It would not be groundbreaking for me to say that the snowsport industry is currently dominated by male athletes. But, in an effort to increase involvement among women in the industry over the past 20 years, big brands and retailers have put a special emphasis on marketing specifically to the female demographic. While this transition was taking place, however, there seems to have been a lull in the market that has had long term repercussions on a specific, but dedicated, group of women.
This group that I want to focus on is the twenty-something-year-old women who, despite advancements made in the snow industry to produce top-of-the-line clothing and equipment geared specifically towards them, feel they do not fit the mold of the typical female skier or snowboarder.
To me, these women are somewhat of a lost generation of female athletes in the snow industry who were never marketed to properly. They fell in love with the sport as the popularity of snowboarding exploded and there was a transformation, both in sport and style, changing the way people dressed, acted, and perceived it. This group of women will absolutely be lifelong consumers in the snow industry, but not in a way you might expect.
The Perception of Women’s Snow Gear
I interviewed a few of these women about their experience shopping as a female consumer in the snow industry and got an interesting response.
Rosa (28 years old), living in Denver, Colorado, is one of the more serious skiers I know, and the perfect candidate for insight into the life of a snow athlete and female consumer. Averaging around 30-40 days of skiing in each season, her hesitance surprised me. “I actually might not be the best person to ask because all of my winter clothing is men’s.”
Janet (28 years old), who has lived and worked in Vail Village for many years, has no shortage of access and knowledge when it comes to snowboard clothing and equipment. When I asked about her experience as a woman shopping for snow gear, she responded with “I actually prefer buying men’s gear.”
This sentiment that “I am not a typical woman skier / snowboarder” was actually echoed by many, which made me wonder who they do think is a typical woman on the mountain.
When I asked Janet to explain further, she said that it was because she felt that “most women’s gear is made for someone’s girlfriend who is tagging along. At least with the way it’s advertised.”
Whether this is true or not of the quality of women’s snow gear, this was her perception of how the snow industry markets its gear to women – favoring style over function. This is not the first time I’ve heard this from women and, while it’s not an issue exclusive to the snow industry, it is definitely a challenge that needs to be considered by all snow brands and retailers.
Function Over Style
We can all picture the “snow bunny”, the fur-draped, and the fully made-up women you might see in a ski lodge brochure. While these are extreme examples, there did seem to be a consensus among my interviewees that the snow industry was marketing an overall image of a passive woman, rather than an active woman.
Femininity and style, of course, do not equate to a lack of athleticism, however, it is not always realistic after a full day of riding on the mountain. I found this to be somewhat of a point of pride for the twenty-something-year-old women I interviewed.
Janet gave me more insight into her perception of men’s gear compared to women’s gear that I feel is an important distinction that needs to be addressed: “Men’s gear portrays an image of ‘you can do this in our product’, while women’s gear is more about ‘you can look like this in our product.’ Women model what the clothes look like, while men model what they can do.”
The way that snow equipment and clothing is advertised had me questioning whether retailers and distributors were marketing style over function when targeting women, or if there actually was a discrepancy between the quality of men’s and women’s snow gear to make this demographic continue to shop in the men’s department.