The Skinny On Rocker

If you've purchased skis or a snowboard anytime in the past several years, chances are you've heard the term "rocker." In the past decade, the new rocker profile has become standard fare among skis and boards—but what's so great about the rocker, and what exactly is it?

First, a primer on how the rocker differs from its predecessor. Pretty much forever, skis had what's called a camber shape: If you put the ski flat on the ground, its tip and tail would touch and its middle would arc upward slightly, as if it were frowning. Sad ski. In 2002, the late pro skier Shane McConkey introduced its opposite—the rocker, also known as reverse camber. Set it on the ground, and its middle touches, while its tip and tail curve upward closer to the center than its camber counterpart, as if it were smiling. Happy ski.

With the rocker shape, the length of edge that makes contact with the snow is shorter than on traditional skis, making it easier to turn, and lending it more maneuverability in a variety of snow conditions. It's also indisputably superior in powder, since the rocker tips (which, as you'll remember, curve upward closer to the foot, also known as early rise) enable skiers and riders to float on top of snow more easily.

But, you know, we humans tend to want it all. And while the camber shape is less desirable in some ways, it also happens to be really good at holding an edge—which is a great thing when you're zipping down a hard-packed or icy slope. Lucky for us, we can have the best of both worlds, at least when it comes to ski gear. Plenty of skis and boards on the market now use both rocker and camber, creating a hybrid profile that may be the most versatile the skiing world has ever known. Happy skiers.