The Mountain Times

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The new rocker designs: Dissected for your snowboarding pleasure

According to Snow Sports Retail TRAK's trends to watch in 2011/12, rocker/reverse camber snowboard sales continue to rise to where "now 70% of all snowboards sold are rocker." Rocker snowboard sales account for more than 70% of all in-season snowboard sales this season. Sales of rocker boards increased 13% in units and 11% in dollars sold through December.

Several weeks ago I spent the afternoon at the Burton factory in Burlington, Vt., discussing the various products for 2012 and trying to get straight all of the variations of the latest snowboard construction modes: rocker, springloaded, and camber.

Camber is the easiest to define as it's what we've always understood. Easier to see visually on a ski, this is the slightly rising central area which, upon pressure, goes into reverse camber helping create  the turn.  Ski  guru Georges Joubert writes in his book Skiing: An art…A Technique, that "The distribution of pressure exerted against the snow over the length of the ski is a function of the ski's stiffness and camber: a. the force necessary to flatten the camber is transmitted to the snow equally by the two extremities of the ski; b. the softer the central part of the ski is, the more localized under the foot will be the pressure exerted by the weight of the skier against the snow." With such a complicated explanation, it was a pleasure to read the Burton catalog's very simple statement that "camber distributes weight evenly over the entire length of the board allowing for smooth continuous control from tip to tail."

For side view, imagine a snowboard with slight rise of camber throughout except for those final non-contact points at tip and tail. That's the "traditional" camber board.

To make things more complicated, there is also now a flat camber shape. Yes, it's simply flat. There is no camber at all. Such a board may seem more stable and easier to work when doing tricks as the reaction area to moves is stable and consistent throughout.  K2 refers to this as "Flatline Technology."

A rocker board, (Burton calls this their "V rocker") is sort of the opposite of camber. It  could have three sections of this shape called rocker: towards the tip, towards the tail, and dead center, under the binding area. Some companies describe this as a reverse camber board with subtle rises either at the ends or blended throughout which is why the shape outline in profile it can look like a gentle arc curving upward. It's great in powder because it loves to float, and it's good on hardpack as the rocker area is easily balanced.  For that reason, it's also a great board for the park.

Then there is the rocker camber (reverse) board, which Burton also refers to as

"Springloaded." The side view of the board looks totally rippled with only the three contact areas and that is where it is rocker: near the tip, near the tail, and under the binding or it can also vary from what Transworld Snowboarding defines as "a small rise in the tips or drastic bends throughout the entire length of the board."  Then, just to confuse you, they also refer to this shape as a camber humps board. This is described as "contact zones between and outside the feet [which] deliver stability with the snappy suspension of camber underfoot for pre-loaded pop. Rocker in the tip and tail…" 

Here, in Vermont, we rarely have the advantage of the board's ability to float in powder, but the Burton design includes a construction area sandwich between the tip and tail rocker sections which they describe as frostbite and camber.
Perhaps Burton developed this from their special Burton teaching boards as used in our LTR program as the "frostbite" edges are extended "slightly for edge hold on hard icy conditions." In discussing this with Chuck Janisse, he pointed out that his Lib Tech board specifically has such an unusual edge cut which is outstanding for its ability to hold on icy surfaces.
Yes, the pun is obvious that this seems to be the cutting edge of edge design! 

As to the ride, it's all how you define "playfulness" as this can also be described as squirrley or unstable. Burton describes it as "catch-free" playfulness. A test ride on Burton's Feel Good Flying V (which is not to be confused with the V- rockers but instead in the category of "Springloaded" due to the blend of rocker and frostbite/camber) helped me determine my latest purchase of a snowboard this season.

From tip to tail it reads as follows: nose of board; rocker tip section; frostbite/camber; binding area is V-rocker; frostbite/camber; rocker tail; then final tail section of the board.  Sideview is a wiggly worm look! The board was very active, yet held closely on the hard pack. I felt as if the rocker aspect was insisting that I make a lot of quality turns. It seemed to me that this was the best of both worlds, despite the fact that the balance point will take some getting used to.

Sound confusing? It certainly is, which means that the best way to understand any of this to check it out with a demo.  Good luck and have a sweet ride!

Chickie Rosenberg is a AASI Level II Snowboard Instructor at Killington Resort, author of Snowboarding for Women: a guide for the Betty Shred wannabe and Snowboarding for Men: a guide for guys.