When we design skis, these are the 4 elements we talk about when deciding on what to build, the rest comes later.
This could be a book in itself, but let me boil it down for you. I’m not going to use terms like “powder” or “all-mountain” etc because everyone has a different opinion on what each of those skis should be. Instead, I’ll describe different attributes of a ski and what they are good for. All skis out there are basically a mix and match of these characteristics - it’ll be your job to figure out what mixture you want. At the end of the day, there is no perfect ski. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Camber is how much the ski ‘arcs’ in the middle when set on a flat surface. The more camber a ski has, the more it tends to perform well on groomers. Think of the kind of skis Bode Miller or Lindsay Vonn ride.
This is when the tips come or ‘splay’ apart when put together (base-to-base, like you’re carrying them). It can be at the tips only or both tips & tails (I’ve never seen a tail-only rocker). The term “early rise” just means it has subtle rocker. Skis can have both camber (see above) and rocker/early-rise.
The more “rocker” a ski has, the more the float in the powder, the ‘looser’ (i.e. easier to smear around when flat-footed) feel and less grip on groomers you will have (because more of the edge is suspended off the snow). A ski with rocker/early-rise tends to be more forgiving but you’ll trade off some of that eye-watering grip & rip you get with a full camber ski.
*Reverse rocker is a joke. It’s the same as saying “camber” so if anyone ever tells you their skis have ‘reverse rocker’, you can give them a nice pat on the back and walk away.
Sidecut is a skier’s term for how quickly a ski will turn. The lower the number, the “zippier” the ski will be. The higher the number, the more stable it will be when making larger, arcing turns.
<13m - Slalom style - super tight turns. You’ll be turning all day long with this.
14-16 - Great for carving and on-piste, even when mixed with a little rocker/early-rise.
17-19 - Usually no longer considered a ‘carving’ ski. Still can perform on groomers but generally seen in skis designed for a wide range of conditions (trees, bowls, groomers powder etc).
20-22 - Typically freeride powder skis. You’ll need higher speeds to carve well on a groomer
22< - Big mountain, large open bowls (if you’re skiing Alaskan lines, you’ll have a 28+ meter ski)
FACTORS TO CONSIDER: There are 5 things you need to consider when picking out a ski. Remember, these are aspects you need to decide - not your buddy who tells you stuff. Sure, take it into consideration, but remember you are buying for you, not them.
>> Ski Types
FACTORS TO NOT CONSIDER: Just as important are the things you SHOULD NOT consider when picking a ski. In my experience, with all the things to think about, I would worry about these the least.