Forums Splitboards Steep skiing: Rocker or not to Rocker…….
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    64 Posts

    Probably not quite what Shakespeare had in mind but I am curious…

    I’m definitely not the most technical when it comes to snowboards and I’ve always been of the school of thought that if you are good enough, you can ride anything, so I’ve never really paid much attention to cut and the general dimensions of a board. As long as it’s long enough and wide enough, that was all I really cared about being a bigger guy (6,5, size 12 and 230lbs. Admittedly my options were always very limited as a result too which made knowing the difference a bit redundant).

    But I’ve had a few uncomforable moments on steeps in the last year which has made me more curious about the different variables (overall length, side cut, nose/tail length et.c.) that go into making a board and what the outcome is as the variables change….. and my goal along this journey is to gain as much knowledge as possible to find or have custom made the right board for what I like: steep sking (or boarding in my case).

    So, I’m curious as to what the effect of rocker would have on a board as opposed to a board with traditional camber. The benefits are clear when it comes to powder but what about a 50 degree sustained slope with the snow you usually find there……..

    I’ve been thinking….not so good. Softer nose and everyone always talks about how much shorter the board fills and how easy it is to move……Would that translate into a shorter effective edge too? I like to have as much edge as possible on the steep stuff. My understanding is that the board feels softer over its whole and less effective edge, so I’ve been steering clear.

    Bit as I say, I am just at the beginnings of my “technical” enlightenment, so would love to hear other people’s thoughts…….

    1490 Posts

    Hi Suffer. I ride steeps often, and have thought about board design for years. first, do not think of rocker in a vacuum. In other words, all parameters of the board design work together to define how a board rides in a given situation. Here are some of my thoughts:

    Steep Powder: anything will “work”, but a rockered board, with moderate sidecut, and stiffer flex through the midsection and tail is going to be the most fun, and offer the best perfromance. Stay away from really deep sidecuts, in fact, try to stay away from really deep sidecuts for all high performance riding. Deep sidecuts make the board “hooky” and make it more difficult to drift into turns, and control the balance of sliding/carving throughout the turn.
    Steep windboard and breakable crusts: I have recently had my Storm R out in these conditions, 50 degrees, and variable snow. I was very impressed. the rocker tends to make the tip and tail of the board very forgiving, making it difficult to catch and edge (nice!) but the board still holds a strong edge when the rider demands it.
    Steep corn: I suspect a well designed rocker board will be no problem here, as long as the corn is good, and not ice.
    Steep ice: Here is the one condition where I really think the rocker tail may be at a disadvantage, but, one must consider the entire design of the board. Traditional camber boards do not hold well on steep ice, because almost all of them have too deep a sidecut. The deep sidecut over pressures the tip and tail, making it hard to engage the edge through the midsection of the board. As mentioned above, rocker can help alleviate the problems caused by deeper sidecuts, so it might be fine in the steep ice. I will report more on the Storm R in these conditions if I encounter them this spring. Ultimately, I would suggest the following board for steep ice: Long sidecut radius-over 10.5 meters, stiff flex, with a medium flex nose, and medium/firm through the mid section and tail. Early rise tip, combined with moderate camber (just a little) through the midsection and tail.
    The long sidecut makes the edge easier to control, without the chattering and over pressuring that occurs with deeper sidecuts, allowing the rider to use the entire contact length of the board. The slightly softer early rise tip allows the initiation of the turn to be somewhat gentle-this really helps on steeps as the worst thing that can happen is the tip catching hard at the beginning of the turn, sending the rider over the bars. The early rise tip also helps keep the tip from catching/hooking when navigating through runnels or sastrugi, common on steep lines in the spring.
    The camber (not traditional, just a little) through the midsection and tail assures strong edge hold through the finish of the turn, and some pop off of the tail which can be useful when hop turns are necessary.
    The Winterstick ST series (they will do an early rise tip option) is a good example of a board that should really excel in steep icy conditions (as well as the Tom Burt)-but at your size, you might need a custom width/length. See Buells custom Prior he posted about as well, a really good steep board design for a rider his size.
    Hope that helps.

