By David Schissler
(February 2013) Ever ski a on pair of the new “rocker” skis? This latest ski design was inspired by snowboard technology. In essence, rockers are turned up at the tip and the tail like a snowboard, making it easier to initiate turns (I can remember a time or two back in “the day” when smashing into a mogul created a rocker tip for me unintentionally!). It produces a bit of a swivel effect. The amount of rocker a ski has determines how it will perform on the snow. More rocker, more float. A quick way to see just how much rocker there is in a pair of skis is to simply squeeze them together base to base in the middle. When you do you’ll see the tips and tails actually come apart when the middle of the skis are touching like the picture above.
This is definitely helpful if you’re a beginner or intermediate skier sliding your turns or riding in deep or very soft snow. To be fair, rockers tend to hold their edge very well under your feet on groomers or hard pack, but my experience with them was less than satisfying. I recently demoed some “all-mountain” models by Atomic, Nordica, K2 and Head. The difference between the skis was pronounced and as I said although they held very well under foot I found them to be “squirrelly” with any speed. By that I mean the tips were unstable and wobbled as speed increased. As someone who was taught to put pressure on the front of the skis to make them carve, I found this to be a little disconcerting. I’m accustomed to my skis providing stability by smoothly ending one turn and transitioning into the next. Even when I adjusted my stance by spreading my feet further apart and centering my weight over them, it didn’t provide the stability I was looking for with most of the models I tried. I found I had the most fun with the Head Rev, probably because they had the least amount of rocker built into them, so they performed a little more like a traditionally cambered ski. I’ll be demoing skis from Rossignol, Salomon and Fischer next. I’m determined to find a pair of rockers that provide the benefit of the new design with the stability of traditionally cut skis. If this doesn’t work it’s back to a more traditionally cambered racing ski. Stay tuned.
By the way, if you’re in the market for new skis I highly recommend taking advantage of a high-performance rental program at a mountain near you. Most rental shops have a deal where for $40 or $50 dollars a day you can swap out as many top rated skis as they carry. It gives you the opportunity to try various models under consistent conditions giving you a very good indication of which make and model works best for you. I know it’s not cheap but it’s way better than laying out $500 to $1,000 for skis and being dissatisfied with them!