Reverse camber and reverse sidecut skis and snowboards on the rise

There was a time only a couple years back when a pair of skis or a snowboard with no camber or sidecut would’ve either been a classic relic on display or if freshly pressed been deemed defective and tossed into the warranty bin. However what started as an inspiration sketched on a napkin by progressive freeskier Shane McConkey evolved into the first pair of skis to incorporate a powder-specific design—the Volant Spatulas. With a greater trend towards big mountain and backcountry riding the idea was to create planks that could rip any powder thrown its way no matter how deep. Now that reality has been transformed into the biggest ski and snowboard revolution since the twin-tip with two innovative design trends: reverse camber or rocker and reverse sidecut.

With traditional cambered skis and snowboards the tips and tails touch the snow. Reverse-camber does the opposite: with a curved banana shape the tip and tail are bent upward and don’t touch the surface similar to a water-ski design. Reverse side-cut skis and boards are widest in the middle and taper towards the tip and tail to help keep tips up in deep snow.

“The main benefit of reverse camber on skis and snowboards is to enable easier planing in soft deep snow” says Peter Lane equipment buyer for the Ski Cellar in Calgary. “This is not a fly-by-night fad; as more and more people hit the backcountry in search of perfect deep snow these products are enhancing their experience and keep them out longer with less fatigue.”

When McConkey signed on with K2 four years ago and helped the company design and produce the K2 Pontoon rockered skis the trend began gaining popularity. The Pontoons were such a big success that they took the rockered ski movement from powder-specific to all-mountain. Now most of the top ski manufacturers — from Salomon to Armada — have followed suit to produce powder machines of their own.

Lane says reverse camber and reverse sidecut tech is certainly something to watch out for in 2008-09. “In the last few years more and more ski and snowboard manufacturers have come to the table with a variety of different rocker shapes” he says. “Similar to how shaped skis have evolved we’re now seeing manufacturers designing different rocker heights and lengths.

Last season K2 and Lib Tech flipped the notion of camber literally inside out when both companies released rocker snowboards for the masses: K2 digging in the archives to bring back a modern rocker adaptation of the iconic Gyrator in all its neon glory and Lib Tech releasing its own variation of reverse camber under the guise of Banana Technology.

“Rocker creates a loose easy ride” says K2 Snowboarding design engineer Sean Tedore. “It takes away the catchy feeling you get with camber boards while still maintaining the same edge hold while turning. Basically it’s the best of both worlds. In powder it helps your board float to the top of the snow allowing you to ride without sinking your nose and flying over the bars. You no longer have to ride your snowboard in the backseat and can centre your riding position and enjoy the feel.”

K2 now has three types of rockers in its line. Powder Rocker is the most aggressive version and can be found on the Gyrator which has a really big nose and tail kicks along with a shorter flat area underfoot. According to Tedore this allows the rider to have a more surf-style feel whole riding powder or deep slush. The more aggressive rocker allows the nose and tail of the board to float on top of the snow instead of it diving under. All-Terrain Rocker is a toned-down version of the powder rocker and can be found on the new Turbodream.

After almost three decades of snowboard design Lib Tech’s Pete Saari says his team has finally completed the archetype of the modern twin freestyle snowboard. Lib Tech abandoned traditional geometry and camber design to create a new Banana rocker shape.

“We’re stoked — we get so many e-mails from stoked Banana fans that we can’t keep up” Saari says. “Your jib board is now your pow board and people are learning faster doing more tricks turning better on hardpack and ice and killing the powder in both directions from a wide-centered stance.”

Aside from the Travis Rice Banana Hammock which is a full tip-to-tail rockered powder-only board Lib Tech is focused on one style of rocker only and uses a model completely different than that of K2. The rocker occurs between the feet and the deck remains flat from the inserts to the contact points.

Trendy gimmick or not check out and demo a few of the new designs this season especially if it’s a pow day — you might still be bagging laps while your friends are just plain bagged in the lodge.