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I can see why camber can be a confusing topic since there are a lot of different things to take into account, as well as a few misconceptions out there too.
Yes, Camber can be lost over time due to a variety of reasons such as storage, or wear and tear. It is important to be able to identify the loss of camber so you know when it is time to replace your skis.
You may or may not be familiar with the term camber, but what is it exactly? Ski camber is the upwards arch underneath traditional skis when they are placed on a flat surface. Over time skis can lose their camber when they lose their ability to hold their manufactured shape through age or storage.
This is normally seen in the less modern types of skis, and it is an indicator that they are worn out.
So why is camber so important and what are the main factors that cause skis to lose their camber? It also helps you know when it is time to replace the skis and how you can better care for them.
It is also helpful to know the different types of skis and which are more prone to lose camber.
What is Camber?
Up until the early 2000s, most skis were quite similar in shape having ski camber. Ski camber can be described as the upward arch of traditional skis. If you place one on a flat surface without any pressure of your foot on it, you will see it will rest on points near its tip and tail while its waist or midsection arcs upward.
The two contact points usually correlate to the widest parts of the shovel tip and tail and the section between these points is the ski’s effective edge.
The effective edge of a ski is the sector that is used to make a turn. This is why traditional race skis have significant camber which enables ski races to track well on hard snow and make fast turns.
This built-in arch helps put springiness and pop into a ski. It is designed to enable easy and sensitive turning and improve control, which can help when working on technique.
Camber also makes maneuverability easier. Another reason that Camber is important is that it provides better edge contact with the snow which helps with grip when the slopes are icy.
This is due to the weight being distributed evenly across the whole edge of the ski from the tip to the tail when the skier puts weight onto the center of the skis.
Pros of Ski Camber
- Provides good traction at high speeds on groomed snow
- Provides stability throughout a turn
- Enables skier to carve turns
- Enables precision when carving
- Gives quicker edge engagement when starting a turn with forwarding pressure
- Provides good traction when skinning uphill
Cons of Ski Camber
- Skis need precision technique in bumps and tight trees
- The effective edge needs a firm surface at the bottom of the snowpack which makes for challenging powder skiing unless you are able to carve consistently in variable snow
What is Reverse Camber?
Reverse camber is a different style of the ski where if you lie a ski down flat it rather resembles a water ski. With reverse camber, the middle of the ski touches the ground and both ends rather curve upward away from the snow.
Reverse camber skies were originally sold during the 1970s to ski schools for use by first-day beginners as it was easier for the new skiers to put their weight in the center of the skis making it easier for steering.
The most famous reverse camber skis that were designed to be high-performance were the K2 Pontoon and Volant Spatula. They work great for deep powder conditions.
Pros of Reverse Camber?
- Offers good flotation for deep powder conditions
- Ideal for helicopter skiing and snowcat skiing but only in perfect, bottomless conditions
Cons of Reverse Camber?
- Carving a turn is incredibly difficult since there is essentially zero effective edge
- Not good for traversing
What is a Rocker?
Rocker is seen as a happy medium between full cambered skis and a reverse camber ski. If the ski is on a flat surface, the center of the ski has mild camber; however, the rise or upturn begins behind the widest point of the ski, closer to the bindings.
Rocker can also be built into the tail of the ski. It is possible to give the ski a symmetrical rocker or more rockers can be built in at the tip or more at the tail. The more rocker, the shorter the effective edge is.
One of the benefits of a cambered center and tip rocker is that it offers a good balance for many skiers and this style continue to be popular.
Why is Camber a Good Thing?
In almost all cases camber is a good thing providing more versatility and better edge control and stability. It can be helpful when navigating high speeds and traversing across slopes, particularly for skiing on firm or icy slopes.
The effective edge provides control of your turn whilst giving you power. However teamed with tip rockers generally makes for more versatile skiing, helping the skier to stay balanced and letting the ski do more of the work when going through soft, deep snow.
Skis with camber and some tip rockers generally work well for all-mountain resort skiing whereas skis with tail rockers are better for soft and deeper snow.
Do Skis Lose Camber Over Time?
Over time, it is possible for skis to lose their ability to hold their original shape, particularly the shape of the camber which appears flattened when placed on a flat surface.
However, almost all modern skis are designed to limit this problem and in fact, many skiers will not experience this problem at all during the lifespan of the skis. However, all skis will lose some camber eventually.
Varying conditions such as pressure, temperatures, the wide variety of movements, and storage plans can all contribute to the ski not being able to retain its structure.
For older, wooden skis this problem could occur more frequently than their modern counterparts since they are made of wood whereas modern skis use a combination of modern, durable materials with more efficient physical properties.
What Causes Skis To Lose Camber?
There can be a number of contributing factors when it comes to skis losing camber. The way you store skis out of season can increase the risk of your skis losing camber, such as storing skis horizontally with pressure applied to the camber with straps.
You should try to avoid applying pressure to the camber of skis when storing them. However, unless they are older, wooden skies it is unlikely this will have a significant effect on the profile of the skis.
How Does Temperature Affect Camber?
Varying temperatures such as going from the snowy terrain to the temperature of the ski’s storage can make the material of the skis expand and contract.
While this is likely to affect old, wooden skis more it can also affect newly made skis that use modern materials. This is why it is advised to store skis in a place where the temperatures do not fluctuate frequently.
How Can You Tell if Skis Have Lost Camber?
You can tell if skis have lost camber by placing them down on a flat surface base-down and looking at them from the side. The skis should only be resting on an area near the tip of the ski and near the tail with the ski curving upwards in the middle underneath the bindings.
If they look flatter or are easy to make flat with little spring then they could have lost camber. Of course, this only applies if your skis were camber shape in the first place.
Does The Loss of Camber Always Mean Skis are Worn Out?
Loss of camber is one of the signs that your skis are becoming worn out; however, there are other signs to be aware of too. If the bindings are out of date or broken, or if the bases are unlevel or damaged can also be indicators that your skis are worn out.
You may also notice cracks in the skis or that the edges are worn down. It is best to get a professional to take a look if you are in any doubt as safety comes first.
Skis can last from a few months to years depending on the usage and conditions they are being used in. Also, any damage sustained will send them quicker to ski heaven.
The majority of skis lose their shape just through wear and tear over time. However, camber can be completely lost where when a ski is laid down flat it will not have the distinctive arch.
Although modern skis are more resilient, they do still need to be stored correctly. Some people do have DIY mounts for old skis or ones made out of wood that support the ski’s camber arch without losing any added force or pressure onto it.
Quality, modern skis are less prone to losing camber compared to traditional, wooden ones. However, it is possible for all skis to lose camber due to the way they are stored or just the wear and tear on using them.
It is important to store them in a place with as little fluctuating temperature as possible ensuring pressure is not applied to the camber with straps. Check for other signs of wear and tear to determine if your skis are worn out and don’t be afraid to seek the advice of a professional.
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