By Matt Sterbenz 4FRNT Skis
If you haven’t purchased new skis or a board in the last decade, your ride most likely has traditional camber (or at least what’s left of it).
If you’re on the beat with what’s new and wonderful, then the topic of camber to rocker ratio has probably already reached you, and thus you’ve chosen a side (or compromise) for the style and conditions of skiing or riding you prefer. Rocker will have some permanent role in future ski design, or dare I say, technology.
Camber is a term that describes the profile of your base when sighted down one edge. Historically speaking, all boards were traditional camber. This meant when your ski or board was relaxed, its center was raised, but tip and tail were touching the ground.
Inherited from race skis, the purpose was to accentuate tip and tail contact points when making a turn. By increasing the downward pressure at those two points, the ski dug into the surface harder and as result, created an effortless transition, edge-to-edge.
Ski companies told us that more camber gave a ski or board more “life,” or springiness. Fact is, too much camber can make a ski or board miserable to ride in soft snow.
As freeriding evolved, so did ski equipment, moving to accommodate a stronger and more relaxed riding style for a wider variety of conditions. Ski companies began experimenting with longer radii in the tip and tail curves, which allows more floatation, similar to a water ski. The rocker revolution was born.
Rocker hasn’t made skiers fundamentally better. Instead, it has enabled those who didn’t ski very well before to keep up. But God forbid you throw a three-way gaper pile up mid-slope. All hell will break loose watching them attempt to slow those rocker boards down.
Rocker – A synonym for radius, when defining the gradual reverse curve along the base of a ski or snowboard
Reverse camber – A complete arc extending from the tip through the waist and back up to the tail
Flat, or zero camber – The absence of any radius.
Where do you fit in?
If you haven’t tried a rockered ski or board, its time. It’s shocking how different the new technology feels. In soft snow, flat bases allow a rider to stay forward, easing the strain on your legs and boosting your confidence.
A common design used in all-around conditions is camber under foot and rocker in the tips. The camber underfoot, in conjunction with a sidecut, makes for short ski feel in tight areas when you need it, yet a lofty and capable feel when the terrain is wide open and soft. This is the beauty of rocker: It’s only there when you need it.
If you are casually ripping some groomed, you most likely won’t feel it. When you get into the crud or even powder off the groomed, it’s there waiting for you allowing you to maintain a strong, balanced posture.
Gone are the days of leaning way back in powder to keep your skis or board from diving when you have rocker along for the ride.
If you’re a powder hound, it’s time to think about when you’ll migrate to flat or full-reverse camber. Old timers reference it as “pre-flexed,” but the truth is, when you’re in soft snow, all your technique relies on is your weight and angulation to the slope.
Get on reverse camber and blow your friends away!
If you’re a park rat, you know the deal. It’s more practical and functional, when skiing hard pack day-in, day-out, to have a classic cambered ski, tip-to-tail, for maximum stability, sensitivity and control at higher speeds.
It’s common for ski and board companies to market their camber and rocker profiles as though this is some type of proprietary concept, so be sure to cut through the muck by visualizing diagrams stating the basics. Board companies are the worse of the two.