    1382 Posts

    Look into the new Lib Techs next year. I think they actually have inserts 😆 The C2BTX rocker is the best of both worlds and magne traction is awesome for steeps. Plus I know they’ll have one over 26cm waist for bigger feet (Travis Rice) and I think you can get up to a 164 and they have a moderate sidecut.
    Never summer has same technology and a wide version too but I think they use too much sidecut for pure steeps. The specs I’ve read on their boards seem ridiculous on the sidecut. You don’t want a lot of sidecut if you want the board mainly for steeps.
    I’d say the larger/wider Jones solution would be great….if you can get one (168)

    Wintersticks make a great steep board (Tom Burt and Severe Terrain) in a variety of sizes with optional rockered nose (I have the 162), but they only have one width. You could call them directly and ask if they’ll make you a wider version as they do all their shit custom. If they could make you a wider one you’d love it. I personally would go with a 166 for your size even though you’re huge. These boards are super stiff and damp and not light. The early rise they put on the nose is perfect for the boards true nature too. It’s pretty mellow but gives you a very noticeable amount of extra float in pow. It won’t compromise your stability on steeps imo.

    edit: didn’t see barrow’s post….so what he said too :p

    534 Posts

    Barrows provides some great insights. Here are my thoughts on a steeps board for steeper spring riding. I am really impressed with its performance so far. This one is built for my 145 pounds. Obviously yours would need to be built for your size.

    One important think to note is that there are many different rocker profiles. On a steeps board, you do not want too much camber or too much “pop” as your ability to pressure the edge and hold the center of the board down decreases with increasing slope angle. I think the slight camber under foot with a slight rise nose and tail rocker profile will be the best for a variety of conditions. With that design, you gain many of the easy handling benefits of a rockered design but you keep most of your effective edge. You loose effective edge with rockered tip and tail as the rise gets more extreme. You can test this by putting a board slightly on edge on a firm surface. The further up the board the nose and tail contact the more effective edge you have. If the nose and tail leave the floor really early, then the board is probably better for powder than mixed or firm conditions.

    On steep slopes in mixed conditions, a shorter board with less effective edge means more pressure per linear inch of edge. That is a good thing for better bite. A shorter board will also be easier to quickly maneuver in tight spots and will come around quicker so you spend less time accelerating downhill during the turn. A longer board with more effective edge will react less when you are out of position and provides a more stable platform. A balance between edge and speed control verses a more stable platform is what you are after on steeper slopes.

    21 Posts

    I’ve ridden a non-split rockered Venture Storm, and recently switched to a JJ Flagship.

    Simply put, the rockered Storm was crazy scary on ice. Bearable on dust-on-crust, and great for everything else. I really don’t care for the rockered tail.

    I feel much more confident on the Flagship on steep icy conditions. The magne traction really does work.

    64 Posts

    To Barrow and Buell:

    I was going to PM you both to get your views but thought it would be best to post a thread so others can benefit and I was hoping you would both chime in and you didn’t disappoint! Thanks so much for the excellent and detailed answers. That really makes sense. Wait… just having an emotional moment….I love this forum. There is such a wealth of knowledge and experience on here, especially you guys, so thanks again! Okay… it’s passed now.

    I really like the sound of the board you are describing too, Barrows. When you say early rise, is there any way of quantifying where this should start? Bit difficult. And as regards how much rise, again is there anyway standard measuring system being used for this?

    And regarding the camber going through the mid section and tail, is there anyway again of giving measurements on that to distinguish it from “traditional” camber?

    The WinterStick looks like a great board. I was just reading your thread on it BGnight. Any updates on it? Does anyone know how much it weights out of interest?

    And Buell, really interesting your point about pressure per linear inch on the edge. So are shorter board would have better bite than a longer board. I’m currently on a 168 and was actually thinking of going down to a 164 for more manoeuvrability and less weight. Having said that, if I have a moderate early rise on a 164, will that mean less effective edge or is effective edge only impacted if the rise becomes extreme as you said, Buell.

    I suppose there must be a magic number of pessure per linear inch, one of the variables being my weight, so if I go too short, I wonder if I will be moving away or closer to optimal…. Hmmmmm…..probably a question for a physicist.

    By the way…. am I right in thinking that early rise means it rises to the same degree as normal but just earlier whereas rockered is earlier and extreme? Or is there no hard and fast here?

    Thanks for all the comments. Invaluable info.

