What is Ski Rocker?
Anyone looking at new skis cannot fail to notice that the buzzword of the moment is ROCKER, we are told skis have rocker, but what is the manufacturer trying to tell us? Is it a fad, or is there genuine benefit from it? Let us try to explain what it is, and show why on this occasion there is every reason to be excited about it!
SKI ROCKER – A SHORT HISTORY OF ROCKER
There are many origins of rocker drawing from other sports, and even hardware ‘accidents’. Water ski design shows how a rockered ski style can be applied for float, and the late and legendary Shane McConkey persuaded a couple of engineers at Volant to produce the first true rocker ski used in anger – the Spatula in 2001, which ultimately went into production a year later. But rocker was still seen for a while as the technology for the deep powder skier
Until recently, snowboarders had the idea of rocker for all mountain use to themselves. Effectively what rocker does is have a rising tip and tail, so on a rockered snowboard, the centre of the board was touching the surface, and the tip and the tail were noticeably lifting up. This meant in soft powder conditions, the board floated beautifully. However, on a hard piste, you had little edge engaging when turning so it made for a very difficult ride.
SKI ROCKER – THE EVOLUTION
Before rocker came along to skis, ski designers relied on length, width and side-cut to change the behaviour of ski. Recent times saw skis get shorter and the side-cuts more aggressive to produce what are known as carving skis, fantastic for the piste, but these were narrow in the waist. Then manufacturers widened the waists for off piste use, but that meant going longer on your skis again to get a nice side-cut on them, to allow you to turn.
So for the off piste skier, rocker was borrowed from the world of snowboarding, to produce rocker skis that could float like a butterfly on powder:
A rocker ski, see the lift on the tip and the tail between the two skis
This was great for powder lovers, but for the rest of the skiing public, who would spend time on piste, the existing camber technology worked fine on the piste:
a camber ski, pressing the ski into the snow to turn creates a long working edge for carving
What was needed was a solution that blended these two ideas, rocker and camber, that allowed a ski to float off piste, but still carve like a shorter carving ski. Doing this would then give you a slightly longer ski that would float in the powder, but when on the piste would ski a lot shorter, with a good edge contact, to give you a carving turn. And they did this by moving the contact point on a cambered ski backwards and forwards. Forwards for a more piste orientated ski, and backwards for softer snow conditions. K2 were the first to fully launch this idea, and it proved a big hit in the 2010-11 season, and now all ski brands offer a range of skis either with this camber/rocker mix, or full rocker for pure powder skiing
Manufacturers give rocker, camber and the mixture a variety of tags to make them unique, but really there are only so many ways you can rocker or camber a ski, here are the key terms and an explanation:
EARLY RISE SKI ROCKER
This means the tip of the ski rises earlier than on a traditional camber ski. This is the most popular rocker/camber mix out there. It means the tip of the ski floats better off piste, you can ski a little longer for even more float, and yet when you tilt and press the ski into the turn, the slightly shortened edge engages, thanks to the ski camber, and away you carve!
ALL TERRAIN SKI ROCKER or FLOW RIDE
Generally 30% of the tip is lifting early, giving you great float, but you still have a lot of edge to press into the turn, so when you do carve, in effect 100% of the edge is in contact with the snow. K2 All-Terrain Rocker is on the majority of their A.M.P (All Mountain Product) skis, which makes these good all mountain skis, that can ski most snow conditions. Head call their version of tip rocker FLR.
SPEED SKI ROCKER or S-ROCKER
This is a short rocker at the tip of around 10%, this means 90% of the ski base is in contact all of the time, going up to 100% when carving. So aimed more at the piste skier this, but the slight rise allowing you to ski in softer snow more easily.
CATCH FREE SKI ROCKER or FLOW RISE
K2 developed Catch Free Rocker a couple of seasons ago. They realised early on, that for a beginner, having some rocker in the tip and the tail made the ski easier to start to turn and release from turns, inspiring confidence. With Catch Free Rocker, 20% of the tip has rocker, and a small increase at the tail, so the ski also skis a little shorter, further inspiring confidence for the beginner. So not only heli skiers benefit from rocker!
EVEN SKI ROCKER or JIB SKI ROCKER or FLAT
These types of rocker are seen frequently on park or jib skis. There may be little if any camber in the ski (hence FLAT!) but even tip and tail rocker, to allow for playful tricks in the park and on ramps and rails. These can also be found on some entry level skis with minimal camber and tip and tail rocker to allow for easier turns
POWDER SKI ROCKER OR FLOW ROCKER
As it says on the tin, 50% approx. of the front of the ski has a rocker, to get the tip to float in the powder. Having a flatter (but still cambered) rear ski section allows it to track in powder and feel rock solid, but also gives it the ability to carve still, on firmer pistes, unlike full rocker
FULL SKI ROCKER
For the true powder skier and purist, full rocker, like the diagram shows above, as a small amount of contact on the ground, and huge rocker tip and tail, for the ultimate float. For the powder addicts and heli-skiers only, and also some park skis will come with full rocker for incredibly easy spins in the park.
For most of us skiers, who use the whole mountain and do not jump on a helicopter, the most important development is this merging of Camber and Rocker, allowing you to select a ski that behaves well across a wide range of conditions. When we first tested all of this technology we were very sceptical, but can confirm IT WORKS! You can ski a little wider ski, a little longer. You then get all of the benefit of better float whether it is in the powder or in spring slushy snow, but you can still carve down the piste in comfort and style. This really is a game changer.
We hope this guide hasn’t confused you any more and if you have any questions get in touch with us here at www.edgeandwax.co.uk
Scott – UK Ski Buyer – Edge & Wax