Women's Intermediate Ski Guide

Posted May 6, 2018 @ 11:40am | by Jack Worth

Ladies, this one’s for you (And boyfriends looking for a holiday gift, I see you too). Lots of internet bandwidth has been dedicated to reviews and buying guides for men’s skis, but women’s skis sometimes don’t get the attention they deserve, which can make it tougher when buying a pair of skis to figure out exactly which ski is right for you. This is especially true if you’re an intermediate skier, as there’s typically more skis marketed as “intermediate” than anything else.

So we’re on the same page as to what an intermediate skier is, an intermediate skier spends most, but not all, of their time on groomed blue runs; and can get down any blue trail pretty comfortably. An intermediate skier can navigate their way down black diamond runs, but it might not look quite as pretty. In having conversations with people everyday at our Boston store, it seems like a lot of women have a tendency to sometimes sell themselves short regarding their skiing ability. If you’re flying down black diamonds or crushing through the back bowls before lunch, then don’t sell yourself short – you’re an advanced/expert skier! If that’s the case, then you would probably think that the skis that we’re going to cover here are a bit too soft for your tastes. (Check out the Volkl Kenja and Secret, the Nordica Santa Ana series, or the all-new K2 Mindbenders though, some awesome women’s expert skis) But if that first example described you pretty well, keep reading for some of our favorite women’s intermediate skis.

We start at the top, with the Blizzard Black Pearl 88. If you’ve been to any ski resort in the past five years, you’ve definitely seen plenty of people rocking the Black Pearls. In fact, you probably already have three or four friends who own them. The reason the Black Pearl is so popular is versatility. It won’t be the best ski on the mountain at any one thing, but it does do everything really well. Skiers have been searching for years for the elusive "one-ski quiver," the single pair of skis that will perform well in any and all conditions. While there probably won't ever be a ski that truly gets there, the Black Pearl 88 is pretty darn close. Having a ski that’s as easy to ski and as versatile as the Black Pearl is a pretty hard-to-beat combination. Everyone knows that the Black Pearl is sick though, and honestly I think there are some other skis just as awesome as the Black Pearl that just don't get quite as much hype. Read on. 

While the Black Pearl 88 is the single best-selling women's ski in the world, the ski in the #2 spot is pretty impressive too. The Salomon QST Lux 92 got an upgrade for 2020 and it's hands-down the best version of this ski yet. Unlike the Black Pearl and a lot of the other skis in this category the QST 92s have some metal in the construction of the ski. This will make them more torsinally rigid which for you the skier means that they're going to grip better on hardpack snow and feel more stable and less chattery at higher speeds. The fact that Salomon is able to do this without adding too much weight to the ski (They weigh more than the Black Pearls but not by much) is really impressive. If you're a stronger intermediate skier who has maybe demoed a pair of Kenjas and liked how they performed, just thought they were a bit too much work, the new QST Lux 92s are really sweet. 

The narrowest ski of their Ripstick series, the Elan Ripstick 88W isn’t going to float as well as her older sisters, the Ripstick 94, and Ripstick 102, but at 86 mm it will initiate better edge-to-edge. Quicker edge-to-edge means that it will hold up better on-trail – groomers, so if you spend between 60-80% of your time on groomed runs you’ll absolutely love the Ripstick 86W. By inserting two carbon tubes into the core of the ski Elan is able to make a ski that still has tons of pop in it but at a fraction of the weight as other skis with heavier metals. If you thought that having a softer and easier ski meant that you could no longer throw down laps on the iciest New England slopes, the Ripstick 88W is going to make you think again. Finally, due to its really light weight and the shape of its tails, the Ripstick 88W is an awesome choice for a New England ski-touring setup or as a hybrid resort/touring ski if you think that some backcountry adventures are in your future. 

2020 marks the debut sesason of a women's-specific Head Kore 93, after two seasons of being marketed as a unisex ski but primarily coming in men's lengths. This might sound similar to some of the other skis on this list but the story behind the Kore series comes from how light the skis are. They'll be similar to the Black Pearl and Ripstick in terms of weight, but they've got the most prominent rocker shape of any ski on this list. If you want to shred groomers on the Kore 93 you'll have a blast, but to fully unlock all that the Kore 93s have to offer you're going to want to venture off of the groomed runs a bit to experience how nimble these are in tight spots, and honestly how well they float in pow for 91 millimeters. Like the Ripstick, this is another great ski to throw a touring binding on as well because of its light weight and how well it handles off-piste terrain. 

Finally, if you've had friends who have skied Chamonix in the last couple years, chances are they came back talking nonstop about this local ski brand they "discovered" out there that is making its way over to the states. That brand is Black Crows and hype is definitely real. The Black Crows Captis Birdie checks in at 90mm, putting it firmly in the all-mountain width alongside the other skis we've talked about. More than any other ski on this list though, the Captis Birdie is really aimed at a more aggressive skier who loves a ski that can really charge hard. You could argue that it's got a bit more in common with some of the advanced/expert skis I mentioned at the top of the post, but its light weight and substantial rocker make it plenty accessible for intermediates who are just looking for a bit more ski without the added demand of a true expert level pair of sticks. Honestly the Captis Birdie is a freakin' sweet ski that will just pack a little bit more punch than the other skis on this list, plus the design on these is absolute fire and if you're looking to be less mainstream than your friends this is a good choice. #hipsterskiing

There you have it: 5 of our favorite intermediate skis for women. As you can tell, there’s a lot more to this category than just the Blizzard Black Pearl, although that is still a pretty awesome ski. The name of the game in skis these days is lightweight and versatile, and all five of these skis accomplish that super well. We love to get nitpicky with some of the details that distinguish one ski from another, but honestly all five of these skis are a ton of fun and pretty similar – you're not gonna go wrong with any of the five. And remember fellas, this is a way better gift than jewelry.

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