    1490 Posts

    Happy to present my opinion on this, and always interested to hear the opinions of thers as well. To address two of your points:
    Length: this is a tricky business, shorter boards have certain advantages: less weight, especially swing weight, which can make for quicker hop turns, and, depending on design, quicker turns in general, but a shorter board is less stable longitudinally. As Buell noted, one has to balance the ideas of length against stability. You do not want a board so short that it does not help stabilizing your center of gravity over the board-in other words, it is easier for your weight to end up too far forward, or too far back, on a shorter board. I usually suggest that people should choose board length in relation to their height (and stiffness in relation to their weight)-this is because taller people need the board to provide more longitudinal stability in relation to their center of gravity. I am 6’1″, and do not ride boards shorter than 166 or so. But for powder and general riding, I can easily go up to longer boards up to about 175 without problems. I have made steep descents with boards as long as 179 (Matt Goodwill model from Morrow) and can hop turn such boards. But for very technical, narrow, steep, and icy lines I would go to my shortest length, 166. At my height I lose too much stability with boards any shorter than this, and can get really quick turns out of a 166 in any situation. Also, I prefer to have a board with at least good powder performance wherever I go, because I am usually hoping to get lucky! Some of this will be down to personal preference as well, and riding style. I would just say, at your height, do not go too short.
    There really is no way to standardize tip rise measurements on a snowboard, because there is no standard position for the front foot. Ski companies sometimes refer to tip rise measurements in relation to the boot position as marked on the ski, but we snowboarders mount our bindings all over the place (skiers do move mounts forward and back, but always in relation to a single recommended position). From the photos of BG’s 162 Winterstick, I would call that a subtle tip rise, in comparison to, say, a Venture Storm, which starts a little earlier, and has a little more. Perhaps Buell will weigh in with an relative idea of how much tip (and tail) rocker is on his Prior.
    As far as camber goes, when I suggest a little camber from the front foot to the tail, I would consider 3 mm a little, on a 166 cm, ~128-130 edge length board. But, the builder has to match the camber to the flex pattern to get the right feel, and thinking about camber in isolation is a mistake. There is also taper to consider. Like rocker, more taper in tail tends to make the tail a little looser (can be good or bad), it also makes the tail easier to release and control (usually good on the steeps) and less likely to catch (really dangerous) mid turn. I like taper for steeps boards, but too much (when considered in concert with rocker and flex) results in a board that will not hold an edge across the fall line. Highly tapered (Fish, Venture Euphoria, Khyber) pow boards should be avoided for riding hard steeps, but I actually like boards with up to 10 mm of taper, as long as the tail is stiff enough, and does not have too much rocker.
    All of these design features come down to balance. Rocker, flex, taper, sidecut depth, and length all have to be balanced against one another to achieve the desired ride characteristics. As an example, a few folks have commented on the 2009-2010 Venture Storms as being a little scary in steep hard conditions. The 2010-2011 Storms were changed subtly to address this issue-the stance offset was reduced a little, and the tip and tail of the board were stiffened considerably (my partner has a ’09-’10, and I have an ’10-’11 of the same length). I have been on steep (over 45 degrees) windboard on mine, hard enough to where it did not leave a discernable track, and had no problem with edge hold. I do not know what will happen on true ice though, but I do not really want to be on ice over 45 ever (if I am, I am usually sideslipping carefully through it)!
    Forget about weight, the boards we are discussing are not going to be the lightest, at least until builders start making very expensive full carbon layup boards. Good steeps boards need beefy, wood cores, and sandwich/sidewall construction-this weighs more. Concentrate on saving weight elsewhere-boots bindings, and clothes and other gear can be chosen for weight savings, and they all add up.
    All things considered, for available non full custom boards, I think a Winterstick ST 166, with an early rise tip, and a slightly wider waist, will suit your needs really well, and still give good powder perfromance when it is around. I expect that Winterstick would build one with a waist to suit your needs, but you will have to contact them to find out.

    534 Posts

    If the rise is not extreme, you will keep most, if not all of your effective edge. Most rockered boards have a bit more to a lot more than this and you do lose some effective edge. Much of what I am saying about board performance has more to do with firm / variable conditions than powder riding. As long as you have sufficient float for the powder you are riding in, powder is much more forgiving.

    Most rockered boards will have the same total nose and tail height of full camber boards. It just takes longer to get there and makes a smoother, easier handling board (in most cases). The Prior hybrid rocker is pretty mild. I do not know of any standard measurement of rocker, it is all visual for me at the moment.

    Board length is really personal preference. It depends on how your ride and what conditions you ride. I have two boards. One for powder and one for spring. The rocker allows me to ride a smaller board in the powder. For spring, I had been riding a 154 Voile. When I went with a slightly rockered nose and tail Prior BC, I went to a 158 to maintain enough effective edge for stability in mixed conditions.

    I like the look of the Wintersticks for stock boards. The weight concerns me at my 145 pounds (I have not picked one up and this is based only on what I have read). At your 230 pounds, the stoutness of the Winterstick is going to probably be a good thing. (Barrows posted while I was typing this). I think the 166 ST he mentions would definitely be high in the running for you.

    alessi, I had a 162 09/10 Venture Storm. I only rode it in powder but I also did not like, what I expect, was the tail rocker. Of the rockered boards I have seen, it has the most extreme kick.

