Up until about a decade ago, rocker was virtually unheard of in ski design. Professional skier Shane McConkey was known for pushing the boundaries of skiing in all forms of the sport, and in 2006, there was brand new technology available on the ski market. Rocker was a term that was entirely foreign, and completely backwards from what ski design in the days of yore was focused on. In order to understand what rocker is and what it’s ideally used for, we must first understand camber.
What Is Camber?
Older straight skis (although sometimes new such as our TRN TEK’s) had only ever known the term “camber”. The easiest way to understand rocker and camber is to imagine that you’re looking at a ski directly from the side, as it lies flat on a surface.
Camber is the concave shape that a ski has which lifts the center of the ski off of the snow. Camber inherently pushes the contact points of a ski out to where the section of camber ends. Ultimately, the goal of camber is to allow a skier to generate power from turn to turn, much like a compressed spring would. For skis that will see a lot of time on hardpack snow, or are used as an all-mountain ski, you’ll generally want camber to a certain degree. It allows the ski to use as much effective edge as it can, plus it gives fantastic precision and response on icy or firm conditions.
What is Rocker?
Rocker is the complete opposite. Where camber is the concave section of a ski, the rocker is the convex portion. These days you’ll see nearly every ski on the mountain has some version of tip and tail rocker. While tip and tail rocker is generally used in conjunction with camber, some skis even go as far as to only use rocker with no camber at all, which is typically known as “Reverse Camber” or “Full Rocker” – they mean the same thing. At Folsom, we refer to rocker as the versatility of a ski, because rocker increases how well a ski can float and how much easier it makes it to initiate a turn. The float that rocker provides come from where the snow makes contact with the ski (Shane McConkey hypothesized all of this, and gave a fantastic demo when he slid his way down an Alaskan Spine on a pair of water skis shaped as a reverse camber ski would look like today).
In order to understand this, we have to recognize that there are two main elements of rocker: the rocker height which is how far off the ground the tip or tail of the ski is, and the rocker aggression which is how far in from the tip or tail of the ski towards the center, that the convex rocker exists. If you have a ski with a lot of tip rocker height and tip rocker aggression, the snow will make contact with the base of the ski closer towards the center of the ski, which means that more of the ski will inherently sit above the snow’s surface, allowing the skier to float. If a ski has very little tip rocker height and very little tip rocker aggression, the contact point will sit near the tip of the ski, which will increase the drag force on the ski and make it much more susceptible to sinking underneath the snow and providing no float. Of course less rocker also generally means more camber, which translates to greater stability.
Rocker height and aggression also play a large role in understanding why rocker makes turn initiation and turn release easier. Rocker reduces your effective edge, particularly when you’re standing flat footed. However when you initiate a turn and pitch your ski on edge, the rockered sections of the ski that do not touch the snow in a flat footed stance are now making contact with the snow, giving you that effective edge back. So, a ski that has a large rocker aggression will be much easier to initiate and release a turn with because you’re starting off with the least amount of edge to use to begin with. Getting out of a turn is also easier because that ski will happily want to take the edge on the rockered portion of the ski off of the snow. This is especially important for the tail of the ski because this will really define how your skis feel. If there’s camber all the way through the tail, the tails of the ski will be very difficult release out of a turn, and too much rocker in the tail will not allow much edge to contact the snow so you won’t feel like you have very strong edge hold.
For powder skis that don’t need to use much edge, a high tip and tail rocker and large rocker aggression are perfect because it offers the greatest amount of float. For all-mountain skis, a moderate tip rocker height, moderate tip rocker aggression, lower tail rocker height with moderate tail rocker aggression is the perfect combination for float, stability and versatility. And for hardpack / carving skis, rocker is relatively unnecessary while camber becomes very important.
How does Folsom use Rocker and Camber?
Lucky for you, here at Folsom we custom manufacture our skis, which means that unlike mass manufactured skis, we do not have to build our shapes in only one specific camber profile. We are able to apply just about any camber profile to any ski shape, ranging from our “Full Camber” that utilizes no rocker at all, to our “Shallow Reverse Camber” which uses no camber, and everything in between.
At this point you’re probably wondering, what do each of these camber profiles mean? And how does each camber profile impact a ski’s performance? Below are definitions (please note all numbers are approximations) plus pros and cons for each Folsom camber profile offering:
A full cambered ski intended for high speed performance on hardback.
- The camber profile that maximizes power generations out of a turn
- Gives you the greatest amount of effective edge to engage
- Will feel like your ski is on rails
- Turn initiation and release is significantly more difficult because of the lack of rocker
- You may have to change ski pants after a high speed run if this is your first time on a fully cambered ski
- Helmets are required
Moderate tip rocker to assist with float in soft snow, camber underfoot for stability at speed.
- Tip rocker allows the ski’s turn initiation to be a bit easier than the full camber profile
- The precision and power is still there thanks to the camber through the tail of the ski
- Allows older skiers to incorporate new age technology while still maintaining the traditional gripiness of cambered skis
- The tail of the ski is difficult to disengage from a turn
- Ski pants may still have to get changed…
- Float in softer snow isn’t as significant without tail rocker
Moderate tip rocker paired with mild tail rocker for the conventional skier.
- Combined rip and tail rocker provides better float in deeper conditions
- Mild tail rocker allows the tails of the ski to release much easier
- Low tail rocker minimizes the loss of effective edge, particularly when the ski is carving on edge
- Maintains underfoot camber for better performance on hardpack
- Not as precise as Traditional Rocker or Full Camber
- Can make a ski feel very “directional” with stiffer tails than tips
More progressive tip and tail rocker for substantial float with reactive camber underfoot.
- Makes the ski very maneuverable thanks to near identical tip and tail rocker height
- Easy to make quick turns in tight spaces
- Tail rocker is low enough to regain some effective edge when initiating a turn
- Can make the ski feel “twitchy” on hardpack
- Not as stable at high speeds as a profile with less rocker
A more exaggerated version of Everyday Rocker, further tailored towards softer snow.
- Ideal for locations that get lots of snow but can get chewed out quickly
- Increased tip and tail height give enhanced soft snow performance by keeping the skis above the snow
- Very maneuverable, like the Everyday Rocker
- Can be difficult to regain the effective edge lost by the rocker because the tip and tail rocker are much higher
- Ski can feel twitchy on hardpack when it’s not pitched on edge
Shallow Reverse Camber (SRC):
A full-rockered profile for superior float and turning power for the advanced skier.
- Lack of camber gives this profile the smoothest ride in soft snow
- Very maneuverable, pivotable, and “surfy” due to only having one contact point
- Progressive edge engagement on hardpack / variable conditions
- Makes touring more difficult with less surface touching the snow
- The least stable at high speeds when the ski is not on edge
So, what did we learn?
All in all, we like to think of rocker as the versatility of a ski, and camber as the power and precision of a ski, and in most skis we build there is a combination of both rocker and camber. As you can see, there are pros and cons to every camber profile, and each will excel in certain conditions that fit their strong suits. We recognize that everyone wishes they could have their powder ski with SRC, a carving ski with Traditional Rocker, and their all-mountain ski with either Directional or Everyday Rocker, but we also know that not everyone can have a quiver of 3-5 pairs of skis. Through our Custom Fit Process, we get to know you as a skier and what kind of terrain you’re riding to ensure that we can fit you to the correct camber profile to maximize how well the skis will perform for you for the conditions you ride. Fill out a Custom Fit Form today to get started so that you can discuss your new-found knowledge of rocker and camber with one of our experts to create the perfect pair of skis for you.