To Camber or Not to Camber

Matt Sterbenz testing the 190cm Vital 100 Camber. Cascade Range, OR. Photo: Dave Reddick (@davidreddick)

“I’m picking up a Vital 100/Intention 110 in length X, but I can’t decide whether I should go for Camber or Reverse Camber. I typically ski X, but will be going on a trip to X this season. Do I want agility, edge hold, or stability the most? And can I really ski a Reverse Camber ski hard in firm snow?”

Have any of these questions crossed your mind?

We’ve been listening. The following is our in depth guide to the classic camber question…

Terms Defined

Camber - “camber” refers to the degree to which the ski’s base arcs away from the snowpack underfoot. If you hold two cambered skis base-to-base, you will see a small gap between the bases in the center of the ski. 

The Vital 100 Camber and Intention 110 Camber have gradually rockered tips and tails for floatation and 2-5mm of camber underfoot.  

The Vital 100 and Intention 110 Camber

Reverse Camber - “reverse camber” refers to skis without positive camber underfoot. If you hold two reverse camber skis together base-to-base, the bases will only touch underfoot, and gradually increase in distance from one another towards the tips and tails. 

The Reverse Camber Vital 100 and Intention 110 have rockered tips and tails, and a very gradual reverse camber profile underfoot to blend quick pivoting with edge hold underfoot.

The Vital 100 and Intention 110 Reverse Camber

On Honesty and Aspiration

Be honest with yourself and your goals for the season. Where are you typically going to be skiing? What descents are you hoping to tick off this season? Knowing your own needs is the first step in finding optimal equipment. Of course, this honesty goes both ways - we don’t want to hand you a ski that’s anything less than perfect. 

This guide is by no means exhaustive, but we believe it covers the vast majority of use cases for the Intention 110. And as always, if you have any questions for us, we’re always happy to chat

Inbounds or Out of Bounds

The first thing to consider as you select a ski profile is where you’ll most typically be skiing. 

All of our skis are designed as hard charging, stable, and dependable backcountry skis. That being said, there are many of us who plan on doing some mixture of skinning, lift-accessed backcountry, and resort laps on our setups, and that versatility is reflected in the design and testing of all of our skis.

Do you plan to occasionally ski the resort and trench groomers before venturing into backcountry terrain? In this case, you’ll be better served by the Camber version of the ski. The edge hold that a cambered ski provides will enable better carving on the groomed and skier-compacted  conditions you might find in a resort.

Or, is the Intention 110 your ticket to the route less traveled? For natural, yet diverse backcountry snow conditions, a Reverse Camber profile is going to be the way to go. Effortless pivoting through turns in deep and featured terrain will keep you centered and ready to attack your next turn without any edge hook or tip dive.

Terrain Choice and Snowpack

What kind of terrain do you primarily ski? Seeking out pillows to slash and bowls of fresh pow? Technical, high alpine couloirs? Big days hunting out spring corn? The Intention 110 is up for it, but base your camber profile on the terrain you prioritize. 

If you’re lucky enough to be in the pillow lines and pow camp, the float and agility of a Reverse Camber profile make it the obvious way to go.  But, Reverse Camber's benefits are not exclusive to those conditions, as it can also serve you well in any situation where quickly pivoting is essential. Laying the ski over into a turn or making micro-adjustments while setting up for an air has never been more intuitive.

During a recent high pressure spell, our local snowpack became both sun and wind affected. For these conditions, Pep reached for the Reverse Camber Vital 100 and utilized it to its fullest - navigating between obstacles and skiing artfully over variable snow surfaces. Wasatch Range, UT.  FOW: Pep Fujas // Photo: WNDR Alpine (@wndr_alpine)

If you’re more about checking off big, technical descents late into the season, the versatility and agility of a Reverse Camber ski will also support your objectives. This is especially true for missions where you can expect to be linking turns through unpredictable and variable snow in steep terrain. And for many of us, these conditions represent the majority of our ski tours. On a Reverse Camber ski, you’ll be able to engage the edges when you need to carve and speed check, but you’ll also be able to transition between turns with a greater degree of fluidity without fear of your tails hooking. 

One notable exception to this rule: ice and boilerplate. And to be clear - we’re not talking about Sierra cement, hardpack, or any other kind of firm but skiable snow here. We’re talking about surfaces where even the best tuned edges will struggle to find purchase. In these situations, you’ll be less concerned about linking beautiful turns together, and more focused on surviving. The additional edge contact provided by a cambered ski will allow you to stay in better control.

Another place where you’ll feel the benefits of a cambered ski is in more open terrain in the springtime. Meadows and big aprons with consistent snow can allow you to carve through corn like it’s a groomer. Load up the ski into a big GS turn, and feel it release out of every turn, propelling you forward.

Carving down the wide open flank of Mt. Jefferson, Wyatt Roscoe makes a great case for the Vital 100 Camber. Cascade Range, OR. Photo: Andy Cochrane (@andrewfitts)

Ski Width vs. Camber Profile

As spring approaches, many of us reach for a narrower ski to support bigger missions on firmer snow. How does the waist width of a ski affect how we think about profile?

The trend we see within the ski industry as a whole is that wider skis are more often favored in reverse camber for soft snow conditions, and narrower skis with camber are often favored for firm snow. If you’re taking a resort-focused approach to your skiing, this is a fair rule of thumb to follow. But in backcountry terrain and snowpack, this distinction gets more nuanced. 

With our narrower Vital 100, we most often find ourselves reaching for the Reverse Camber version if we’re doing pure touring in natural snowpack in the Wasatch. Edge hold is readily accessible on a 100mm waist width ski, and the Reverse Camber adds an extra dose of agility. We typically reserve the Camber version for 50/50 skiing or firm resort laps.

East vs. West

Another simple, easy way to dissect the classic camber question is to look at things from a geographical perspective. This is of course a blanket statement that makes some assumptions about terrain and conditions, but it’s always worth considering geography, and more specifically, the snowpack certain geographies typically yield. 

Are you skiing champagne in the Rockies, or maybe heavy, deep, maritime snowpack in the PNW? You’ll likely be skiing more compliant snow on average, and can get away with a wider, more soft snow-focused ski. Thus, you're a good candidate for a ski like the Reverse Camber Intention 110, though you should consider your terrain priorities, as noted above. 

Alternatively, the more time you spend shredding the “Iced Coast,” the more likely you are to enjoy a little camber underfoot. You’ll be skiing playfully through powder when it dumps, but will be well served by some increased edge hold on days when boot top powder leaves you edging on the bed surface.

In Closing

These thoughts are all just rules of thumb that don’t take personal preference or skiing style into account. As always, the better we know you, the better recommendation we can give. If you’re still undecided, we encourage you to use our Ski Finder for the most personalized recommendation possible!