    143 Posts

    I love early rise in pow, breakable, mashed potatoes and corn. That said rocker/early rise generally sucks in steep, hard, fast conditions. “Early rise tip chatter” is the term I use to describe the result when railing rocker in hard conditions at high speed. For hard fast riding I’ll take camber hands down.

    If you can have a quiver, get both. If you have only one choice and ride steep hard snow alot, stick with a more traditional cut.

    235 Posts

    This thread reminded me that I was really interested to see what Johan Olofsson would build with Venture.

    just googled and found this

    On initial inspection the Odin looks like their multi award winning freeride classic the Storm, the pointed nose and rocker profile are almost identical. I emailed co-owner Lisa Branner and asked her what the key differences are between the Storm and the Odin.

    “The main differences are that the Odin has more stance offset (an extra 10mm set back), more taper, a stiffer flex, slightly longer tail and less sidecut. Essentially it’s a more aggressive ride than the Storm.”

    The Odin looks like it’s going to fill the needs of Venture riders who want a touch more float on bottomless powder days and a longer sidecut for point and shoot couloir gunning. The Odin will be available in a 164, 168, 169mW and 173mW. Of course the biggest advantage of picking-up one of next years must have freeride boards from Venture is that the factory is 100% wind powered and Klemens and Lisa source as many materials as possible from sustainable sources, so you can ride with a clear conscious.

    Sounds good to me!

    534 Posts

    @shasta wrote:

    I love early rise in pow, breakable, mashed potatoes and corn. That said rocker/early rise generally sucks in steep, hard, fast conditions. “Early rise tip chatter” is the term I use to describe the result when railing rocker in hard conditions at high speed. For hard fast riding I’ll take camber hands down.

    If you can have a quiver, get both. If you have only one choice and ride steep hard snow alot, stick with a more traditional cut.

    Modern day race boards, including BX, SL, and GS, that are made for hammering at high speed on very firm, often rutted, snow all have a mild version of early rise at the tip and tail. In those disciplines it is typically called “decamber,” but it is the same thing. The camber does not extend to the wide point of the board at the tip and tail. The ride is greatly improved in all conditions.

    As barrows said in his first post on this thread, “do not think of rocker in a vacuum. In other words, all parameters of the board design work together to define how a board rides in a given situation.” Shasta, it sounds like something else was off in the boards you tried or the rocker was too extreme for firm snow.

    143 Posts

    I prefer my Venture Divide to the rockered revolution at this point. I’ve never had an issue in pow, breakable or mashed potatoes such that I felt a need for a rockered board. The instability issues I’ve had with rocker aren’t an issue I’ve experienced with regular sidecut boards.

    Maybe its just me but I also ski and I have the same issues with my rockered skis (Moment Bibbys). They rip in difficult deep snow (or even not so deep) but they stay at home when the conditions are hard and fast and I want to put them on rails. I can rail it on the rockered boards but its way sketchier and requires alot more energy. This is the same experience I had with the Storm R.

    I’m all for rocker: its just not the majic bullet for all conditions as the manufacturers profess, IMHO.

    1490 Posts


    I think you are really talking about something else. The OP was concerned about riding steep, hard, conditions, and how different boards might handle that. Now I doubt anyone here is riding all that fast on 45+ degree ice. As far as railing carves at speed on hard snow is concerned, I agree with you, this is not the place for a fully rockered board, as you do not want the tip and tail flapping all over the place. Of course, Buell’s info on modern race board design needs to be considered as well, but what he is talking about is a subtle early rise, not full rocker.
    I think it is the same with skis, the super fat rocker skis are pow specific boards, with just enough sidecut and contact under foot to allow for reasonable control on groomers to get from one pow stash to the next, none of them are optomised for railing carves on hard snow-that is for freecarving boards, a totally different thing.

    3 Posts

    In icy conditions rocker is a hindrance. Just got a Lib Tech Travis Rice split. I think magna traction is the best thing to happen to a snowboard since highback bindings and definitely helps the rocker on icy steeps.

    143 Posts

    One of my regular bc partners just got a Lib Tech with basically a flat (maybe slight camber) middle and slight early rise w magne traction: he rocks that board hands down compared to the Storm R. I haven’t ridden it but can’t wait. Cool graphics too.

    64 Posts

    This thread is turning out to be really interesting. Thanks for all the comments.

