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Ready to ‘Rock on the slopes?

 

By Pamela Diana

Point Park News Service

The new rocker ski technology is taking the industry by snowstorm and is making it easier to ski for all levels of skiers.

Almost all new skis that are showing up in ski shops for this upcoming season have some kind of rocker technology. Traditional skis are getting a makeover with various degrees of rocker technology and the end result is a better ski.  A little bit of rocker in a ski goes a long way to easier turning and plowing through piles of snow.

“Rocker (technology) is taken over; it makes skiing and (snow)boarding more enjoyable and easier,” says J.R. Greisenegger, manager of Fox Chapel Ski and Board in Blawnox.

The first rocker ski, the Volant Spatula, was introduced by the late extreme skier Shane McConkey in 2002 according to T.D. Wood of rei.com.  McConkey designed the ski on the premise of a water ski which skims on top of the water – his skis floated on top of the snow without catching an edge because of the early-rising tips and tails of his skis according to Wood.

To understand the difference between a traditional ski (called a camber ski) and a rocker ski (called a reverse camber ski), you have to look at the side view of a ski. On a traditional ski, the midsection (or waist of the ski) slightly bows upward — like a shallow hill.  However, the side view of the rocker ski’s midsection bows downward — like a shallow valley or a rocking chair rail.

Greg Klein, owner of Willi’s Ski and Snowboard says he trains his employees on the five categories of rocker skis:  the classic rocker (a full rocker ski for powder skiing); the touring rocker (a ski with no rocker tail); the punk rocker (for park and pipe conditions); the alternative rocker (all terrain); and the soft rocker.  But if you race, you don’t want to be on a rocker ski.  “The racers will not be on rockers because they need that edge grip,” says Klein who knows a little about racing – he raced around the world while attending the University of Colorado.

Each manufacturer’s new line of skis comes out with its own variation of rocker technology.  Some rocker skis work better off-piste (off the groomed runs) and some work better on piste (on groomed runs).

The hard-packed, machined-made, damp natural snow (plus piles of snow or crud at times) and icy conditions that we experience at Southwestern Pennsylvania resorts, require a combination of slight rocker and a more camber ski like the all-terrain or short rocker ski (see A Primer on Rocker Skis for rocker ski descriptions).  They have enough rise in the tip to float over the piles of snow or crud, but also have enough base of the ski riding on the snow to carve easily on hard pack or icy conditions.  Very rarely in this area do we get lots of light, fluffy, dry snow, known as powder.  So a full rocker ski would not work on our slopes because it has reverse camber, which means the platform of the ski that rests on the snow is minimal which creates poor carving ability. The full rocker ski works best in deep powder snow in ski areas out West or for heli-skiing.  The skiers who want to do tricks in the park and ride the pipe would choose the twin tips because of the upturned tip and tail for catch-free edges and a flat base for riding the rails in the park and stability in landing.

“Twin tips are huge right now,” says Jim Jacobs, owner of Peak Ski and Board in Monroeville, “a lot of snowboarders who are turning to skiing are finding out that they can have just as much fun in the parks and pipe with twin tip skis and 30% of younger people who buy skis buy twin tips.”  He says they’re more flexible than the regular carving ski.

“Twin tips give you more options, they’ll be used in the next Olympics for the jibbers,” says Klein.  Jibbing is a maneuver that you do with skis or a snowboard on a rail, ramp, steps, or any other hard surface.

“Twin tips for children is all you see out West – they don’t even carry straight-edged children skis, but here (in Pittsburgh), parents are reluctant to buy their kids twin tips because they think they’ll go wild on them.  Their kids will go into the parks anyways to do tricks because that’s where their friends will be going.  The twin tips don’t catch an edge, so in the long run, they’ll actually be safer,” says Gerry Greisenegger, owner of Fox Chapel Ski and Board.

Prices for the new 2012/2013 skis can run anywhere from $300 to $1,375 according to Freeskier’s 2012/2013 Buyer’s Guide.  But great deals can be had.  Many shops have last year’s rocker skis and may be more than happy to give you a deal to get rid of their last year’s inventory.  You also can get good deals online, but be careful because many ski shops frown on installing bindings on skis that you did not purchase from them.

There are many variations of rocker skis to fit your performance and terrain needs. Talk to the professionals at the ski shops and they can evaluate which rocker ski will work for you.  For more information about rocker skis, go to www.rei.com ; and for more information on what specific skis for the 2013 season, go to www.skinet.com or www.freeskier.com. 

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