Why is one ski different from another? Why is it more expensive? Why does my ski have carbon fiber or metal in it? What is rocker and camber and what does it do? These are questions we hear all the time, and they really are great and important questions! There is a lot of technical mumbo jumbo in the ski industry about what is going on in your skis. But I’m here to decode that junk for you and put it into an easy to understand format for you.
There are hundreds and hundreds of different kinds of skis out there and they are changing every year. New shapes, new technology, new methods of making them and new materials to be used. And though this may be confusing, the ultimate goal of a
ll of this is to make sure the ski is doing the work and you are just having fun!
Let’s start with the first two questions: What’s the difference and why does it cost more. All skis are a little bit different even if they look pretty similar. The difference is in how the ski is made and the materials used. Like cars, they will all get you where you need to go, just in a different way. Some are faster, some are more controllable, and some are meant for some pretty crazy stuff. These production methods and materials play a huge factor into the price of the skis. Some are hand made and some are mass produced but both can yield fantastic skis!
Lets start talking about the inside of the skis. Skis today have a few key parts inside: wood, fiberglass, and occasionally metal and/or carbon fiber. Wood gives the ski a spring feel which gives them a little bit more life and personality. It is what makes the ski forgiving and fun. Fiberglass is what holds the whole thing together and gives it strength. The skis that feature metal and/or carbon fiber use those materials for strength, rigidity, and power. All of this combined is what differentiates skis from one another and helps them be tailored for different activities on the mountain.
Lastly, we have rocker and camber. Though a lot of people have heard the words before, what it looks like and what it does can be a little harder to understand. Camber is what has traditionally been found in most skis.
Camber is what gives skis a snappy and spring feel. It helps hold you in a turn and also will help to push you out of it. Camber is found in skis and snowboards in some way, shape and form. Every company will use more or less camber or put it in a different spot of the ski. But more often than not, it is there.
Rocker is something slightly newer (by new, I mean has absolutely blown up in popularity within the last ten or so years).
Rocker is found in the tip and tail of the ski or board. Why is it there? To help get you into the turn as well as to help you cruise over powder, slush, or anything other condition on the mountain. Rocker helps with turn initiation by picking up the edges and “pre-bending” the ski for you. With camber, you traditionally needed to overcome the springiness of the ski to get into the turn. Rocker is doing that for you. Also, the other plus side is its ability to help in some snow conditions. In powder for example, we used to always need to lean back to keep the tips of the skis above the snow so we wouldn’t sink. With rocker, the ski is doing all of that work for you.
I know that was a lot to read so let’s sum everything up for you. I’ve found the easiest way to describe all of this is to relate it to cars. Let’s imagine you are about to purchase a brand new Lexus or Infiniti. When you sit down in the car you can tell its nice and has all the bells and whistles. You have the option to get all wheel drive. This is comparable to the rocker in the skis. It helps you go wherever you want regardless of the conditions. You can add the sport package onto the car that will give it a sport suspension. This is similar to the carbon fiber or metal in the skis. When you go into a turn, it helps the skis keep a good grip on the snow and let you hold the turn at higher speeds. When you put your foot down on the gas, there are a few hundred horsepower to help you go as fast as you want but that sport suspension will make sure you are stable at high speeds. Having the metal or carbon fiber in the skis will make sure that when you are going fast, the skis won’t start to chatter or feel unstable. Finally, the most important thing is that despite the horsepower, sport package, and whatever else is in the car, they are comfortable to drive all day every day. These skis won’t fight with you. The whole purpose of all of this technology is to ensure the skis are doing all the work, you just tell them where to go.