Rocker Ski Technology: Changing the Heli-Ski Experience
Aaron Ambuske, VP Global Product Development for K2 Skis, gave CMH the skinny on how adding rocker to skis has pushed skiing forward.
Rocker technology has changed the skiing experience in powder forever.
The concept of rocker on skis was first explained to me by Shane McConkey. In his typical passionate tone, he explained that skiing powder is more similar to traveling through fluid. Surfboards have had rocker for years, since they are designed for water. He continued to explain how traditional camber skis do the opposite of what a powder skier wants. Camber pushes the tips into the snow and forces a skier to sit back to get the tips to rise out of the snow. This all made sense to me during that first fateful conversation with Shane, and it became more apparent as we began testing prototypes with rocker over five years ago.
Through our testing and development of hundreds of skis with rocker, the benefits of rocker have become very clear to all of us at K2. Rocker lifts the tips out of the snow, so a skier does not need to lean back to feel balanced on skis in powder. Since the tips have a natural curvature up, the fluid snow (powder) contacts the base of the skis and forces the tips upward. The skis want to rise out of the snow. With the tips out of the snow and the skier in a balanced position, it is so much easier to turn the skis back and forth to reduce your speed or change directions. Skiers make turns more by pivoting than driving the tips into the turn. This gives a powder skier much more confidence and security on a powder slope.
During our week of testing at CMH Monashees last year, we introduced many skiers to the benefits of rocker. We had 35 pairs of prototype skis, and they all had rocker. Most of our skis were wider than the traditional powder skis in the CMH fleet. The wider widths and rocker scared away many of the traditional skiers during the first day of testing, but it was amazing to see the light bulbs go on as people witnessed the testers skiing with more ease and control in the soft and variable conditions. By the second and third days, we were having a hard time getting everyone on the widest skis with the most rocker, since they were in such high demand. Guides were constantly commenting that the prototypes were allowing the groups to stay out longer. In the evening, we’d sit with the testers and debrief their skis from the day and recommend skis to test for the next day. It was very rewarding as a ski designer to hear the positive feedback about the prototypes. It was unanimous that the skis with rocker were easier to ski and people were gaining more confidence every day. The guides’ feedback was also rewarding. As everyone knows, they are amazing skiers and were elevating their skiing and speeds to higher levels with the rockered skis.
Aaron Ambuske, VP Global Product Development, started as a Ski Design Engineer at K2 Skis 12 years ago. Before K2, he developed products for Life Link Int’l. Aaron feels fortunate to be in a position where he can combine his passion for skiing with his technical background to bring innovative products to market.