Product: Rocker 2 (2011), same as Rocker 2 122 but with slightly different graphics
Length Tested: 180cm
Dimensions/Turn Radius: 139 - 115 - 129, 20.3 m radius
Camber: Rocker - Camber - Rocker
Binding: Marker Barons, small, 2013
Mount point: +35 (as marked) close to mid-way between "progressive" and "free-ride" lines.
Environment & Conditions:
Location of Test: Davos, Switzerland-- Parsenn and Jakobshorn
Number of Runs: 2 days
Snow Conditions: Crud, re-freeze, boot-top powder both fresh and skied out
Demo or Own: Own
Height/Weight: 5' 10", 135 lbs as I entered the world.
Ski Days/Season: Variable, 15+
Years Skiing: 25
Aggressiveness: Aggressive, fast, enjoys popping off natural jumps
Current Quiver: Blizzard Bonafide @ 180cm w/ Marker Griffons
Home Area: Tirol (mainly Hochzillertal/Fugen)
Preferred Terrain : Off-piste, trees, powder
Background: I've been skiing on 180cm Bones the past season, and they've treated me super well in the variable conditions we get in Tirol, Austria (and even the ultra-firm, wind-blown fells in Finland I took them out on a few days). They're great for in-the-fall-line charging, and provide a super stable/speedlimitless platform for railing turns and landing small kickers. Since I try my best to never ski groomers, and given the wide-open terrain, I've never yearned for anything narrower. But there have been times when I wanted something more playful (at my weight), slarvy, and pivotable in tight trees and deeper pow. The Bones ski fine in any depth that I've taken them in (including an epic 3' dump, totally fresh and unskied lines), but they simply want to charge, and require a locked-in, aggressive, well-controlled technique for someone my weight in deeper conditions, particularly if there's a breakable crust or a few inches over that kind of thing. And for me they proper work in properly tight, steep trees. That's also because I chose the 180 length with the intent in mind that these would be the chargers given the terrain here.
So the Rocker 2 was chosen as a pow-day plaything, with a bias towards trees and tight places. I debated between the 180 length (which is actually 115 in the waist, unlike the moniker implies in the recent "122" name) and the 184 length which is the full 122 waist. Ultimately, I decided that given my weight-- and good balance (I was a competitive gymnast as a youth)-- the 115 waist would float me more than adequately, the swing weight and general weight would be kept down, and I already have the Bones for any serious, locked-in charging (really, in any depth snow). Oh, and I want to take them to Gulmarg later this year, visa pending...
I had three days in Davos in mid December to try them out. The first day I was out on my Bones, and the next two days I was out on the Rocker 2s. For those not familiar with the ski, it's got a pretty significant rocker in tips and tails, and a good amount of taper in a 5-point design, but not as aggressive as the Armada JJ, with progressively stiffer flex from tips (pretty soft) to under the boot (stiff enough). Actual running edge is VERY short on a flat surface, but the length of the ski can engage in soft snow/on edge except in fully hard conditions. I was debating between these skis, DPS 112 hybrids, and 183cm Bent Chetlers. Here are my early thoughts...
Skied these as they came from the factory (neither sharpened nor checked side/base bevels, nor for a flat base; didn't hot wax them), but with a slight detune down to the tapered part of tips and tails. There's actually NO edge in much of the tips.
Piste: The effective edge is very short, and it shows. There is a slight camber, and these can be skied on relatively hard pistes fine-- but why do that? I never felt out of control, but I spent very little time on the pistes, and the skis definitely chattered if I tried to really lock the edges in for a medium length turn. At around their natural side-cut radius, if up on edge, they can lay down tracks. I think the tips probably bounced, but I don't look at my tips so I don't know. I definitely didn't feel the chatter, which is all I care about. And I never got them up to full speed charging on the pistes like I have with my Bones... I bet they have a real speed limit here. What I will note is that when I hit a few really small natural kickers with hard/piste landings-- the landings felt squirrelly, like the skis wanted to move in any direction possible that wasn't under me, notably out to the sides. By contrast, the Bones on these conditions lock in and rail. I have not found a speedlimit on the Bones, and once the edges are set at a high angle (tune: 1 base, 3 side bevel) I feel supremely confident. Also, hard-surface landings on the Bones are super stable. Bottom line: The Rocker 2 manages on the piste, but it just isn't that fun, so I wouldn't bother. Put two inches of fresh snow, ungroomed, over the piste and the Rocker 2s though are fantastic though, skimming and surfy.
