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Rocker sales soar

Tribune News Service

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – The days of different skis for different conditions may about be at an end. New technology is making skiing a more user-friendly proposition than it once was.

The new technology comes with terms such as the industrial-sounding “camber” and “torsional rigidity” and the somewhat mysterious “rocker.” But the bottom line is the new twists on the old sport of sliding on snow are encouraging some brisk sales.

A recent report from Snowsports Industries America, a trade group that tracks developments in gear and how it’s selling, indicates that sales of skis with the rocker and reverse-camber bends have doubled compared with last year. The rise has been so steep that the group now reports that nearly three-fourths of all skis and boards sold have some kind of rocker bend in the tips.

At Venture Sports in Avon, store manager Alex Kelly said the percentage of rocker skis going out the door on rentals is even higher. The store has a few brands, including K2, that are all rocker now.

There’s a simple reason rockers have caught on so quickly – ease of use.

“It’s a lot more versatile,” Kelly said. “It makes it easier for people to learn.”

People are also less likely to catch an edge,” Kelly said.

Dan Chalfant, of Avon-based Liberty Skis, said the secret of rocker is that it allows a smooth transition into turns, while still providing a stable ride. What helps that is “torsional stability,” or how a ski flexes from side to side.

“You can roll into turns, then be set,” Chalfant said.

Those developments also have made their way into snowboards, for the same reasons – ease of use and the ability to better hold an edge once it’s set.

Nick Kettinger runs the tuning shop at Buzz’s Boards in Vail. He said almost all of the skis and boards going out of that shop have some sort of rocker in their shape. But snowboards are adding something new – serrated side edges that allow riders to really set up and hold a turn. The serrated edges also are a response to the more relaxed attitude about tuning many boarders take, Kettinger said.

The developments in ski building have brought the sport to another plateau, Chalfont said.

“Over the last 10 years skis have become better and easier to use,” Chalfont said.

Where snowboarding once held the mystique of being easier to pick up, Chalfont said that’s not necessarily the case anymore.

Skis are a lot cooler with the younger set, too, Chalfont said, especially since terrain parks have opened up to skiers.

Ultimately, though, the point of taking out one board or two remains the same – sliding on snow.

“As long as people are having fun, it’s great,” Chalfont said.


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