These skiers were early adopters of a ski design that is poised to dominate the retail racks. Known as rockered skis, the skis have varying degrees of reverse camber, or upward curvature, along the base (picture a rocking chair runner). As a result, they float infinitely better in powder, maneuver readily through turns and have more stability.
But it’s not just the hard-chargers at powder meccas who reap the rewards of rockered skis.
“A little bit of rocker can go a long way, and it can have great benefits for a novice skier, too,” said Tait Wardlaw, of Rossignol, the French manufacturer.
Though the rising popularity of rockered skis parallels the trend toward exploring the ungroomed, backcountry-style terrain that many ski resorts increasingly offer, they are also surprisingly versatile.
“It started out as powder technology,” said Geoff Curtis, of Marker Völkl USA, “but we knew rocker would also make skis really maneuverable.”
Ski industry veterans point to the Volant Spatula, a rockered ski designed in 2002 by the late big-mountain skier Shane McConkey, as the forerunner to today’s models. Like a water ski, the Spatula was widest underfoot; it performed fantastically in deep powder but poorly on groomed slopes. In contrast, many of today’s rockered skis retain a traditional side cut — meaning, they are narrowest underfoot — that has been slightly lengthened for easy turning.
Ski schools, too, are promoting the new skis. At Squaw Valley, a clinic introduced this winter, the Rocker Revolution ($89), helps skiers get the most out of the new skis while trying a variety of models through the resort’s demo centers, where half the fleet consists of skis with rockered features.
The next curve for rockered skis? Growth. This season, the ski company K2 became the first to put some degree of rocker in all of its skis. Next winter, Mr. Wardlaw said, 70 percent of Rossignol’s skis will be rockered. Within a year or so, he predicted, “at places like Vail, these skis won’t be the exception, they’ll be the norm.”
So like it or not rocker is the next big thing.
But for those worried about short feeling skis and little effective edge you can relax because the vast majority of rocker designs will have an incredibly subtle form of rocker combined with regular camber, rather than the cartoonish tips and tails of the powder skis.
The K2 website actually has a really good explanation of all their different rocker profiles for different types of skis and the effect when the ski is flat as opposed to when the ski is flexed in a turn.