There has been a lot of talk over the past several years about the decline of snowboarding. Much of it has been attributed to the original snowboarders being older now and having families and responsibilities that keep them from the hill. But whether snowboarding is on a downward spiral or just making adjustments from a flooded industry, one part of the snowboarding market has been ignored for too long…women.
With our numbers hovering just under 40% of the snow force, it makes sense that we are not the foremost thought on many companies’ minds. However, if that number is to grow, our presence needs to be recognized and acknowledged by manufacturers. The exciting thing is that seems to be happening…slowly, perhaps, but it’s happening. Here are a few signs that we are gaining foot-hold in the industry.
-Some new releases are coming in both men’s and women’s models.
Last year Arbor released the Clovis in both men’s and women’s models. This year Gnu is releasing the Hyper Karve in both men’s and women’s- though there is a limited pre-release in the men’s line this season. The same seems to be true for Never Summer’s Insta Gator and Maverix…pre-releases this year are supposed to segue to the full release next year in both lines.
It’s rare for new releases to be launched in both the men's and women's lines in the same season. Often things are tested out in the men’s line for a year or two before they make it to the women’s side, if they make it there at all.
-Lines are growing. A few years back, the snowboard companies were trying to streamline. They had too many models, things were getting unruly, and there was too much leftover stock in shops at the end of the season. Retailers had to cut back on ordering in the face of all of that overstock, and “less is more” seemed to be the wave of the future. That seems to have changed, again.
Every new catalog I look at has expanded offerings. That’s good and bad. And that’s another post all together. It means that women have more options, and that’s definitely in the "good" realm. But retailers can only stock so many models, and if the snowboard companies are spreading themselves too thin by manufacturing so many different models, quality and innovation for the wheelhouse products can suffer- not good.
-Companies that weren’t previously in the women’s snowboarding market at all have started to expand in the past couple of years…especially in the arena of bindings. All of a sudden, we have to think about our choices, because now we have them. NOW snowboarding, Arbor bindings, and Bent Metal, all have women’s offerings now (or will next year).
-There is an emergence of more aggressive gear for snowboarding women. Companies are moving away from only offering noodly, beginner boards in their women’s lines. There are more quality choices for intermediate to expert riders available now than ever before. There are still plenty of dumbed down boards out there that lack the features and tech of better boards. (You can recognize many of them by their cheesy pink and purple top sheets- because some companies still believe women will buy anything just because it is pink or purple.) But there are also many quality, entry level, easy to ride boards to get women hooked on the sport. And that’s a hugely important part of the market.
But women are progressing in the sport, and as we progress, we need equipment options that will help us along in that process. So now we are seeing more options for more advanced riders. More aggressive camber profiles, some stiffer bindings options, and more specialty shapes among them. It’s a very exciting time to be an intermediate to advanced woman rider. Our gear is getting as good as the guy’s while being built for our sizes and the way we ride.
There is still a long way to go, but these are some great strides to furthering women’s snowboarding. Tomorrow is the local snow show, so I will get to see some of the upcoming additions in person. I am very excited to see what is new for us for next season. I’m also excited to see if manufacturers are realizing that pink and purple is not necessarily the way to our hearts.