larger feet, but then Hayley Martin, K2′s Marketing Director, wears them and she’s a size 5. Vans’ has a new boot thanks to Circe Wallace, but I haven’t seen it yet. Funny thing is, so does Ride’s Preston, but it makes me wonder why Circe isn’t riding in them. The Preston’s are custom fitted with that classic ski boot technique of heat molding, so they should provide a nice fit. They come in either Linerless or Classic-Linerless being more attractive to jibbers, Classic (with the liner) more optimal for freeriding and big mountain riding (because they’re warmer). Worth checking out are Blax women’s series called the freeride models, which this season, come with their new I-Spine step-in binding system. Blax also claims to have the only hard boots for women in the industry-the Rosi race/freecarve and Heidi freecarve. But then Raichle’s offering a woman’s hard boot, SB222, which they claim are also good for Juniors-not a great association. Quiksilver have expanded its winter sports division with the introduction of soft snowboard boots called the NuVu boot series. I wasn’t able to test their women’s models (the Girl Scout, Deep Blue, and Cheetah), but they do offer women with particularly narrow heels lots of heel grip accomplished by the shape of the last and elastic rear gussets. Other boot manufacturers with women’s models this year include Nelson, Nice, and Aunt Mables.

Remember, try on the boots you intend to buy. Feel is the main factor-even if you’re a beginner-and only you know what you need for your personal optimal performance.

Bindings:-For my money, a woman’s best bets in snowboard bindings in the future are the step-in systems. First, because step-ins allow the rider to get on edge quicker than conventional bindings and secondly because it makes the weight of your board that much lighter. You’d be amazed how heavy your bindings can be until you screw on a pair of step-ins, like the K2 Clickers. The problem with step-ins versus conventional strap bindings for women though, is that many compatible boots with the step-in binding systems are still too large or not yet madearty style. Top on my list are Burton’s Drifter, Ruler, and Freestyle, but then again, it’s probably because I was able to test all three at the on-snow demos. The Drifter lulled me to sleep it felt so good. They have huge support and lots of cushion in the bottom-mostly intended for soft landings from big airs. The Freestyle is shorter and feels like a Sorrel, but wider at the top (it used to pinch the back of my calves). They’re intended for freeriding and pipe tricks. The Ruler helps get you on edge, mostly toesides, with its Hytrel tongue that’s kind of stiff but necessary for high-speed edging.

Airwalk’s Freeride is way better than the first time I wore a pair of these boxy moon puppies. Maybe Tina Basich had some influence in all of this, but basically, it’s a lot smaller, less clunky, and has a tighter area around the ankle for more control. Big steps were also made with K2′s four women’s models in its Clicker collection. I got a pair and at first couldn’t tell if it was the boots or the Clicker System that improved my edge-to-edge control so quickly. I decided it was the combination of the two. The Clicker boots are less boxy this year and have less volume around the ankle, but order a size larger than normal-I think they goofed up the sizing on the boxes or something. They may still be best for women with larger feet, but then Hayley Martin, K2′s Marketing Director, wears them and she’s a size 5. Vans’ has a new boot thanks to Circe Wallace, but I haven’t seen it yet. Funny thing is, so does Ride’s Preston, but it makes me wonder why Circe isn’t riding in them. The Preston’s are custom fitted with that classic ski boot technique of heat molding, so they should provide a nice fit. They come in either Linerless or Classic-Linerless being more attractive to jibbers, Classic (with the liner) more optimal for freeriding and big mountain riding (because they’re warmer). Worth checking out are Blax women’s series called the freeride models, which this season, come with their new I-Spine step-in binding system. Blax also claims to have the only hard boots for women in the industry-the Rosi race/freecarve and Heidi freecarve. But then Raichle’s offering a woman’s hard boot, SB222, which they claim are also good for Juniors-not a great association. Quiksilver have expanded its winter sports division with the introduction of soft snowboard boots called the NuVu boot series. I wasn’t able to test their women’s models (the Girl Scout, Deep Blue, and Cheetah), but they do offer women with particularly narrow heels lots of heel grip accomplished by the shape of the last and elastic rear gussets. Other boot manufacturers with women’s models this year include Nelson, Nice, and Aunt Mables.

Remember, try on the boots you intend to buy. Feel is the main factor-even if you’re a beginner-and only you know what you need for your personal optimal performance.

