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On Piste with Rocker

Written by Dan Morgan, Wednesday, 05 January 2011

To most alpine, recreational skiers, skiing is about having fun. As all seasoned skiers can attest, having tools which make learning easier and skiing fun are very important.

Our ski of the year, is not a single ski, is not the most glamorous ski, the fattest ski, or the ski with the most rocker (though it does have some).

We first saw Rossignol’s Alias pre season (note this ski is called the Avenger 74 in the US), and agreed even then that this ski had the potential to popularise the already popular rocker phenomenon onto the feet of beginners and accomplished piste skiers alike. Not simply because it utilised a small amount of rocker technology and therefore was fashionable, but because such an implementation actually made a beginner through intermediate ski easier to turn on, not to mention giving a little extra float through powder.

Rossignol aren’t the only ones to do it - there are a fair few brands subtly adding small amounts of rocker to their skis, for example Salomon’s Enduro in their all-mountain ski range, and pretty much every ski in K2’s all-mountain range (A.M.P for men, T:NINE for women) for another. In fact you’d be hard pressed to find a ski in K2’s line up this year that is not rockered.

So, a technology primer. Rocker describes a range of changes that can be made to a traditionally cambered ski to help it float better in powder. Best illustrated in visual form:

The rocker or reverse camber shown in the example is extreme normally found in full on rockered powder skis in order illustrate it easily, but rocker can be applied to many parts or a ski and to varying degrees. What we are talking about with skis like the Alias, Enduro etc. is simply to make the tips of the ski start to curve up towards the sky a little bit earlier than normal, bring the contact point of the ski on the snow a little closer to the skier’s boot.

How does that help?

Easy turn initiation - Rossignol have used early rise tips and tails as part of their auto turn technology on the Alias. Imagine going to make a turn, and the tip of your ski is already making less contact with the snow. The ski’s actual pivot point is closer to you, meaning an easy turn, and your tips are out of the way a bit more too. Less hooky, less caught edges.

The effective running edge of the ski, or the parts of the ski making contact with the snow as you turned, skidded or carved, is shorter so the ski feels more nimble.

Float - If you venture off piste, even occasionally, just to the side or it’s one of those days where you beat the piste bashers onto the slopes after snowfall, you’ll benefit from the more “upturned” tips and tails helping you float without adding more surface area to the ski. Remember the effective edge being shorter doesn’t matter in deep snow so you get the benefit of all the skis lengths, plus the additional float from the float friendly tips.

So rocker, reverse camber, early rise, whatever you call it, is here to stay and now accessible to all skiers.

Having had a number of beginners through intermediates use these skis this season and seen the results, I encourage anyone to seek them out in the rental shop, or consider them if you are buying.

Links below for more information:

K2 piste rocker skis
Rossignol Alias with Autoturn
Salomon Enduro piste rocker ski

Reader Comments on On Piste with Rocker
On Piste with Rocker
Written by Terry & Sue Marshall on 01/21

Thank you so much for this article. Choosing the right skis for our family has been hard enough knowing the little we knew but seeing all these new terms like rocker and early rise all over the place set us back a couple of steps. We are the proud owners each of a pair of Rossi Alias’s purchased in France at the beginning of our holiday after reading this, and love them. The tech available boggles the mind, and shaped skis aside, this is the first time I have been “sold” on a technology which I can actually notice on the slopes.

They match apart from the length, so don’t judge us - we wear non-matching anoraks!. We are planning on finding some similarly rockered skis for our two daughters.

On Piste with Rocker
Written by Lo Wiggers on 02/25

My personal opinion is that some more info about using rocker on the piste have to be added.

I have spend a week on-piste with Volkl Kuro’s 185. This is extremely wide and loads of rocker.

Rocker skis feel a lot shorter then they are, because while going straight down they have a short edge length in the snow. As a result they are nervous while going straight down, compared to traditional cambered skis.

Leaning sideways will result in more edge contact length in the snow, and you can carve pretty good then, but the radius you are allowed to carve is not very wide, the shape of the rocker determines the sweet spot.

Just as a test I tried to jam it into shorter turns and then with that amount of pressure on the edge, they bounce out of the arc you are trying to rail. GS turns are mostly fine, as long as the skis are in on an edge they are stable and predictable, just don’t behave like an aggressive racer and they will do fine.

Another point which isn’t so good for the intermediate skier is the tendency to get back seated more easily. Balanced pressure under the feet will prevent this, but beginners and intermediates which tend to get back seated even on traditional cambered skis will suffer from this feature.

Just my 2 cents on this subjects!

On Piste with Rocker
Written by Dan Morgan on 02/25

Thanks for your comments Lo, but this article is more aimed at piste skis with tiny amounts of Rocker. Your Volkl Kuro is a very different ski that a a Rossignol Alias or a Salomon Enduro and the severity of rocker in the Kuro mean it behaves much differently.

On Piste with Rocker
Written by Lo Wiggers on 02/25

I agree with you Dan, they are totally different type of skis, but what i am trying to say that edge grip on rockered skis while you are on edge carving has a limit.

Those small rockered (front rocker only) skis you are talking about, will also skid out of the turn if being skied by a ex-racer with lots of forward pressure. This doesn’t make them bad skis, i am more in favour of the benefits: less hooking, easier initiation, more agile etc.

Again, i agree that Voklk Kuro and Rossignol Alias are worlds apart, but the skidding out of a high-pressure turn is in my opinion possible on every rockered ski, some easier then others. The rockered skis you mentioned have regular camber after the front rockered section and the skidding will not happen so easily as with the massive tip and tail rockered skis.

The reason i bring this up is that if a new technology or design is introduced it is fair to also mention the drawbacks/limitations.

Rocker is here to stay: learn to deal with the limitations and enjoy the benefits.

On Piste with Rocker
Written by Dan Morgan on 03/01

You are absolutely right, I just don’t want to put beginners or intermediates off buying the piste/all mountain skis with a little bit of rocker, as the symptoms you mentioned will mainly only affect really good or aggressive skiers, not the types of people these rockered skis are intended for.

We definitely want people starting out buying skis like the Alias or Enduro or the AMP etc. When they get better and start thinking about more rocker, then they definitely need to know that on piste performance suffers when trying to rail a turn on an edge. On the plus side, the still get the benefit of that pivot point when mucking around :-).

On Piste with Rocker
Written by wildcat Hank on 04/21

I guess the new Elan Amphibio will the choice of both worlds.

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