\"Rocker\" design takes snow sports by storm at Snow Show
"Rocker" design takes snow sports by storm at Snow Show
POSTED: 01/31/2010 01:00:00 AM MST
UPDATED: 01/31/2010 08:29:11 PM MST
The Roces adjustable childrens ski boot. (Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post)
The snowboarders wore skinny jeans, blasted hip-hop and '80s punk, and were shaggy all over. The skiers had trim sweaters, kept their booths quiet and were as neat as their meticulous displays.
The snowboarding and the ski areas of the SIA Snow Show in Denver this past week diverged in many ways: gear, attitude, people, fashion. But they converged in at least two: Big, colorful graphics are in, and "rocker" has arrived.
Rocker? Think banana. Skis and snowboards using rocker lift more in the nose, and sometimes in the tail, than the snow toys of old.
Rocker was developed to ski deep, fresh snow — the shape encourages skis to float on top of the stuff, instead of digging into it — but now ski companies
The Redfeather snowshoe, the Conquest model. (Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post)
around the world are adding rocker to skis in ways they say will improve skiing on groomed trails.
It's a change in design that is exciting the snow-sports industry.
For the people making, selling and buying the equipment, the thrill is familiar.
Advances in technology had always fueled the growth of snow sports. It wasn't long ago that most skis were long, straight boards. Shaped skis — looking more like hourglasses than rulers — arrived in the 1990s, though, and changed everything. People chucked their old equipment and opened their wallets for shaped skis, which made turning and carving easier.
Now, it's all about rocker.
"It's the next revolution"
"I guarantee you, every (manufacturer) has some rocker in their skis," said Erin Forest, marketing director at K2 Skis, the largest ski manufacturer in the world. "It's the next revolution."
The company, Forest said, introduced the first rocker ski, the Pontoon, in 2004. The fat ski was aimed exclusively at powder skiing.
Just a few years ago, the company's line supported only two skis with rocker. By next ski season, though, about 95 percent of the company's skis will employ some degree of rocker.
DPS ski (The Denver Post | )
"We started testing it; we put rocker in the tip, and everyone said it skied better," Forest said.
What is being sacrificed with rocker is "camber," which refers to the rise between nose and tail that most skis have. Set a traditional ski on the ground, and it doesn't lie flat; the front of the ski touches the ground, and so does the tail, but the center lifts and arcs off the ground until a skier stands on it.
Most skis using rocker still retain some degree of camber, unless they are hard-core "reverse camber" skis, which ape the banana shape.
At Atomic, a company known for its racing skis, rocker figures into skis meant for deep powder snow and for skis that can be used in powder and on groomed trails. But the skis most people buy — ones meant for groomed trails at ski resorts — do not leverage rocker at all.
"We believe on hard snow, traditional camber provides running stability and edge control," said Jordan Judd, Atomic USA marketing director. "I think rocker can be overdone. It's a hot term right now. If it looks like a banana, it probably skis like a banana."
Snowboard makers rock out
But will a banana-aping snowboard perform like a banana?
Snowboard companies don't think so.
Next year's line from Venture Snowboards will all use rocker, said Klemens Branner, the owner of the Silverton company.
"You have this freedom to turn, this free zone in the middle where you can go either way," he said. "We got rid of camber altogether. Once you ride a rocker board, and get it, you don't want to go back to camber."
Branner's boards, though, shrink from the full banana. He keeps his boards flat on the bottom, with the nose and tails turning up.
Snowboards using rocker are "playful and more forgiving," said Steve Boutte with Lamar snowboards. The downfall of some rocker boards: Carving long turns is more difficult, Boutte said.
Just as rocker is sweeping the ski industry, so is the use of graphics — commissioned artwork, collages of photographs, comic-book characters, designs reminiscent of 1960s rock- music posters, and so on — bling and bright colors.
None of it is new to skis, boards, clothing and equipment, but expect to see much more next year on the slopes.
"The kids are into color. Black is out," said Bruce Caslowitz with ColdDist, a snowboard distributor.
Boutte said the 1980s were awash in color. Then things turned somber. Now, color is cool.
Ski poles? Check. A team of young guys at the University of Denver and the University of Colorado were at the show selling their colorful poles — decorated in Argyle, zebra- striped, lined with the Colorado state flag, and more — called Sickstickz.
"We looked out there and thought all of the ski poles were bland and boring," said Colin Wayne, a DU senior.
People can still buy plain black goggles, but why?
"Everybody in the goggle industry is doing graphics. The straps are becoming more and more important. On our wall displays, we have to make sure the straps are showing, so people can see the graphics. We have bling on the straps," said Lewis Parsons with Gordini, an apparel manufacturer.
Straps aren't wide enough for murals, but snowboards and skis are. Many are plastered with intricate drawings of cityscapes, elaborate graffiti-style illustrations, and even photographs of, for example, porn star Jenna Jameson. Skulls, still, are big, as well as sombrero-wearing skeletons.
"When it's good art, I like it. When it isn't, I don't," said Dave Doman, art director with Celtek, a manufacturer of snowboarding gloves and accessories. Most of the company's gloves are thick with Doman's own artwork.
"Everybody wants to be original, and original artwork is a way to do that," he said.
All of the boards made by Tyrant Snowboards are sheathed in artwork by tattoo artists in Las Vegas, where the company is based, said Ronnie Jason, the company owner.
"I have seen more, fresher graphics here than any year before," he said of the show. "I like the trend. We're not going to give it up.
"I don't want to ride a snowboard that is just graphic blocks. That way, when I shred it and ruin it, I can put it up on the wall."
Douglas Brown: 303-954-1395 or firstname.lastname@example.org