Bindings:-For my money, a woman’s best bets in snowboard bindings in the future are the step-in systems. First, because step-ins allow the rider to get on edge quicker than conventional bindings and secondly because it makes the weight of your board that much lighter. You’d be amazed how heavy your bindings can be until you screw on a pair of step-ins, like the K2 Clickers. The problem with step-ins versus conventional strap bindings for women though, is that many compatible boots with the step-in binding systems are still too large or not yet made for women. Take Airwalk’s Quad, for example. It’s boot offers adjustable features for forward lean and adjustable flex in the ankle, but it was too big for my feet-an average size 7. Which meant I was unable to test the Quad step-in, which features a cool base plate with slide rails with spring-loaded clamps that catch the plastic tabs on both sides of the boot. The Quad step-in has a rip cord for releasing (essential for backcountry avalanche safety) and a self-tightening latch that tightens as you ride. K2′s Clickers work like mountain bike clipless pedal, mainly because they’re designed by Shimano-king-pins of mountain bike parts and technology. The result is a durable step-in that will change your riding forever, but it sometimes gets packed with snow-a minor inconvenience though when you consider how often you can click right in on the chairlift and ride away. Device has a step-in that everyone is raving about made compatible with their Xenon women’s boot. But even Device reps claim that the Xenon boot is not made from a woman’ last, so you make the call. Burton claims it will have a step-in system for their women’s boots by next season, but if you don’t want to wait, check-out any of the above, especially if your feet are larger than a size 7.

As for conventional strap-in bindings, make sure you buy the smallest or most compatible for your boot. It may be best to bring your boots to the shop to strap on over them before purchasing your bindings, or else even if shop dealers claim the binding is a small, you may get home and realize your boot was really small (like with Oxygens) and you’ll be doing the ole’ duct-tape-with-maxi-pads trick again to fill space. Check out Burton’s Custom bindings, Ride’s LS Radius, and Sims Link bindings if your feet are average to small sizes. Otherwise, most medium strap bindings may work if there are enough holes or a ratchet system that allows you to clamp them down. But if the binding squeezes the top of your foot bone, it’ll cut off your circulation and you could end up with a bone spur on the top of your foot by the end of the season. Also be careful of conventional bindings that are too stiff in the highbacks or don’t provide enough forward lean (or too little). You may get a boot with just the dimensions you want, i.e. enough flex, adjustable highbacks, but then get into a binding system that negates all the things you liked in your boot systems. Overall, when it comes to bindings, make sure it’s not something you purchase last minute after your boots and boards. Sure you’re in the home stretch, but bindings are an essential piece of equipment that can totally tweak your whole set-up if you get ill-fitting step-ins or conventional bindings.

made for women. Take Airwalk’s Quad, for example. It’s boot offers adjustable features for forward lean and adjustable flex in the ankle, but it was too big for my feet-an average size 7. Which meant I was unable to test the Quad step-in, which features a cool base plate with slide rails with spring-loaded clamps that catch the plastic tabs on both sides of the boot. The Quad step-in has a rip cord for releasing (essential for backcountry avalanche safety) and a self-tightening latch that tightens as you ride. K2′s Clickers work like mountain bike clipless pedal, mainly because they’re designed by Shimano-king-pins of mountain bike parts and technology. The result is a durable step-in that will change your riding forever, but it sometimes gets packed with snow-a minor inconvenience though when you consider how often you can click right in on the chairlift and ride away. Device has a step-in that everyone is raving about made compatible with their Xenon women’s boot. But even Device reps claim that the Xenon boot is not made from a woman’ last, so you make the call. Burton claims it will have a step-in system for their women’s boots by next season, but if you don’t want to wait, check-out any of the above, especially if your feet are larger than a size 7.

As for conventional strap-in bindings, make sure you buy the smallest or most compatible for your boot. It may be best to bring your boots to the shop to strap on over them before purchasing your bindings, or else even if shop dealers claim the binding is a small, you may get home and realize your boot was really small (like with Oxygens) and you’ll be doing the ole’ duct-tape-with-maxi-pads trick again to fill space. Check out Burton’s Custom bindings, Ride’s LS Radius, and Sims Link bindings if your feet are average to small sizes. Otherwise, most medium strap bindings may work if there are enough holes or a ratchet system that allows you to clamp them down. But if the binding squeezes the top of your foot bone, it’ll cut off your circulation and you could end up with a bone spur on the top of your foot by the end of the season. Also be careful of conventional bindings that are too stiff in the highbacks or don’t provide enough forward lean (or too little). You may get a boot with just the dimensions you want, i.e. enough flex, adjustable highbacks, but then get into a binding system that negates all the things you liked in your boot systems. Overall, when it comes to bindings, make sure it’s not something you purchase last minute after your boots and boards. Sure you’re in the home stretch, but bindings are an essential piece of equipment that can totally tweak your whole set-up if you get ill-fitting step-ins or conventional bindings.