skiing: rockers forever

I can tell I’m missing skiing in my bones when I start rolling my ankles on edge when standing still. By mid-summer I miss everything about it, even the frozen fingers, the end-of-day ache overcome for just one more run, … So I’ll relive skiing with delayed blogging about it.

I’m no longer a part-time resident of the-ski-area-soon-to-formerly-be-known-as Squaw Valley USA, instead taking trains to various ski areas. So we no longer own skis; instead we rent performance skis at the resort. In theory this lets me do massive ski evaluations, swapping skis throughout the day to find the perfect ski, as I did when I found my front-side skis.

tip of a rocker-style ski
Clown shoe tip!

Let’s rocker

I knew I wanted to try “rocker” skis. You want a long fat ski with a lot of area to lift you out of deep snow, but a long ski is less maneuverable in bumps and a fat ski is less willing to go on edge and carve. So, just curve the tip and tail up, so that on packed snow they’re flapping in the breeze and you’re effectively riding a shorter ski. The immortal Shane McConkey came up with Volant Spatulas that had reverse camber (so the center of the ski touches the snow), more like a waterski, and then improved the design with K2 Pontoons. Rossignol I think was one of the first to combine the usual camber underfoot (so the center of the ski is off the ski until you weight it) with tips curved up and out of the snow and an odd sidecut. The term of art for this is “rocker.”

The playful Rossignol Soul 7 HD

Several friends swore by the Rossignol S7 when it first came out, and Rossignol has been refining the design for over a decade into the Sky 7, Soul 7, Super 7, Soul 7 HD, … so Rossignol was the first ski I rented a few seasons ago. Even the Soul 7 has been through multiple iterations:

Three generations of the Rossignol Soul 7 (HD)
Evolution of the weird sidecut. But it works! (from the great BLISTER review)

The Soul 7 HD is fantastic. It’s playful, so willing to make different turn shapes. It’s fat underfoot at 106 mm, yet will still carve if you push it. So rather than endlessly swapping skis looking for perfection, my default is just rent these and done.

Head Kore

2018 Head Kore 93 top view

In 2019 the Head Kore series got favorable reviews and won awards, so I specifically tried to rent it. It’s also excellent. It feels more damped and stable than the Soul 7 HD, even though it’s actually lighter (less than 2kg a ski which is really light), and a little faster. In most ways it’s a better ski than the Soul 7 HD, but somehow not as inspiring.

Völkl Mantra 102

Völkl Mantra 102 details
from skiessentials.com

I traveled to Zermatt in Europe, and weirdly the Head Kore was unavailable; all the skiers were bombing down the pistes on skinny short race skis. I tried some skis I wasn’t happy with, then settled on the Völkl Mantra 102. I was dubious since my impression of Völkl’s fat skis was they’re beefy planks for charging Western USA all-mountain skiers: just get them out to the side on edge and power through big turns. I’m simply and sadly not that strong. But the Mantra has morphed into a rockered ski, and it’s pretty great: definitely faster, better edge hold, still decently maneuverable.

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