women's skiingYes, women do ski differently than men. Which, of course, has no bearing whatsoever upon their ability to ski. Women race. Women ski the extreme. Women range from klutzes to superb experts. Even as men do.

But because of their slightly different physical structure, they also ski a bit differently than men do. The differences are small - but important.

Men have a narrow pelvis and legs that sort of bow out at the knees. Women usually have a wider pelvis, a lower center of gravity, and knees that bow slightly in.

As novices, women have a penchant for skiing for skiing with their backsides sticking farther out than a man’s, and to ski knock-kneed. This has nothing to do with their ability to learn - only with their physical shape.

Does this suggest that women should be taught differently than men? The clear-cut answer is actually a slightly foggy “yes and no.” Translation: Instructors must be fully cognizant of the fact that - because of physical differences, not any lack of ability - women actually appear different when skiing, especially in the early learning stages.

Instructors, says one ski authority of Sun Valley’s special programs for women, must also be sensitive to the emotional differences between men and women. This can be significant if, for instance, in a mixed-gender class an instructor unwittingly praises men who seem to acquire the “appropriate” skills faster than women.

However, women usually learn to snowplow more quickly than their male companions because the snowplow stance is more natural to their physical shape. With his bow legs, a man may find a wide stance uncomfortable and compensate by increasing the pressure on the inside edges of his skis. But his female companion finds it easier to push her tails apart and roll her knees inward.

Even among experienced skiers, men and women still differ slightly in their techniques. It’s easier for a man to keep his skis close together when racing down the fall line than it is for a woman. On a traverse, a woman will angle her body farther from the slope than a man, simply because of her lower center of gravity. In a parallel turn, if a woman wants to ski in a closed stance, she may find it necessary to press one knee against the other; a man’s slightly bowed knees enable him to keep his feet close together without such pressure.

Even as we age, men’s and women’s physical shapes change differently. Older men tend to develop a paunch; older women, larger thighs. Ski experts stress how important it is for instructors working with senior skiers to recognize that these physical changes influence the way older men and women ski.

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