Rocker technology is the most noteworthy advancement in ski design since shaped skis exploded in popularity in the 1990s. First used to boost performance in powder skis, rocker has evolved rapidly and produced countless variations, each offering subtle refinements that can fine-tune a ski’s attributes to address specific needs. Thus rocker can benefit any skier, from novice to World Cup champion, and the technology is now incorporated into most skis on the market.
Here is a quick explanation of what rocker is and how it works:
Before rocker, there was (and still is) camber.
Camber describes the shape of a traditional ski. Place one on a flat surface. It will rest on points near its tip and tail while its waist (midsection) arcs upward. This built-in arch is the camber of the ski.
Camber puts springiness and pop into a ski. It permits easy handling, responsive turning, powerful carving, stability and, due to ample edge contact with the snow, good grip on icy slopes. It remains a popular choice when skiing groomed slopes (on-piste) or on hardpack snow. Alternate terms for camber include standard alpine and positive camber.
Rocker was introduced in 2002 when the late Shane McConkey introduced the first commercial rockered ski, the Volant Spatula. The concept: Create a downhill ski that mimics the attributes of a water ski, enabling a skier to skim over a surface with minimized risk of snagging an edge. It was originally envisioned as a powder ski.
Rocker is essentially the opposite of camber. (It is sometimes known as reverse camber or negative camber.) The side profile of a rockered ski resembles the upturned rails of an old-school rocking chair. On a flat surface, the midsection of a rockered ski will rest on the ground while its tips and tails rise off the ground much earlier than they do on a cambered ski.
So what’s the better choice—rocker or camber? It’s not necessarily an either/or proposition. Many skis today use both underfoot camber and tip and tail rocker in their designs.
Rocker offers skiers several advantages:
Ski manufacturers gradually realized rocker could be combined with camber to address specific performance needs. Soon companies began putting their own individual spin on rocker technology.
Having lots of rocker options is a good thing. Yet trying to digest a lot of techy names can be daunting, we realize. So as new variations of rocker and rocker-camber combos emerge each season, the following observations might be helpful:
How to match a rocker design with your usual ski and terrain preference:
Rocker specs and terminology vary by ski manufacturer and from model to model, so it’s still best to shop for skis based on the terrain you’ll be skiing. Explain your terrain preference and skiing style to an REI sales specialist to get guidance on what specific ski models would be best for you to consider.
On REI.com, skis equipped with rocker at the tip and/or tail are called out in the “ski camber” section (under the Specs tab on each product page).
Shop REI’s selection of downhill skis.
For more shopping tips on downhill skis, see the REI Expert Advice How to Choose Downhill Skis article.
By T.D. Wood
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Last updated: 08/16/2012
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