Getting rockered | Snow sports

The snow has been falling, snowsport resorts are opening, and lift engines are turning. This looks to be one of the better Thanksgiving openings in recent years. Is this your year to get a few (or more) days on the slopes? If so, you will note how dramatically ski and snowboard shapes have changed.

Remember when shaped skis were the new thing? At that time, everyone talked about parabolics and shapes instead of the traditional straight skis. Shaped skis changed the sport for novices, experts and everyone in between. I have always said shaped skis added 10 years of life to my knees.

Now the talk is about another new technology called ‘Rocker.’ You will hear rocker referred to in many ways, including but not limited to: reverse camber, inverse camber, banana, early rise, s-rocker, gull wing, three stage rocker, and even negative camber. But what is it?

If you were to put a traditional ski on a table, it would contact the surface just shy of the tip and the tail, with the center of the ski rising up off the table. This is camber, the traditional shape for skis and snowboards. Camber is a slight arching upward curve with the bend or curve upward in the middle.

Reverse camber is, as you may have guessed, the exact opposite. Often referred to as a “banana” shape, the center of the ski is the point of contact with the snow; the tip & tail have a gentle, progressive rise to them. Waterskis have this shape.

Similar to reverse camber, rocker skis rise up in the opposite direction of a normally cambered ski — but not near as much. The tip and the tail on a rockered ski may not be upturned evenly. These three properties, camber, rocker and flat, are combined in a variety of ways to create an array of choices for both skiers and snowboarders.

Rocker technology differs by manufacturer and by the type of ski/snowboard. Rocker in skis and snowboards may be located in the tip and/or tail. Many skis and snowboard feature some combination of rocker, flat and cambered sections to achieve the desired ride.

Rocker skis are a lot more versatile than other skis. While they excel in untracked powder, they have the staying power to ski comfortably on most groomed terrain. Without the full contact of the tip and tail that a traditional ski has, rocker skis feel shorter and more nimble on packed snow, but give you the length you need when heading into the deeper stuff.

With rocker, your tips will float up in powder and crud.  On skis, no need to do all that bouncing and leaning back to keep your tips up in the powder. On a snowboard your tip sits up higher out of the snow, so face-plants should be less prevalent.

Because you can pivot more easily, your ride becomes more nimble and maneuverable. Turning more quickly works great when you are in the trees, and my snowboard friends say Rocker makes park riding much easier.

Virtually anyone can use rockered skis and snowboards and have fun. You can be a beginner or advanced rider, young or old, male or female, and benefit from riding rocker skis or snowboards. Just remember there are many variations in rocker type, so think about the style of riding you prefer and then find something to fit that style.

See you on the slopes.

John Naye is a Mercer Island resident and past president of the North American Snowsport Journalist Association. He can be contacted at He broke down and bought rocker skis for this season.


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