In recent years, ski manufacturers have been developing new technologies to make skis even more versatile. But trying to distinguish between the different ranges of skis on the market, with constant use of terms such as camber and rocker, can be extremely confusing. Nowadays, Rocker and Camber are present in almost the entire range of skis available, and the presence of one or the other, or the way they are combined, will influence the behaviour of your skis according to the snow conditions and the ski discipline, in question.
THE INVENTION OF THE CAMBER
In the 1850s, the cambered ski was invented by Norwegian Telemark woodcarvers who created a bow-shape arch in the centre of the ski, under the binding. The purpose of this arch was to evenly distribute the weight of the skier over the entire ski length. Before this, ski boards had to be much thicker in order to prevent them from sagging and sinking in the snow, under the weight of the skier. This new form of construction allowed for a thinner and lighter ski that didn't sink in the middle and was easier to manoeuvre. The dimension of the ski was also slightly modified by extending the tip and tail to make it easier to turn.
Much later, shaped (or parabolic) skis were introduced. The particular difference about these is that they had a more pronounced sidecut and were shorter than the straight skis. The sidecut of these "carving" skis refers to the difference in width of the tip and tail (wider) compared to the underfoot width (narrower). This causes the ski to deform, under the weight of the skier, creating an arched edge that makes full contact with the snow and carves a smooth, clean turn.
TYPES OF CAMBER
A ski with a flat camber (or no camber) will stay flush when placed on a level surface. This kind of ski gives better performance in powder, but has less ability to grip on hard snow as the contact surface is minimal. The ski pivots easily around the waist for greater manoeuvrability, but takes a bit of getting used to.
This technology originates from the traditional straight skis and consists of a slight rise in the centre of the ski. When placed on a flat surface, the ski has two contact zones: one at the tip and the other at the tail. This ski camber, or arch, disappears when the skier stands on the skis. In fact, under the skier's weight, the ski becomes perfectly flat and the pressure is evenly distributed over the entire length. And when the ski is tilted on its edge, the camber shape is reversed. This traditional camber is ideal for skiing on-piste and excellent on hard snow.
These skis were excellent on hardpack but lacked floatability in powder.
THE ARRIVAL OF THE REVERSE CAMBER OR "ROCKER"
In 2002, carving seemed to be coming to an end. The extreme sidecuts and shorter skis of that period were great for edging smooth curves on groomed snow, but tended to sink in deep snow. Although this was partly solved by reworking the length of the ski and width of the waist, this tended to slow down edge-to-edge, so it was a provisional solution.
The Rocker appeared when Shane McConkey decided to try out water skis on a long snowy mountain slope. What seemed like an act of madness resulted in getting greater floatability in deep powder and gave rise to the first ski incorporating a Rocker.
Inspired by the floatability in powder of the water-skis, manufacturers soon began to incorporate the Rocker into their new ski designs.
At that time, the term "Rocker" was the equivalent of what we now know as Reverse Camber or Full Rocker.
So what is a Rocker today? it consists of the extension and elevation of the ski tip and / or tail (depending on whether the ski has a single or a double Rocker). So if we look at a ski on a flat surface, the tip will begin to rise nearer the waist than the tip of a normal ski.
Today, the vast majority of skis are manufactured with Rocker technology and depending on where the ski begins to rise, it is said to have more or less of a Rocker.
There are several types of Rocker, but the main benefits are that it:
- Floats better in powder
- Makes skiing easier on rough terrain
- Facilitates turn initiation by reducing grip
COMBINATIONS AND APPLICATIONS ON THE FIELD
In recent years, manufacturers have begun to study this new form of skiing to invent new, more specific ranges for each type of skier combining Rocker and Camber according to the levels and needs.
The aim of manufacturers was to play with the proportions of the rocker and camber skis to create skis that are even more versatile. This is explained in the following combinations:
The Evolution of Alpine Skis: a Lighter Front Rocker + Traditional Camber
Apart from the more flexible construction of alpine skis, the tip Rocker allows the ski to rotate more easily by limiting the grip, which helps turn initiation. Whatâ€™s more, these skis tend to be more forgiving, so beginners are able to progress more quickly with this kind of ski for alpine skiing.
All Mountain Skis: 30% Rocker + 70% Traditional Camber
1. In general, a tip rocker together with a classic camber offers an excellent combination of lift and edge grip. A low-rise rocker gives better edge contact as the ski leans at an angle during a turn, which results in greater grip. These skis are also effective on hard snow and powder and this technology is applied both on versatile touring skis and on all-mountain skis.
Although this combination gives a fair amount of versatility to a ski, it is mainly designed to float in powder. This ski has a 50% rocker and 50% camber. The front Rocker provides excellent floatability while the rear Rocker lets the ski pivot more easily in fresh snow and consequently, keep control.
On the other hand, it retains some control on hard snow thanks to the light traditional camber. According to the inclination of the ski, the edge grip is greater. This combination makes it more versatile in the Freeride Ski category.
Want to know more about what factors to consider when choosing skis for piste, freeride, all mountain, and backcountry? Have a look at our alpine ski buying guide.