It's hard not to notice more people rocking out on the slopes these days.
Over the past decade, rocker and reverse camber equipment has steadily taken over the ski and snowboard industry. The new technology, with its raised tip and tail, has its pros and cons, but without doubt has opened doors for riders of all levels and made the mountain more accessible for the weekend warrior. Rocker is beginner-friendly, park fun and powder-slashing ready.
"If your average skier is skiing powder or chop and they don't have a bunch of days to burn, this early rise (rocker) is a real equalizer," Sports LTD manager Eric Bickert said. "They rip. Are all my skis rocker? No, but they have a place."
Understanding rocker's place and recognizing individual riding needs are crucial to finding the right fit. There are an overwhelming number of choices out there. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of it all, understand this: Rocker or reverse camber means a raised tip and tail in one manner or another.
There is no simple answer to the question that was on most riders' lips during the past decade. It all depends on individual style and day-to-day conditions.
Since it all began with regular camber, let's start there. When a regular camber ski or snowboard lies flat, the center arches up and the outside contact points are pushed into the snow. Think of a low rainbow.
With pushed down contact points, regular camber generally offers more stability and edge control. This is all good when a rider is looking for consistent landings and reliable stability at high speeds, but more edge also means a tougher learning curve for beginners who are face-planting while picking up the basics.
When a ski or board has reverse camber, flip that rainbow upside down. The tip and tail are now raised out of the snow. There are many variations on this, of course, but let's not jump ahead.
Obviously, raised tip and tail means less edge catch for beginners as they start linking turns. It also provides a looser, skateboard feel on the snow. Not hard to connect that this equals a good time in the park and more float in the powder.
"When there's powder, it allows you to go enjoy yourself because you put less energy in and get more out of it," Bicket said.
Riders who aren't into powder or park and already know the basics should probably stick to regular camber. Regular camber was made for those who love cutting hard and fast on fresh corduroy runs.
"If it's a hard-pack day, don't take your rockers out. If it's a chop or mashed potato, or just plain old knee-deep, that's when you take the rockers out," Bicket said.
Strip it down and reverse camber is good for beginners, advanced powder hounds looking for cruise control and riders trying to up style points in the park.
Since regular camber isn't as fluid or loose, new tricks are easier to learn on reverse camber, especially on rails and boxes (jibbing) where edges are the enemy.
While reverse definitely has the edge on rails, or lack thereof, an argument can be made that regular camber has better pop. Riders can load up on those pushed-down contact points before launching. Reverse camber combats this with increased carbon stringers and usually a stiffer flex to complement the degree of reverse camber. So hypothetically, riders should be able to get sufficient pop out of either.
Consistent landings, however, are absolutely brought to you by regular camber. While it's easier to grab an extra rotation on reverse, it's also easier to wash out on landings. Without that extra edge bite, sometimes skis and boards just keep spinning. It takes skills to truly master the reverse camber landing, but it can be done.
Conditions are key and rocker was built for the powder.
"People can still ski the middle of the ski and not have to go from carve position to back seat survival position in the trees," Bicket said.
Rocker will certainly save the legs some work in the trees. In the powder, regular camber riders work harder. They must use more leg muscles to keep their weight in the backseat, but some will sacrifice that for the familiar stability.
Bottom line, rocker has the advantage in powder and is making trees possible for a larger number of people.
"Now rocker has opened it up for all skill levels, and that is a downside because the mountain tracks faster," Bicket said. "But boo hoo, because on a powder day you go get your lines."
Once the reverse camber decision is reached, then it's time to pick the rocker. Each company has its own take on reverse camber, and the best way to find the right fit is to give them a try at a demo shop, but here are the basics.
Most rocker technology is headed to camber underfoot with different degrees of raised tip and tails. This gives the more traditional feel of regular camber, but still allows for more float in the powder and less catch in the park. These are usually pricier but combine the best of both worlds.
There is a park rocker, which is mostly flat under foot with kick-ups at the tip and tail. The flat underfoot encourages more solid landings without too much edge on the rail.
There is a beginner rocker, which rises at the tip and tail and the outside edges. Think of a canoe. This is also similar to concave gear, which is popular in park because it means even less edges while jibbing. Again, landings get tricky and turning becomes beyond difficult without edges. This technology is straight beginner or rail junkie.
There is still the straight reverse camber out there that just starts going up from the middle and doesn't stop, the original snow skateboard. Along those lines, there is extreme rocker gear for heavy powder days that gives rocking chairs a run for their money.
Some gear has rocker in the front only and some is just completely flat.
Rocker is here to stay, but before making the leap, definitely hit up a demo shop to figure out if the new technology is for you. There are many rocker choices out there, so do some homework and then talk to someone in a shop who is knowledgeable.
"The bottom line is there is a time and place for everything and rocker is not magic, but it has its place," Bicket said. "You have to know how to ski, but if you can learn a slightly different technique, rocker is badass."
For more stories like this, check out the Tahoe Magazine on stands Nov. 23.