As brands increase the number of rocker skis in their lines, it’s no wonder why rocker ski sales are increasing industrywide.
“Reverse/mixed camber ski sales doubled in one season and at 52,595 pairs represent 10 percent of all alpine skis sold,” according to the most recent SnowSports Industries America Intelligence Report.
That percentage, which was the same for both unit sales and dollar sales, was higher than Kelly Davis, SIA’s research director, anticipated.
“It’s a significant percentage,” Davis says. “The trend is definitely there.”
But she and others agree that it won’t be short lived.
“You’re going to see rocker everywhere,” says Thor Verdonk, Rossignol‘s technical product manager. “I think rocker’s here to stay.”
Rossignol is one of the many brands putting vast resources into its rocker R&D. Three of its four product categories have rocker this season (up from two of four last year), and its top sellers have rocker.
“Our suppliers are trying to give customers what they want,” Davis says.
And she’s right.
At Rossignol, between 60 percent and 75 percent of its pre-orders are rocker skis. That’s up from about 40 percent of total sales last year, says Kurt Hoefler, the company’s alpine division manager. Though he admits part of that growth is because Rossignol has rocker in more of its skis, so it’s proportionate.
Black Diamond Equipment‘s best sellers are rocking too.
“Our top-selling skis all have had, and continue to have, at a minimum tip rocker,” says Thomas Laakso, Black Diamond’s ski category director.
But unlike some other companies, Black Diamond isn’t putting more emphasis in rocker technology now that it’s reaching critical mass. Laasko says the company has been using rocker for years, and its customers have long known the benefits of it-primarily when off piste.
Though slowly in some regions, word is spreading that rocker isn’t just for powder.
“When I talked to people in the East Coast, they’re interested in it but they’re not sure if it’s appropriate because they know they’re going to get those icy days,” says Jonathan Degenhardt, Movement Skis brand manager.
One East Coast retailer, Jeff Inman, owner of Cayuga Ski and Cyclery in Ithaca, N.Y., echoes Degenhardt.
“Some of the very traditional skiers are saying, ‘Why do we need it?’ And they don’t,” Inman says. But he’s betting on its acceptance.
“Obviously, here, skis over 100mm significantly drop off,” he says. “But we do sell them, and we’ve had great sell through last year.”
Inman’s so sure of rocker technology that he ordered about 50 percent more rocker skis this year-especially in longer lengths.
“I would say we’ve probably ordered 10 to 12 percent more of that next category up in size,” he says. “So not a major shift, but we’ve always kind of been a little taller than what our region would represent.”
While traditional camber ski sales-in both dollars and units-have fluctuated in the last four years, rocker skis continue to increase. Since the 2007-08 season, rocker ski sales have increased from $4.3 million to $29.1 million while traditional camber sales have gone from $201.2 million to $203.4 million, according to SIA data.
But Davis doesn’t suspect rocker skis will reach the status that rocker snowboards have.
“For example, 60 percent of the snowboards sold were reverse camber,” Davis says. “That’s crazy. That’s more than a trend.”
And while industry experts vary on whether the rocker phenomenon will measure up to the sidecut craze of the 90s, brands plan to keep investing in rocker as long as customers keep buying.
“I think the consumer is going to buy into this very significantly,” Hoefler says.