    I’ve just been reading up on taper and it all makes sense and I just read up on Tom Burt’s review of his board. Sounds like a great board. I see that he only has 4mm of taper on his board. Doesn’t sound like a lot to be honest. Does it really make that much of a difference to none. You mention up to 10mm, Barrows. That sounds like it would make more of a difference. Does anyone know where the limit would be for a good board for steeps. I think Tom knows what he’s doing ;), so I’m guessing 4 probably is optimal. Shame it doesn’t come in a wide.

    Hey, Shasta what is the model of board that your mate is riding? The Lib Tech? Is it a split or a normal board?

    And does magna traction really make a difference? (I think I might start another thread to get people’s feedback on that.) I hope it does…..would be great peace of mind when things get a little tricky.

    BGnight/Barrows: I think you both said you had the Tom Burt. What do you think of it compared to the other boards in your quiver…? Is it good as a one quiver board? Having to always have to travel to the mountains (whether for a season or a weekend) restricts me on the baggage allowance, so I always really need a one quiver board.

    Buell: so you went a bit longer on your board to compensate for the early rise. An extra 4cm. So if I got a board with early rise, it would be silly to go shorter than I already ride (168) and get early rise. Let’s say I went down to 164 and go early rise. I would in theory have the effective edge of a 160 or 162. So, probably best to stick with 168, especially after the good comments about stability and centre of gravity for a taller guy…..

    1490 Posts

    I have a Tom Burt solid, which is my main solid board. Now I only ride in a resort maybe 4 or 5 days a season, and the rest of the time I am on a split. For a guy your size, you could easily ride the Tom Burt as a quiver of one, but you would probably want it a little wider. Remember, that with an 11 m sidecut, the board is narrower (at the foot positions) than a board with the same waist and an 9.5 m sidecut.
    The TB rides great in powder, steeps, ice, etc. It is a traditional camber board, but has low camber. The shallow sidecut helps it, as this keeps the board from being too hooky in the steeps, and the taper helps as well, allowing one to break turns from carves, into skids, and back into carves again. It does not allow the super fun riding style that a rocker board allows though. With the Storm R, I can pivot, smear, and skid at will, at any speed, without worry as to catching edges-this allows for super fun riding at speed in good snow, and gives one tons of extra confidence as you know you can dump speed really easily at any time, in any situation, without needing the space to turn a conventional board would need.
    A Tom Burt split, a little wider for you, with a moderate early rise tip, would probably be an ideal quiver of one to deal with everything from blower pow, to firm steeps.

    64 Posts

    As regards taper…. I was just looking at the Venture boards Zephyr and Storm and they have quite a bit more taper at 5.8 and 8 respectively. That sounds like that would have more of a noticeable impact than 4mm that the Tom Burt has. My Prior Backcountry has 4mm taper. I’m thinking… without compromising the steep performance…..could I go a little higher than 4mm to get a bit more manoeuvarability…..I’m thinking as a one quiver board and how I like the trees too 😉

    What is the theory behind more taper being bad for icy conditions out of interest? Anyone know?

    Barrows: I remember you mentioning that you had a Prior Backcountry. Would love to hear your thoughts on it compared to the Tom Burt as a one quiver for what I’m looking for….?

    1490 Posts

    When a board has too much taper, it loses edge grip in the tail. One needs edge grip as one rides across the fall line finishing a turn hard on a steep, hard slope. I have had no problems with taper up to 10 mm though, and figure anything around 4-10 mm is fine. I would probably sketch out on high taper pow boards like the Fish, Kyber, and Euphoria though.
    In Ventures line up, I would expect an approriately sized Zephyr would likely perform better as a dedicated mountaineering board, a little less nose, a little less taper, and a little less set back.
    I have a Prior Backcountry 168 split. It is softer, and has more camber, than the Tom Burt (I am ~170 lbs). I prefer the ride quality of the Tom Burt. If the Prior was a little stiffer they would probably be pretty close, the next size up in a backcountry might be really close in performance to the TB, as Prior increases stiffness with length. I really like my Venture best, stiffer, and rocker, which I like. The Storm R suits 85 % of my riding to a “T”. As I generally try to ride good snow as much as possible, and I do not expect any problems on corn with it. I am only suspicious about its ice performance-I have already been on steep windboard, and it held an edge fine on that.

    143 Posts

    The LibTech is a factory split but did not come with inserts/holes for Voile (or any) binding mounts which was really strange. He sent it off for the inserts, they did a nice job for $150.

    He swears by the magne traction in hard conditions but he is a more intermediate rider: I’d have to try it myself before I rely on his observations. I hope to talk him into a ride soon.

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