Custom Ski Design: Camber and Rocker
In part 1 we took a look at how the terrain and conditions you ski play a role in choosing a custom ski design. In part 2 we’ll talk about various cambers and rocker and what they add to a ski design.
This can be a confusing topic for many people. It is easy to get lost in the hi tech sounding mumbo-jumbo in the gear guides. In this article I’ll try to break these design points down into easy to understand concepts.
Running length refers to the distance between the contact points of your ski if it were placed on a flat surface. Keep this in mind as we discuss rockers and cambers and show they affect running length.
Rocker has been one of the most revolutionary concepts in ski design over the past 13 years since the late, great, Shane McConkey designed and debuted the Volant Spatula in 2001-02.
What is it?
Rocker is essentially an exaggerated tip or tail length and rise when compared to a traditional shaped tip or tail. Rocker also places the contact points of the ski closer to the center of the ski.
What is rocker good for?
In powder crud, crust, corn and mashed potatoes a ski with tip rocker will have better float and keep the tip from diving when compared to a traditionally cambered ski. On hard snow a ski with a subtle rocker can make a carving ski easier to steer by making it feel less hooky or grabby.
A ski with a rockered tail will feel more loose in a turn than a ski with a traditional tail. This allows it to release from a turn easier for smoother pivots and smearing as well as allowing the tail to sink a little in powder to keep your tips higher up and keeping you out of the backseat. You will sacrifice some hard snow performance with a rocker tail due to the shorter running length.
How much and what type of rocker you choose will depend on what purpose you intend to your skis. I usually recommend chasing a size 5-10 cm longer than what you would normally chose for a traditionally cambered ski due to the shorter running length.
Camber refers an upward arc of a ski at the waist. In a traditionally cambered ski the contact points of the ski will be a few centimeters just in front and behind the tip and tail while the waist of the ski remains elevated off the snow surface. A fully cambered ski will have a running length longer than that of a rockered ski of the same length.
A traditional, full cambered ski excels at stability and edge hold on firm snow especially when matched up with a deeper sidecut. However, a fully cambered ski has the tendency to make a ski dive in deep snow. If you are looking for a dedicated front side carving ski, camber and traditional sidecut are good choices, or even some subtle rocker combined with camber underfoot is also a good choice.
The amount of camber in your ski also greatly depends on what you intend to use your skis for. For a front side carver camber of 7-10mm underfoot is ideal for many skiers. This will give the ski the feeling of more pop and energy return when exiting a turn. For a freeride or powder ski, lower cambers are used to prevent ip dive and improve float. Something in the range of 2-6mm is common in these types of skis.
MIXED CAMBER AND ROCKER
This is a combination of rocker and traditional camber. This usually involves a rockered tip section, camber underfoot and a rockered tail section. This can also include a rockered tip with a traditionally shaped mid-section and tail with camber underfoot. This type of design is, in many cases, the best of both worlds. The slight camber underfoot improves on-piste performance and makes a rockered ski manageable on hard snow. It also provides a bit of energy return in technical situations when you need a little pop to accelerate you into the next turn. I usually incorporate 2-5mm for this type of ski.
The opposite of camber. The center or waist of the ski sits lower in the snow than the tip and tail. This design is great for skiing deep soft snow and allows for easy pivoting and smearing of turns since the ski does not have to be de-cambered. This design is not so great on groomed or hard snow and can feel a bit squirrly due to the very short running length.
The mid-section of the ski lies flat against the snow surface. Eliminating the camber from a ski makes turning easier since the ski does not have to be first be de-cambered. This design can be surprisingly powerful on groomers and hard snow especially when combined with a stiff ski. A flat cambered ski also performs well in powder allowing the tip to stay afloat easily.