Reverse camber and rocker technology have been gaining momentum for the past couple of seasons. In 2010, major ski manufacturers have heard the news and are bringing the technology into the mainstream – so if you haven’t heard about reverse camber yet or don’t totally understand what it is, take the opportunity to learn now, and look like you know what you are talking about later.
Camber (traditional skis)
If you were to lie a traditionally cambered ski on a table, it would contact the surface just shy of the tip and the tail, with the center of the ski rising up off the table. For a lot of situations, this makes a lot of sense – it gives you the ability to lean into tight turns, and apply progressive pressure to stop on varying surfaces.
Reverse Camber Definition
Reverse camber is, as you may have guessed, the exact opposite. Often referred to as a “banana” shape, the center of the ski is the point of contact with the snow; the tip & tail have a gentle, progressive rise to them (like the letter “U”.) Think waterski.
What it’s For
In a situation where you’d normally be fighting to keep your tips up to stop submarining in deep powder, reverse camber skis excel – they are naturally pointed up, and easily provide more effortless flotation.
While reverse camber skis are great in the right circumstances (like in the true backcountry or on a heli trip in BC) – they definitely aren’t for use on groomers or hardpack.
Rocker Skis Definition
Similar to reverse camber, rocker skis rise up in the opposite direction of a normally cambered ski – but it’s less dramatic. In our table example, most of a rockered ski would sit flat, with just the very end of the tip & tail rising up slightly (as opposed to a reverse camber ski, which has a smaller point of contact and a substantial upturn.) The tip and the tail on a rockered ski may not be upturned evenly. (“Early rise” skis exhibit only tip rocker.)
What it’s For
Rocker skis are a lot more versatile than reverse camber skis. While they too excel in untracked powder, they have the staying power to ski comfortably on most groomed terrain. Without the full contact of the tip & tail a traditional ski has, rocker skis feel shorter and more nimble on packed snow, but give you the length you need when heading into the deeper stuff.
Summing It Up
For 90% of people, owning a reverse camber ski isn’t practical – but it’s something you will want to try should conditions permit (like on your heli skiing trip in the Chugach, or on the Spearhead at Whistler.)
Rocker skis, on the other hand, are worth considering. Many mainstream models available at demo centers and shops across the country have varying degrees of rocker for different purposes. They ski very differently from traditionally cambered skis and from one another, so make sure to give them a try.