Rocker 101

Rockered skis, which are designed with tips, and sometimes tails, slightly bent back, are the fastest-growing innovation in ski design. But do you need rocker? And if so, how much?
Shape Camber

What Does Tip Rocker Do?
It brings your tips above the snow and keeps them there to make skiing pow easy. Rockered skis make shredders ski faster and keep rookies out of the backseat. Slight rocker can also make a carvy ski feel less hooky and easier to steer on hard snow. But generally, more rocker means more tip flotation. In powder and junk, that keeps your tips from diving. But on harder snow, more tip rocker means less ski-to-snow contact, which gets you a chattery, scary ride on groomers. So find a happy medium.

 What About Tail Rocker?

Rockered tails let skis pivot more easily, as less of the skis’ rear ends touch snow. In powder, rockered tails stay afloat, settle your skis back and down into a better tips-up attack position, and are helpful for landing switch. Not only can you carve powder turns but you can also smear them by holding the turn and willfully taking it into a controlled sideways slide. Both rockered tails and narrow traditional tails work well in deep snow; what tail you want just depends on what kind of turns you want to make.

 Know Your Numbers

The most accepted way to measure rocker is with two numbers. Say you’ve got a ski with a 10/20 rocker, a moderate tip rocker. The “10” refers to 10 millimeters of tip rise—the maximum distance the ski’s front end will rise when laid on a flat surface. The “20” means the ski’s base will not touch that flat surface until 20 centimeters down the ski from the traditional contact point (just behind the tip).

 Rocker, Reverse Camber, and Early Rise
“Rocker” and “reverse camber” mean basically the same thing. A ski with rocker could have bent-up tips, tails, or both. A reverse-camber ski is rockered, but the camber of the entire ski is opposite that of a traditional ski (which is bowed up in the middle). So a reverse-camber ski is shaped like a U. “Early rise” specifically refers to tip rocker, and tip rocker only. This season, nearly every rockered ski has a flat or a traditionally cambered profile under the foot.

 Gapers Welcome
Rocker is not just for powder. It’s all in how much bend there is and where it’s situated on the ski. For instance, there’s the slight front rocker on the K2 Force, a ski we didn’t review because it is geared toward intermediates. This isn’t about powder; the slight rocker initiates easier and diminishes the chances a gaper will hook his tips on hardpack.

 How Much Rocker Do I Need?

You might not need any. But if you’re buying one pair of skis and live in the West, consider a ski with moderate tip rocker only. It’ll float better than your traditional skis in powder and work well on groomers, too.


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