• For more information on how to avoid pop-up ads and still support SkiTalk click HERE.
In our “Shrink It and Pink It: What makes a Women's Ski Different” article last season, we talked about women’s skis and how some manufacturers produce skis actually designed for women and others take their unisex skis and slap pink graphics on them. While these might not be the first women's skis, they are some of the most influential women’s skis ever brought to market, in chronological order.

K2 LTP.jpg

Dynastar Elle.jpg
K2 LTP and Dynastar Elle
If you build it, they will come
This is where it all started, with the K2 LTP (Ladies Top Performer) and the Dynastar Elle. These skis showed that if you built women’s skis and marketed them correctly, they would sell. I am grouping them together because they came out about the same time in the late 1980s. They were "mom skis," good solid recreational skis intended to give mom (or sister) gear made especially for her and to eliminate any reason to not get out on the slopes. These two skis could have been the first serious women’s skis, serious in that they brought attention to the women’s ski market.

RD Bad Bitch.jpg
RD Bad Bitch
The first chick ski
Step forward into the late 1980s: the Bad Bitch wasn't just a women's ski; it was a chick ski. RD had decided to produce a complement to its top-selling ski, the Bad Dog, and call it the Bad Bitch. Oh, to be a fly on the wall during the marketing meeting when they came up with the name. No, I wouldn't be surprised if the conversation was alcohol-induced. (In fact, my money would be on tequila and the use of the words, "I double dog dare ya.") Was the Bad Bitch actually a good ski? I don't know, and I don’t think it mattered: I doubt anyone bought it for its performance. A woman bought it to make a statement that she wasn't just a gal who skied, she was a skier chick. In doing this, RD paved the way for Armada to name a ski the VJJ.

K2 Nine.jpg
K2 T:Nine
The ski that took a stand
After the turn of the century, K2 made a stand and offered the T:Nine, the first women’s ski that was politically and culturally charged. The name T:Nine comes from Title IX, the legislation demanding in part that women’s sports were to be funded on the same level as men’s sports. Accordingly, the T:Nines were designed and built with as much thought and attention as their men’s counterparts. Before K2 even put pencil to paper in the design room, it built a team of the best women skiers of the day and not only asked them what they wanted and needed in a ski, but more important listened to the answers and actually built those skis. The women’s ski world was forever changed. The most popular ski to come from the T:Nine collection was the Burnin’ Luv, a ski that any competent intermediate to expert could use to ski almost any condition or terrain with control and confidence.

Volkl Aura.jpg
Völkl Aura
The first tomboy of a ski
Toward the middle of the 2000s, skis started getting wider. The Völkl Aura was the ski that said “anything you can do, I can do better” and empowered the best and most aggressive women on the mountain to ski a women’s ski when most of these women were skiing on men’s skis. These women were proud to ski the Aura. They embraced it even though they knew it was basically a Mantra with different graphics. The popularity of the Aura spawned two more significant women’s skis, the narrower Kenja and the wider Kiku. The Aura and Kiku have been calling cards of the best women on mountains like Squaw Valley and Jackson Hole, mountains where the men are men and the women kick their asses, drink them under the table, and still manage to act like ladies when they must.

Blizzard Black Pearl.jpg
Blizzard Black Pearl
The ski with rawr
As of today, the Black Pearl could very well be the best-selling women’s ski of all time. Granted, official sales numbers in the ski industry are not published, but for the 2016-17 season, Blizzard claimed that the Black Pearl was the best-selling ski in all specialty stores, for men or women. Since no one has stepped up to argue that claim, we will go with it. This is significant considering that it almost didn’t come to market in the form that we know it. The first year's graphics were bold -- a women’s ski with a purple bull on it? No woman would ever buy that, said the middle-aged men who order skis at most shops. Well, helped by the viral marketing of our own "Trekchick"(@Tricia), the Black Pearl hit the market with the fervor of bulls running through the streets of Pamplona and enabled Blizzard to build an entire collection that monetized and capitalized on the Black Pearl name.

Head Joy.jpg
Head Joy Collection
Light weight + function = performance
The current Joy collection is not the first series of skis designed exclusively for women, but it very well could be the best executed. Not only are the shapes of the Joys different from any of Head’s men's skis, but the construction is unique, unlike anything Head had ever built before. It is also the first time in recent memory that a design aspect was taken from the women’s to the men’s side of the wall, as Head used the mystery material Graphene in the Joy series before using it in its men's skis. Head viewed lightness not as a limitation but as a performance aspect and made the Joys some of the lightest yet still some of the highest-performing women's skis. The amount of technology and thought that went into the Joy series is on par with any men's ski.

I am sure there are other opinions on the most groundbreaking, influential, barrier-dropping women’s skis. We welcome your views; please share them with the class. We enjoy comparing and contrasting all of the skis, so have at it.
About author
I started skiing in the mid-70s in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania; from then on, I found myself entrenched in the industry. I have worked in various ski shops from suburban to ski town to resort, giving me a well-rounded perspective on what skiers want from their gear. That experience was parlayed into my time as a Gear Review Editor and also consulting with manufacturers as a product tester. Along with being a Masterfit-trained bootfitter I am a fully certified self proclaimed Gear Guru. Not only do I keep up with the cutting edge of ski gear technology, but I am an avid gear collector and have an extensive array of bindings as well as many vintage skis.


I've gone back and forth on the concept of women's skis. On the one hand, there are a whole lot of ways that men and women are different on average and those differences could be addressed by different skis. But at the same time the differences between individual women and individual men are much greater. The average woman may be shorter but there are still many women who are taller than many men. The average woman may weight less but there are still many women who are heavier than many men. The average woman may ski less aggressively but there are many women who ski more aggressively than many men. The list goes on.

Kudos to Blizzard for their success with the Black Pearl. But there has to be some number of women who might be better of with the characteristics of the Brahma and some number of men who might be better off with the characteristics of the Black Pearl. Yet it is rare to see a woman skiing on a pair of Brahmas and you will never see a man skiing on a pair of Black Pearls. I'd rather just see a smorgasbord of skis where men and women find the one that meets their needs. It's fine if gender steers them to one set of options or another. But it's a shame if gender limits their options. Of course, I'm not in the business of selling skis.

Article information

Last update

More in Gear

More from Philpug