Thursday, October 31, 2013

Adding Rocker to my Rock Skis (a TR and How To)

So I added some rocker to my old Black Diamond Voodoo skis on Sunday as I waited for the first arctic blast of the season. The process was surprisingly easy and seems to have went well though only time will tell if the shape holds or if the tips break off.

The Rationale

Digging trenches with the Voodoos in Cascades Concrete.

At 88 underfoot with minimal tip and tail rise, the Voodoos are fun in powder but distinctly not in heavy or crusty snow where the tips tend submarine. Even with the vertical din on my Dynafit ST bindings set to 9 I've released out of them just by getting them stuck in a wet snow bank. In heavy slop they tend to want to stay stuck and go straight more than turn. 

Justice vs Voodoo before the Mod.
I haven't really skied them much since I got my much fatter, rockerd Black Diamond Carbon Justices which are a great ski for backcountry descents in the Cascades or here in the Northern Rockies. They surf over soft snow be it mid winter powder or spring slop. Part of this is their 111 underfoot width and part of it is their modern rockered shape. In cut up refrozen and remelted Cascades styrofoam snow you can just tilt them on edge and ride the rocker around in big turns. 

The Justices can be a bit much on the up though. At 8 lbs for my 175s they are only 3/4 of a pound per pair heavier then the Voodoos but wider skins and more snow on top add weight. A bigger issue is the increased effort to side hill on firm snow while skinning. This all adds up when you're trying to pull off a long day of powder skiing.

After the Mod
This has lead me to wonder about skis with a modern soft snow geometry in a skinnier package. There are actually a few of these out there with the Black Diamond Current being the most intriguingly modern powder ski shaped I've seen and coming in around 6 lbs in 175 for the new 2013/14 model (last years is heavier). The La Sportiva GTR, Dynafit Cho Oyu and G3 Zenoxide C 88 also offer a bit of rocker and impressively light weights but look to be a bit more hard pack focused which is not what I want.

None of these skis are cheap so I decided to see if I could make my Voodoos into something even more powder focused and give them a test in the full on blower powder on rocks conditions our early season snow pack is sure to entail. Whats more, I can add as much rocker as I want and see if I can come up with a true skinny soft snow ski instead of trying to balance hard snow performance which I really don't particularly need. I think backcountry ski manufacturers are too often held hostage to the fact that their skis will be reviewed and demoed on groomers at events like Outdoor Retailer. The vast majority of my skiing is on soft snow and I'm willing to have to pick and sideslip my way down scraped out egress trails if it means I can surf over slop and breakable crust.

The Supplies

  • Bit of closet rod or wide dowel.
  • Heat Gun Capable of reaching around 1000 Degrees F

The Process

The First Bend

The Second Bend
Here is the process I used. I think this would differ widely for different types of ski material but this seems to have worked well for my wood and fiberglass Voodoos. I also would only do this with skis you don't mind risking total destruction as there is a possibility of weakening the ski or causing delamination. 
  1. Rig up the ski as shown, include a Voile strap between the bindings to hold the camber flat. You may want to make a few bends to get an even rocker, start near the tip and work back.
  2. Set up a work station with a chair on either side of the skis and grab some entertainment. I watched Futuama on netflix on my phone. The time remaining counter doubles as a timer which is nice.
  3. Turn the heat gun on and let it warm up. I set mine to the max around 1100 F and slow air flow.
  4. Heat each side of the ski for 5 minutes keeping the gun moving and being careful to avoid the voile strap. Be precise and watch the time (this is where the Futurama comes in) to keep things even. At first I tried switching back and forth every two minutes but I think doing each ski for a full five minutes at once works better. You only need to get the inside of the skis to around 200 degrees so keep the air moving. I got some top sheet bubbles but I think that is fine.
  5. Allow the skis to cool for at least an hour before removing the forms.
  6. Remove the forms, inspect and repeat steps 1-5 for any additional bends needed. If the skis get uneven, repeat the steps but only heat the less bent side (maybe for less time depending on how uneven the skis are). I made 4 bends plus one bend to only one ski to even things out. If you need to make a bend further up towards the tip than one of your existing bends, loosen the strap around the bindings to release the camber so that you aren't flattening your existing bends at the same time.
  7. Rig up the clamp and dowel to be outside your widest bend so that all the beds are under tension and leave the skis overnight. I plan on letting them sit for a while longer before testing them to make sure the epoxy has reset and because we still need more snow.

The Results

I'll do a follow up once I've had a chance to ski them and see if the shape change lasts but the difference is visibly noticeable and i'm excited to try them. I'm debating adding a bit of tail rocker though the twin tip on the Voodoo already works a bit like that. After I have a chance to ski them I may also add more rocker to the front either pushing further back towards the binding or adding more curve towards the tips.

Oh yeah


uglyjiber said...

Tried 'em yet?!

Ryan Bressler said...

Yeah, tried them on a powder tour and a crusty/slopy/stale day in bounds.

Groomer performance hasn't suffered much if at all and they ski soft snow allright but still aren't exactly surfy and I was wishing for my fatter skis in some week old crusty slop and variable windslab...I might try adding a bit of tail rise.

EdBlogEd said...

Great concept. Did the rocker you heated into the skis stay, or did it revert?
What do you think about have the skis heated via a tub of hot water, which is about 200 degrees?

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