Crud/re-freeze: This surprised me a bit, because the camber and quick pivoting made crud much more manageable than I would have expected when I used the proto-bumps/surface to pick a smart line over and through. But it was definitely not in a charging manner. And the transition at speed from fresh powder to harder, cut up stuff was definitely jarring and a bit unsettling, particularly when crossing other lines or traverse routes. I recall one particular natural kicker I took at speed, where the landing was into fresh, followed by unexpectedly hard, cut-up that I charged right over. There was a disheartening moment of, "Oh crap, I'm gonna lose it." I didn't, and I rode right over it, but it bounced me around and it didn't feel good. In softer crud, the skies felt great-- surfing over lines at full speed, or making lots of turns. The Bones are totally different in this regard: While the rockers were fine for lots of turns across the fall line in crud, the Bones felt too grabby/planky for that kind of approach, and unsettled. The Bones, however, would crush right through the hard crud if I pointed them down the fall line in big radius turns, treating the crud as piste. Bottom line: Steep crud is fine on both skis, but the Rockers want to make lots of turns to avoid chatter, and feel surfy enough that they don't feel hooky and likely to catch an edge; the Bones lock in too much for this type of approach on this stuff (inspiring a lack of confidence), whereas if you just point them down and charge a full speed they crush right through (inspiring full confidence). Funny how the same skier can feel like he needs to take totally opposite approaches to feel confident in the same types of conditions on two skis.
Powder: OK-- this is what these skis are for! Holy crap. Fun. Fun. Fun. That's the best way to describe it. It took me half a day to really dial in the feel coming from the Bones to the Rocker 2s, but once I did a stupid grin spread across my face. Actually, the first couple runs made me worried I'd may a mistake in size or type of ski-- where the Bones like a neutral stance, it turns out I CAN work the tips at speed. Well, the Rocker 2 doesn't like that approach at all, and the sweet spot stance-wise is definitely much smaller and even more upright. And while there's a good amount of rocker in the tails, the mount point is so far forward that after realizing I couldn't punch the tips I ended up riding too far in the backseat... and the substantial tail length made itself known. Didn't feel good. But, like I said, once I dialed in the stance, I felt a bit superman-ish on these skis in soft powder. They float incredibly well, they're surfy, and they are super, super forgiving for any turn size and any amount of railing vs slarving in the soft stuff. The base coverage in the snow wasn't very good, but we had 6 inches to knee-height fresh powder and while my buddies were hitting rocks in places (woman on a 69mm waist ski, not sure how she manages to stay with us; guy on Cochise) I was skimming right up over them-- skiing by far the fastest of the bunch, and the most confident in being able to make immediate turn-shape changes, respond to extremely variable terrain (lots of divots, small streams, natural bumps, boulders to avoid/jib off of), and shut down all that speed in an instant. It's hard to describe the feeling of a proper, held, slarve at full speed in soft powder to anyone who hasn't felt it; I definitely hadn't quite felt it before. It's definitely magic. And it let me move through the trees with so much more speed because I could throw the skis sideways without even thinking, drop speed and then return to straight in a single surfy move, and bounce off small pillows and other features without worrying about the tightness of the space. Unlike on hard surfaces, landing in powder is a dream-- they keep me up, stay right underfoot, and are ready to either straight line afterwards or pivot and slarve.
Conclusion: The Rocker 2 is definitely a totally different ski than the Bones, as expected. For someone lightweight like me, the two make for a super 2-ski quiver, particularly at the sizes I chose. The Bones are fine for any piste, and any off-piste charging and locked-in turns. And don't get me wrong, they are super playful given their dimensions/build/metal. But they're a lot more work in super tight spaces. The Rocker 2, however, is just not very fun on piste, and not nearly as versatile. But in powder they are so much more fun and playful than anything I've been on. They slow me down a bit on big, steep, open, cruddy bowls, but speed me up in soft powder and steep/tight trees or other spaces (even open ones). They also-- because of their floatiness and surfiness-- turn even 2 inches of powder into feeling like a foot of it, even on piste. But then the Bones eat up that kind of thing too. In retrospect, I could definitely have gone with the 184 length at the full 122 underfoot, but I never felt like I needed any more float or stability, and given my weight and ownership of longer/stiffer Bones (relative to effective edge and range of offered sizes)... I'd re-buy the 180 length at 115 underfoot if I could do it all over again. That said, if I could re-do the purchase of the Bones, I'd probably consider the same length Kabookie if it really doesn't give up the stability I've come to trust (sometimes with my life, I guess), while making them a bit more playful in tighter spots.
I'll ski the Bones when I have to; I'll ski the Rocker 2s every chance I can get.