Adjusting to Ski Rocker Technology

Many skiers don’t know that ski instructors take clinics themselves. In fact, PSIA instructors are required to take clinics to maintain their certifications. Last week, I had the privilege of participating in a Mini-Academy at Killington, which is offered to Level 3 certified instructors and led by a member of PSIA’s Demonstration Team.

Mike Hafer PSIA Demo Team Member in the bumps at Killington

The demo team is comprised of the top teachers in the country, as established by a week-long competition held at Snowbird once every four years. These try-outs are like an episode of “Survivor.” Instructors are run through an endless series of ski drills until only the best remain. In addition, instructors have to complete a series of indoor and on-snow presentations to ensure that only the best teachers and communicators make the team.

I skied with Demo Team member Mike Hafer from Northstar in California. At the outset, Mike asked each instructor in our group what they wanted out of the clinic. Many sought to understand how the new ski rocker technology should change how we teach. Mike believes that rocker will require skiers to adjust what he calls the “DIRT” of their edging, flexion and steering movements.

DIRT stands for Duration, Intensity, Rate, and Timing. Those who ski from the backseat will find that skis with rockered tails will give them much less ski to lean on. The consensus was that many skiers new to rocker are going to have to modify how they ski to get the most out of their new equipment.

We discussed and explored the spectrum of turns, from a smeared turn to a carved turn to a true arc. While our turn entries were strong, Mike pushed us to fine-tune our edging through the bottom half of the turn. He gave us a number of drills where we skied on our inside (little toe) edge ski starting with one-legged little toe side slips with edge sets. Staying on one ski, we worked on the transition from one turn to the next, by rolling from the little toe to big toe. The key here is modifying the DIRT of your movements so that when you link turns, you’re more patient with turn entry. This leads to improved edge hold through the entire arc.

To be successful, you have to slow down the rate and timing and lengthen the duration of your extension into the new turn. This affects the application of edging and the result is smoother medium and long-radius turns with better edge hold. In the bumps, we applied a more smeared turn by changing the DIRT of our movements to smooth out our skiing. Both of these changes in our movements are applicable to rocker skis.

Through the two-day clinic, Mike addressed our interest in rocker technology by working on our ability to modify our movements for different outcomes in different terrain. Increased awareness of the necessary changes in the DIRT of movements can help instructors and students ski more effectively on these new skis.

Dave Zientko is a PSIA Level 3 Certified Ski Instructor at Whiteface. His focus is helping intermediates and advanced skiers enjoy more of the mountain while skiing efficiently and tactically in all conditions.

7 comments on “Adjusting to Ski Rocker Technology

  1. Excellent lesson, Coach Z. I knew that my new rockered skis would require some getting used to but now I know where to start.

  2. There are so many variations of rocker out there that it is going to take some playing with your movements to adjust to the new skis. Playing with the DIRT will help you:

    D = Duration – how long a movement takes
    I = Intensity – how aggresive or strong the movement is
    R = Rate – the speed of the movement
    T = Timing – where in the turn the movement takes place

    Of course if you can’t figure this out yourself you local mountain’s friendly PSIA Level 3 instructors would be happy to help.

  3. Hey, the reversed camber takes some getting used to on firmer conditions. The ski will hook up or carve depending on how much you edge the ski (the amount of tipping or edge angle to the snow). The higher the edge angle the tighter it will turn. Unlike a conventional cambered shaped ski that will turn tighter the more you bend it (e.g., the more pressure you apply typically through speed) a reversed cambered ski is already bent. It will hook up at any speed if it is put on an edge. Therefore, as I switch back and forth with different skis in my quiver, I occasionally get surprised by a turn that I was not ready for. I am sure that if I skied my rocker skis more regularly on all types of terrain I would become more familiar with its idiosyncrasies.

  4. So hard to think about it that way. When I’m skiing, I’m not thinking Rate Slower, Timing Quicker, Duration Longer, Intensity Greater, especially over the course of one turn. It’s easier to take one of those things, and try to use that. If you want to delay your turn entry, just be a little slower in your edge change. If you want to snap out of a turn, add a little more edge and rotary at the bottom of the arc. Just a different way to think about it for me.

    I use DIRT, but I mostly use it to tweak the drills I use. We can use your shuffle drill from your first post as an example. What happens when you speed up the Rate of your shuffle? What happens when you shuffle at different parts of the turn (tweak the Timing)? What happens when you take the shuffle to steeper terrain, or gain more speed (to really crank the Intensity)? Just a different way to think of a Ski Instructor concept.

  5. Matt – I’m not suggesting changing all the variables at once – it’s easier to change one at a time, get the feel of that change and then if necessary make more changes. It’s a multi-step process. I was trying to keep it short for the blog.

    In what you said above – "If you want to snap out of a turn, add a little more edge and rotary at the bottom of the arc" you are modifying 2 skills and several DIRT variables at one time. Certainly timing for both skills and probably intensity. Technically that’s 4 variables at once.

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