Rockin’ Rides

Dear Jock:

I’ve noticed some of the new skis have a strange shape with both tips splayed up off the snow like floppy bananas. What’s up with that?
—Just Curious

JC, You’ve spotted the newest trend in ski manufacturing. Traditionally, skis were built with camber. Think of camber as an arc in the ski where the tip and tail sit on the snow and there’s a gradual rise toward the center of the ski. Pushing the camber out of the ski allows your edge to carve on firm snow and pops you into the next turn when you release that pressure. On the flip side, some powder-specific skis are built with reverse camber, where the waist of the ski sits low and the tip and tail rise up. This design works great, as long you are always floating in bottomless powder. You’ve noticed a hybrid of these two concepts, known in the skiing and surfing industry as “rocker.” With the rocker design, there’s still camber underfoot, but the ski begins to rise off the snow before the actual tip. A rocker-tipped ski floats to the surface in deep powder and planes easily on the top of crud. It also facilitates breaking trail in deep snow. Although skis with rocker often have traditional camber underfoot, they sacrifice some edge hold on firm snow. Demo a pair of rocker skis this winter and let me know what you think. —Jock