A Guide to the Different Types of Camber

Rocker? Camber? Reverse Camber? Flat? Hybrid? If you are starting to do research on new skis you might be a bit confused by these terms. Ski expert Etienne A. is here to help.

Photo by Jamie Walter
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If you're starting to do research on new skis you might be a bit confused when you come across terms like rocker, camber, and early rise. No we aren't talking about our favorite kind of music or waking up early to drive to the mountain. We are actually referring to the shape and bend of a ski, this is called the skis profile.

Get bent - that's the conclusion the ski industry came up with to improve skiing. How did they succeed? It all comes down to the ski’s camber profile. Skis aren't just a flat surface like a two by four. There's shape and bend to them.

Back when the first ski was made, they had much more of a flat profile -it was really the only kind of profile used in ski design. These days, improvements in ski building technology has made allowed for various types of profiles to be developed to make skis for specific kinds of skiers and conditions. The diversity in designs has significantly improved the skiers’ experience!

A black and white old photo of skiers on a mountain
Old time skiing. Photo from the Austrian National Library

There are 3 main types of ski profiles to take note of: camber, rocker, and early rise.

Graphic of traditional camber ski

The first type of ski profile, camber, has been tried and tested for many years, and you will still see it in almost every ski. Camber refers to the concave arch under the center of the ski. This arch gives the ski power, energy, and pop. It also improves the ski's edge hold, which helps the ski grip the snow and significantly improves your edge control. Cambered skis are great for precise turn initiation, carving on groomed runs, handling high speeds, and harder snow conditions.

Graphic depicting a camber ski with tip rocker

The second type of profile that you will come across is called early rise. This is when the tip or tail of the ski is elongated and starts to rise off the surface of the snow sooner than a ski without early rise would. This moves the ski's contact points with the snow closer to the center of the ski where your boot is. A rockered tip or tail is a good thing because simply put, it makes skiing easier! It helps give you better float in fresh snow, makes the ski faster, and makes it easier for you to turn. Early rise skis are great for learning to ski, and for skis that you want to be able to take out anywhere, on any day, in any snow conditions!

It is also worth noting that it is very common to see skis with traditional camber underfoot and early rise in the tip and tail. This is also written as rocker/camber/rocker. This combination of both rocker and camber makes for a very well rounded, fun ski that can handle anything the mountain can throw at it! These are typically referred to as all mountain skis, since they are sort of a jack of all trades but a master of none. They are great one-ski quivers that you can take out on the mountain on any day and have a great time! These skis are a solid purchase if you are not looking to invest in multiple pairs that are designed for specific conditions.

The third type of profile you will see are skis designed with a full rocker profile, sometimes called reverse camber skis. These skis are flat underfoot and have a long, continuous bend like the shape of a banana. Think of rocker as the opposite of camber.

These skis are designed for deep powder days! They tend to be very wide and have a very surfy feel to them. Rockered skis are an absolute dream in deep snow. They float better than any other type of profile and are easy to turn in fresh soft snow. However, they can have a loose feel and are hard to control if you are skiing on hard snow. It is also important to keep in mind that full rocker skis will ride a bit shorter than a traditional camber ski. It is safe to size up and add a few extra centimeters of length if you are getting a reverse camber ski and we would not recommend sizing down. Full rocker skis are great for people who are looking for a dedicated powder day ski to play on!

A skier executes a flip
Curated expert Etienne A. flips through the air. Photo by Rocko Menzyk

These terms and concepts might be a bit hard to wrap your head around at first, but once you strap your boots into these different kinds of skis, you will quickly feel the differences and benefits of each kind! If you have the opportunity, it is great to try each kind of ski in the conditions it is designed for! Take a more narrow cambered ski out for a day on the groomers and then try out a pair of fully rockered wide powder boards when the next storm rolls in! This can really help you get a feel for your personal preference of what profile you like the best and which one is best for your skill level and can help you become a better rider.

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Written By
I've been skiing since I could walk at 18 months old :) The mountains have been my home my entire life but I also enjoy traveling the world, experiencing other cultures, playing music, and surfing! I have been a professional backcountry skier for eight years now and have been fortunate to ski all ov...

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