For women, by women: South Lake Tahoe-based Torlo creates snowboards for women’s unique biomechanics
Special to the Sierra Sun
Carissa Bisnar was fed up with snowboards that didn’t fit her and sports companies that claimed they were designing gear just for women. So she did something about it.
The South Lake Tahoe local and former competitive snowboarder quit her job overseeing the leadership department at Heavenly and Kirkwood mountain resorts, entered a two-year masters program in sports product management, and dove head first into figuring out just what it takes to design, build and manufacture a snowboard just for women.
“What I found out is that only 3% of sports science studies across the world have ever included female participants. We have no idea what the biomechanics are for the female body when it comes to sports movements,” explains Bisnar. “Any company that makes a product and claims that it’s women-specific, they don’t know what they are talking about because the foundational research hasn’t been done to understand what the difference in product should be between the sexes.”
Torlo, Bisnar’s women-driven snowboard brand, is doing that research.
The first board in Torlo’s collection, a backcountry splitboard, is designed around the difference in women’s center of gravity.
“Men’s center of gravity is at their sternum. Women’s center of gravity is at their hips,” says Bisnar. “Imagine you have a male and a female — about the same height, about the same weight — and they are snowboarding down the hill and they jump off a little lip and both get the same height. Are they using their body the same way to get the same result? The hypothesis on this — nobody has actually done the research — is no. We use our bodies differently.”
Based on partnerships with biomechanical researchers, Bisnar designed a board that would accommodate for this difference and allow women to have a wider stance than boards that are currently on the market.
“Women’s shoulders are proportionally more narrow than men’s shoulders, even of the same height, so we are told we should have a more narrow stance when really we should have a wider stance,” says Bisnar. “We are making the board feel like an extension of the body. The transfer of power from human to board is better. It’s easier to turn, easier to jump, easier to maneuver.”
The second difference in the Torlo board is a volume shift to a shorter, wider board, which accounts for women’s lower center of gravity and the way they swing their weight.
“These types of boards have become really popular because they float in powder super easily, but they have the maneuverability of a park board. They are a fun, easy, very versatile board,” notes Bisnar. “Almost every company that has made these do not make these small enough for a female 5’6” or shorter. It’s not even close to hitting the female market.”
This January, Torlo will be releasing its backcountry splitboard for purchase on the company’s website (www.torlosnowboards.com) for $799. Next season, Torlo will release all its mountain, park and big mountain boards. Every model will have six to nine sizes. Bisnar plans to host pop-up shops and demos at resorts around Lake Tahoe.
“During school, I worked on the factory floors of two different snowboard companies just to learn the process of making these boards,” says Bisnar. “The boards that we launched this winter are ones that I personally spent a year and a half learning how to design, then prototype and build with my own hands through some of these partner manufacturers. It’s been a really long process to learn that, but it’s been pretty awesome.”
For Bisnar, Torlo is about getting women and girls the gear that works best for their bodies and will ultimately allow them to have similar paths to success as male snowboarders.
“A huge part of the company vision and mission is equitizing and equalizing sport and making it something that’s not just for different cultures of males but also different cultures of females,” explains Bisnar. “You have these girls that get to an intermediate or advanced level, but there’s just no place for them unless they are the best of the best so they end up dropping out. I want to create that middle path that keeps females in the sport and progressing.”
Claire McArthur is a writer for Tahoe Magazine, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun
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