K2 Skis burst onto the scene in 1962, gaining notoriety for their innovative use of fiberglass construction. Their skis were lighter, more responsive, and livelier than the competition. In 1968, K2 became the first American Ski Company to have a First Place finish in Giant Slalom at a World Cup Race. Since then, the K2 name has been synonymous with creativity, cutting edge technology, and performance. This tradition is exemplified by the skis offered in the 2014 line.
The park, all mountain, backcountry, and big mountain freeride genres are reaping the benefits of the progressive K2 design. “Rocker” is an industry term that has become the most talked about “buzz” topic in the last few seasons. This has spawned a sensational and misguided concept of rockered skis. Todays skier is most concerned with the rocker profile of the ski yet is very misinformed or under-informed. In 2014, K2 offers three different rocker types that feed performance and enjoyment rather than sensationalism and “pop” concepts.
This even 50/50 split of rocker and traditional camber is featured in K2’s big boy, big day, big line powder planks. The tip of the ski has the most rise of the three rocker types as well as the longest rocker from the toe piece of the binding to the nose of the ski. This allows the thick waisted skis the utmost flotation. Traditional camber underfoot provides confident edge hold on groomers and variable snow. More notably, in powder as the stiffer waist sinks it drives the tip and tail rocker to an extreme flex, much like when an archer pulls back on his bow. This provides a surfy ski experience in the turn initiation as well as great pop, rebound, and spring into the next turn. Powder Rocker yields some of the most rewarding powder turning experiences. It is easy, forgiving, and responsive. The ski almost switches to auto pilot. In powder, where these skis were born to live; wide smiles, barbaric yulps, and deep snow performance awaits.
A longer section of traditional camber runs underfoot and the tip rise is reduced. 30% rocker in the tip transitions smoothly to 70% camber from the forebody to the heal of the ski. These skis have a smaller waist than powder specific skis. However, this does not make them any less of a performer. Rather, skis in which All-Terrain Rocker is featured have arguably the widest range of performance. The geometry of the profile makes them a full quiver ski; a jack of all trades. The reduction of waist and elongated camber section allow for more edge control on groomers and in variable crud. The rocker in the tip still provides for flotation. The heal through the waist sink in deep snow while the tip is flexed toward the surface. Rather than skiing in the backseat to drive the tips up, the skier is able to stand confidently over their boots and aggressively attack turns. The dynamics of the plane drive the ski at speed. It feels as if the skis are undulating or porpoising. On the groomer the All-Terrain Rocker provides a forgiving ski experience. Skiers can suck bumps up, roll the ski over on edge easier, and drive through the turn. These skis have extreme all mountain versatility. Skis featuring All-Terrain Rocker are meant to explore the entire mountain in any snow condition. They can honestly do it all.
The most subdued profile of the three types, 20% tip and tail rocker transitions into an 80% flat contact with the snow. This profile gives unmatched park and slopestyle performance. The slight flare of tip and tail in combination with zero camber through the majority of the ski provide the freestyle skier with extremely easy ollie ability. With just the right amount of rocker in the tip and tail, presses can be held longer and more confidently. The flat contact sits neatly on the snow and maintains a predictable pop and solid edge hold. Surface switch ups and set ups for booters are effortless. Skis that feature Jib Rocker are playful, stomp-able, and lively. Park and slopestyle performance is maintained through rigorous repetition. Jib Rocker delivers the same response and drive every time. Predictable entry, performance during, and confident exit from tricky riding can be expected. Simply put, Jib Rocker makes park/slopestyle skis extremely fun.
Not just the profile but the entirety of the ski shape has been readdressed in 2014. K2 has divided their freeride skis into two categories: Directional and Bi-Directional. Directional Freeride skis, like the Annex Series, are hard charging fall line crushers. The nose of the Directional ski is wider than the heal. These skis can ski switch but the shape of the turn will not be the same as a turn facing forward. Bi-Directional Freeride skis, like the Shreditor series, are a playful and slarvy ski. The tip is only the slightest bit wider than the tail, allowing for a symmetric turn shape in the forward and switch positions. The Tapered Tip and Tail design lends the ski predictability and reduces deflection. The rocker is less extreme and the widest points of contact have been gently and gradually drawn back resulting in a smooth line from boot to end points. Powder Tip is a similar feature. This tech point is highlighted in the big boards and combines with the tip and tail taper to smooth the transition into the sidecut of the ski. The Progressive Sidecut of the 2014 K2 skis allows for varied turn shapes and maneuverability. By engineering the wider skis with multiple radii they feel like a narrower ski while on hardpack and become livelier in deep snow. K2 has calmed the geometry of the ski. Smoother lines equal smoother lines. The expanse of versatility in K2 skis is as endless as the creativity of the rider. Limitations are therefore practically nonexistent.
To ensure the bounty of versatility the innards of 2014 K2 skis have been doctored to walk the line between playfulness and performance. The Core differs from ski to ski but is made up of combinations of Aspen, Paulownia, Fir, and Maple. All four are lightweight and lively woods while simultaneously being rather strong. Using different combinations allows the ski to be built for specific use; drawing on the depth of flavor and character from each wood. The finest points from each are utilized to target flex, drive, and rebound. K2 then wraps the core in a Triaxial Braid, which is a patented process of weaving a pattern of fiberglass around the core. This allows the wood to speak yet maintains torsional integrity. The playfulness/”poppiness” of the wood works in concert with the rigidity of the weave. The ski is then as lively as it is torsionally stiff. A beautiful combination that allows for an energetic and powerful ski experience. Expert skis in which the Metal Laminate, interspersing layers of fiberglass and titanal sandwiched around the core, is used have a stiff integrity as well as being very damp or having low vibrations. Carbon Web is featured in K2’s backcountry specific skis, like the Coomback and the Backdrop. In order to give these skis the same lively performance with confident torsional stiffness but an extremely low weight, carbon strands are woven and attached to the core at specific angles. This allows the ski to be extremely light, which is paramount for touring, without disregarding its downhill performance. The vast amount of technical refinement in the skis is a campaign of enjoyment. The internal mechanics drive the soul of the ski and enrich the soul of the skier.
The readdressed technology in this season’s line is an odyssey of the skiing spirit. A reinforcement of the stoke. K2 has been an industry leader since the production of their first ski. Their tradition of excellence in performance and creativity is in full bounty this season. Nothing can whet the appetite of a ravenous powder hound except for that which is endlessly sought. Ski films, articles, last seasons pictures can stave off the incessant desire but only for so long. That day comes when the beast must be let out to rip mountain crumbling slashes and send powder clouds into his face. The monster must be fed. In 2014, K2 has the tools to get the goods and perform. Whether pure powder, all mountain versatility, or park trickery; the 2014 K2 Ski line is a refined set. Cutting edge technology. Cutting edge performance. Pure enjoyment.
By: Paddy O’Connell