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Technical ski features


Logo Yellow GentianTechnical ski termsReviewer Heyman

In our reviews we at Yellow Gentian try to use every day words to describe the characteristics of a ski. Sometimes however it is inevitable that we use a technical term. In this article the ski terminology is explained.



Sidecut is the collective term of the 3 width measurements of a ski, namely the width at tip, waist and tail. Sidecut is measured in millimetres. The difference in width between tip, waist and tail is one of the most defining elements of a ski characteristics. The more sidecut, the sharper a ski can turn. The narrower the waist, the easier it is to switch from edge to edge. The wider the ski, the more floatation in deep snow.
The traditional ski used to have no sidecut at all or only a little bit. That's why it was so bloody difficult to make a turn in those days. In 1993 ski-manufacturer Elan came up with a radical sidecut design, which completedly changed the way of skiing. Carving was born, which is quite late bearing in mind that snowboarding started in the 1970's and was all about sidecut.


Another result of sidecut is radius. Every ski-manufacturer will provide an approximate radius measured in metres. When you put a ski on its side, it will automatically make a turn, which would ultimately result in a full circle. Half of the diameter of that circle is called the radius. So the smaller the radius, the sharper the turn will be. The radius of normal skis for sale varies from 11m for very small slalom skis to 25m for big powder skis. In the last case it becomes difficult to make a decent turn. Only professional race skis have a bigger radius. Up to 50m for downhill skis, but those guys are not human.

Flex and torsion

Flex is the term for the stiffnes along the lenght of a ski. It determines how much the ski can bend upwards in powder snow, which helps to stay afloat. Less flex means less lift, but also less vibration, so the ski performs better at high speed.
Torsion is the ability of the ski to twist. The more torsionally rigid a ski is, the better it will perform in sharp, precise, agressive turns. When a ski is torsionally softer, it will be more forgiving to little errors and have the ability to make sliding turns as well. But the tendency of the front of the ski to drift away in a sharp turn, is bigger as well.


All traditional skis (i.e. from the beginning of the universe until the mid 1990's) have a full camber profile. Camber means that on a flat surface the ski rests only on tip and tail and arcs up in the middle. This is done to distribute the pressure, applied by the skier in a turn, evenly along the length of the ski.


The effective edge of the full camber ski is maximal. That means you have maximum grip on hard, icy pistes, so your control and ability to stop is very good. It also provides stability at high speed and that pop at the and of a turn, which propels you into the next one.


Reverse camber is what we call rocker. On a flat surface the ski only rests on the middle part of the ski. That way the ski "rocks" back and forth. It was legendary freerider Shane McConckey who came up with the idea of the rocker shaped ski. In 2001 the Volant Spatula became the first rockered ski (which featured reverse sidecut as well).


By diminishing the pressure on the tip and tail, the turning ability of the ski increases dramatically, especially in deep snow. But it diminishes in control and stability on flat surfaces at high speed as well.

There are various combinations of camber and rocker. The terminology of these combinations is not yet universally agreed upon. Let's call it early rise.
The early rise tip ski combines the camber profile underfoot and at the tail with a rocker profile at the front of the ski. The camber section provides control and stability at high speed, and stores that energy needed for the pop at the end of the turn. The rocker section provides easy turn initiation and lift in powder snow. These skis are versatile and will perform in any kind kind of terrain.


The early rise tip and tail ski features a little rocker at the tail as well. That makes the ski much more playful, while it maintains control from the camber section in the middle. This profile increases the versatility even more, but the pop at the end of the turn has gone. It provides playfulnes for park skiers, floatation for powder snow addicts, forgiveness for beginners and versatility for those who only own one pair of skies.



All these elements define the characteristics of a ski. The relationship between all these elements is however very complex. The degree in which one element is used in a ski design, makes a big difference in the influence that the other elements have on the ski characteristics. Therefore just from the dimension figures it is only possible to form a vague notion of the characteristics of a ski. Only by testing the ski you'll be provided with the full picture.

If by any chance you come across a technical ski term in one of our articles that you don't understand, don't hesitate to bring it under our attention via the Facebook Comments Box below and we'll provide you with the necessary information.

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