Understanding Rocker

Instruction Director Michael Rogan explains what it is, how to use it—and why it matters.
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Instruction Director Michael Rogan explains what it is, how to use it—and why it matters.
Understanding Rocker FT

Almost every ski on your shop’s wall this season will incorporate rocker technology. Need a little help understanding what it is, why manufacturers love it, and how to make it work for you? Below we offer a brief vocab review. For practical application of concepts, click here to read RockerRx.

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Camber: Around 1850, Norwegian Sondre Norheim revolutionized downhill skiing by incorporating cam­ber—a convex, underfoot arch—into the skis he constructed. An unweighted cambered ski touches the ground at two contact points, just behind the tip and just in front of the tail, while the middle of the ski is elevated a few centimeters off the ground. By distributing a skier’s weight from the center of the ski to its tip and tail contact points, camber (paired with sidecut) improves turn initiation, agility, stability and grip on firm snow. For the next 150 years or so, camber construction was standard in virtually every alpine ski and snowboard. Camber makes for quick, forceful turn initiations, especially when combined with deep sidecut. In deep snow, however, the tips have a tendency to dive and sink.

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Rocker: In 2001, Shane McConkey and Volant turned ski construction on its head, literally, with a new construction style called reverse camber. Later, people started calling it rocker. A concave, underfoot arch means that a ski with full rocker or reverse camber will contact the snow directly under the bindings while the tip and tail curve up from the center like a smile. Combined with a wide waist, rocker improves float in deep snow. Early adopters took reverse camber to the extreme, building it into super fat skis—some with reverse sidecut—that were a dream in bottomless powder but squirrely and tough to control on anything else.

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Blend: As groundbreaking as camber and rocker each were in their own right, the real magic comes from blending the two. Ski designers are constantly experimenting with the amount and placement of rocker, camber and sidecut to harness the performance benefits of each. This season, almost every pair of skis on your shop’s wall will incorporate some degree of rocker, in the tip, the tail or through the full profile of the ski. The sales guys will insist it’s good for everyone and that rocker will make you a better skier. Is that true? Well, yes: In the right dose and when used as directed, rocker is a performance enhancer. But it can also have negatives side-effects. Read on.

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