To Camber or Not to Camber

Author: Xan Marshland, FOW

One of the most common questions we get at WNDR is whether to go with the Camber or Reverse Camber version of the Intention 110. Usually the email reads something like this: “I’m getting the Intention 110 in length X, but I can’t decide whether I should go for Camber or Reverse Camber. I ski X, but will be going on a trip to Y this winter. What ski should I get?”

Does this sound like you?

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

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 geometry is where you’ll most typically be skiing. 

The Intention 110 was designed as a hard charging backcountry ski. There are many of us who plan on doing some mixture of skinning, lift-accessed backcountry, even resort laps, and it’s been designed with this versatility in mind. 

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 as its edge hold by comparison is superior for firmer conditions at speed.

Or, is the Intention 110 your ticket to the route less traveled? For optimal performance in generally soft, yet diverse 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 

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 of a Reverse Camber profile is the way to go.  But, reverse camber benefits are not exclusive to those conditions, 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.

10 miles into our tour, we gained the ridge top of some of Tyler’s favorite terrain to ski in the Bridgers. The Northeast aspect had about 10-15cm of powder under breakable crust.  The Reverse Camber profile made skiing in these conditions fun. FOW: Tyler Miller // Photos: Carson Meyer (@carsonmeyerphoto)

Alternatively, if you’re more about big objectives and bagging technical ascents late into the season, the versatility of the Camber version is going to support those types of missions, as a cambered ski is going to be a good match for the firmer or more variable conditions where edge hold reigns supreme.

After about 5,000 vertical feet of skinning and bootpacking, we worked our way into a ~50° couloir in California’s Eastern Sierra. We skied a bit of firmer snow until we got into the couloir, which was full of perfect Spring corn. For this objective, the type of edge hold offered from a cambered ski was paramount.
FOW: Arden Feldman // Photo: Xan Marshland

East vs. West

Another simple, easy way to dissect the classic camber question is to look at things from a geographical perspective. Obviously, this is 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 more soft snow-focused ski. Thus, you are a good candidate for the Reverse Camber, though you should consider your terrain priorities, as noted above. 

Alternatively, if you’re shredding the “Iced Coast,” the Camber is very likely to be your friend. 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.

Logan Imlach

This guide wouldn’t be complete without a few words from Logan Imlach, the man behind the shape. Logan Imlach has a long history of ski design, having worked on a handful of highly acclaimed skis over the years. We sat down with Logan to pick his brain on ski geometry and what the Intention 110 is all about. 

Logan’s origin story

When I was 8 or 9 I told my Pops I wanted a bike jump and he showed me how to use the chop saw and screw gun and told me if I wanted a bike jump to build one, which is where engineering for me began. Ski design came more out of stubbornness than anything. I had built a hollow wooden surfboard and been exposed to some fiberglass work, which I always equated to rocket science (I discovered it wasn't). After being dropped by my ski sponsor due to a lack of available funding and not finding any other lucrative offers elsewhere, I decided "well f*ck all of you, I'll build my own skis." That kicked off the process of turning my small gravel floored garage into a small ski factory and just figuring it out. I ended up parlaying that experience into a position designing skis for Armada in Utah, and now am a Structural Engineer designing bridges back home in Alaska.

On the design process of the Intention 110

As a designer it all comes down to defining the user and intended (haha) use. Matt had a few rough parameters, a targeted "feel", and an environment defined and after that it was a freeflowing process back and forth about things like ski center location, sidecut center location, taper and so on and so forth. Overall, the goal of this ski was to appease backcountry/sidecountry skiers that ski mostly off-piste and to showcase the innovative materials that Checkerspot is producing. There is no aggressive sidecut or taper, though the sidecut center and turning radius variations and their interaction with the rocker were very intentional (I did it again!) for a ski that hooks up and turns when you drive it, but can also slarve. The weight of the ski comes in lower than your typical resort ski, but using the algal components we were able to provide a dampened ride without the negative effects of introducing metal to the ski and weighing it down.  

Camber vs. Reverse Camber

Skiing a reverse cambered ski on-piste takes a lot of energy, but the off-piste advantages far outweigh the negatives in my opinion. Reverse cambered skis get a bad rap because they feel very short and hard to control, but as long as you put effort into staying on edge and in control when you're on hardpack, it’s really tough to beat them in powder. They are really fun to carve too, as when you enter the turn the skis kind of fall into the turn and arc really nicely. All that being said, they aren't for everyone, and placing some camber underfoot with gentle rocker up front still leaves you with great off-piste performance combined with the stability on packed snow and skin tracks.

On ski preference and design

Skis are like golf clubs, there is nothing better than selecting the perfect one given the conditions or dusting off an old one you haven't used in a while. Over all the years of trying different skis I've found that you inherently adapt your skiing to match the skis that you're on, which is why so many people say that the ones on their feet are "the best they've ever had". That's the other fun and frustrating part about design: You're never going to please everyone, so it's important to celebrate the good feedback, inspect the negative feedback, and sieve out the constructive criticism that can help you improve your designs.

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