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We know, rockered skis have been all the rage since Jennifer Anniston’s hair became a thing. But that doesn’t mean that camber isn’t important.
First, what is camber? Camber is the convex bend of a ski. (Picture a ski on a table with the base-side down. The center of the ski will arch upwards—this is camber.) The section of the ski that is cambered is essentially your effective edge—the length of edge that will be in contact with the snow when the ski is carving through a turn. Rocker, on the other hand, is the concave bend of a ski, which helps the ski surf through powder and initiate and release easily in turns.
How important is it to have camber in your skis? Most likely, it’s extremely important—the vast majority of skis incorporate some degree of camber. But just how much depends on the terrain you typically ski.
If you ski mostly groomed or hard snow (Easterners and racer types, we’re talking to you), camber is critical, because you want a long length of edge on the snow as you carve. This will give you better bite, more control, increased stability, and better precision. Camber also acts a partially loaded spring, which pressures your tips and tails so they can grip the snow and bounces you into the next turn. The downside? They dive in pow and are less forgiving.
If you ski all over the mountain—bumps, groomers, boot-top fluff, trees—the magical formula is a ski that has a touch of rocker in the tips and tails with camber underfoot. The rocker keeps the ski from diving in soft snow and makes turn initiation and exit easier and less demanding (you don’t feel “locked in”). The camber underfoot, meanwhile, gives you enough effective edge to still grip on groomed.
If you mostly ski soft snow, you’ll want to increase the amount of rocker and decrease the amount of camber. The tips and tails will start to curve up off the snow earlier (called “early rise”), allowing for more float and pivot-ability. The more rocker you have, the easier the ski will be to throw sideways and scrub speed, allowing for a looser, more playful feel.
If you’re looking for a dedicated deep-pow board to add to your quiver (or if you live in British Columbia or Japan), you’ll want a ski that is either fully rockered or has very minimal camber. Yes, these skis are sexy, but they should come with a neon warning label for when the skies go dry: They are difficult to lay over and loathe to grip on hardpack. (Imagine you’re skiing on snowblades, with the tips and tails flapping uselessly on top of the snow.)
It’s important to also note that the ski’s shape (length, width, sidecut), flex pattern, and materials drastically affect the performance as well. To learn more about the pros and cons of camber and rocker, click here.
If you want to cut to the chase and let one of Wagner’s expert ski designers make your perfect pair, we’re all ears.
Article by Kimberly Beekman
Kimberly Beekman is the former editor-in-chief of the late, great Skiing Magazine (RIP), and a longtime editor of SKI Magazine before that. She currently uses the title of “freelancer” as a beard to ski powder all over the world. She lives in Denver, Colorado, with her wonderful daughter and terrible cat.