Judging from the sales activity and number of people milling around every time we passed by their booth at the SIA Show—consisting of three long walls presenting a festive array of skis, poles, and accessories, with chrome-accented pub tables and stools scattered about the interior, with an impressive display of helmets extending halfway into the space—the K2 brand is as strong as ever. Having successfully transitioned beyond the radical decision to forgo the Racing/Technical market in favor of the Adventure/Recreation market, K2’s story for 2012 continues to be the rocker technology that’s in every pair of skis they make. What’s new about K2 in 2012 is that helmets will be taking on more of a defining role—prompting one of the receptionists at the K2 desk to say, “K2 is a helmet company now too. “
About the Rockers
There are five different types of rocker/camber designs in K2’s 2012 catalog. They all blend “the ease of rocker and the control of camber” in different proportions. All of the skis are designed to be 100% in contact with the snow when weighted in a turn. When they are resting on the snow, the proportion of the ski that is not contact with the snow (rocker) and that which is in contact with the snow (camber) is as follows:
All-Terrain Rocker, 30% rocker/70% camber
Speed Rocker, 10% rocker/90% camber
Catch-Free Rocker, 20% rocker/80% camber
Jib Rocker, 20% rocker/80% camber
Powder Rocker, 50% rocker/50% camber
About the Series
There are four Series in K2’s 2012 catalog.
All-Mountain: the A.M.P. and SuperModel Series are designed for on-piste skiing
Twin Tips: the Factory Team Series is designed for Resort and Backcountry skiing
Adventure: the Backside Series is designed for off-piste skiing
Youth: GROMS Series is designed for the resort playground
What’s New in Skis
New for 2012 is the Impact in the A.M.P. Series; all Supermodels are brand new; the Recoil and MissDirected are new Factory Series skis; and the Pon2oon, SideKick, SideShow, and BrightSide are new BackSide skis. All skis that come with system bindings (Markers) also are available without bindings.
The Impact (127/80/109) is an All-Terrain Rocker in lengths 153, 160, 167, 174 and a turn radius that is 16m at 174cm. This ski, which replaces the Shockwave, is basically a Rictor with a fiberglass torsion box instead of a metal laminate construction. This is a good choice for all levels of skier that want a lighter weight, high-energy ski, instead of the metal laminate feel, and has a great price point of $749 w/system bindings.
All the SuperModels have the BioFlex core, which is a fusion of lightweight, durable paulownia at the tip and tail and denser aspen underfoot to reduce the swingweight and make it more nimble. The Supermodels are 10-20% lighter than the T-9s , which have fir, spruce, and a strip of bamboo in their BioFlex core. They still have the MOD structure, which is a secondary core that helps control excessive vibration without affecting the way the main core works. It allows the ski to have better edge grip and stability without excessive weight, while still allowing the ski to be high energy and fun. The MOD is in all of the A.M.P. and SuperModel Series and the size of the MOD is determined by the performance level of the ski.
Charger, Aftershock, Rictor, Impact, Photon, Force, Stinger SuperStitious, SuperBurnin, SuperFree, SuperIfic, SuperSweet
SuperModels Superstitious, Super Burnin' and Super Free are all new constructions (compared to '10 Luv models) with new BioFlex cores and sidewall constructions. The midsole of SuperModel skis is 2cm forward relative to the standard midsole point for a men’s ski to account for the woman’s lower center of mass and to achieve “optimum position over the ski.” The Supermodels come in waist widths from 72 to 84mm.
MissDirected, the new women’s Factory Series ski, is a hybrid, with a Powder Rocker at the tip and the All-Terrain Rocker at the tail. It’s the widest of K2’s women’s skis with dimensions of 146/117/134 with the intended usage being 80% powder and 20% park riding. It comes in 159 and 169 lengths and has a 17m turn radius at 159 cm.
If the DNA of the Public Enemy and the Extreme were to combine, the result would be the Recoil. With dimensions 121/90/115 and the All-Terrain Rocker design, it’s both nimble turning and solid in all conditions. It’s intended for those who spend about half their time skiing the mountain and half in the park. It comes in 159, 164, 169, 174, and 179cm lengths with a 20m turn radius at 179cm with bi-directional taper. It can be purchased with Marker Griffon or Squire SchizoFrantic bindings or flat.
The Pon2oon owes its existence to Shane McConkey’s vision, starting with the Volant Spatula. It comes in three lengths with three sidecuts: 169 (155/130/120), 179 (157/132/122), and 189 (159/134/124). The ski features a redesigned Powder Rocker tip and progressive Powder tail—not a twin tip—so it pivots as nicely as past versions of the ski, but initiates and releases turns much easier. The turn radius at 179cm is a whopping 30m.
The Sidekick is the women’s version of the Sidestash with sidecut dimensions of 139/108/127 and a turn radius of 21m at 167cm. The main difference is the BioFlex core and the fact that it is a fiberglass ski rather than a metal laminate like the Sidestash. The All-Terrain Rocker makes the ski nimble and quick turning for tight spaces. The width underfoot is perfect for skiing big lines on deep powder days.
Also new for 2012 are the Sideshow (men's) and Bright Side (women’s) 90mm waist, metal laminate skis in the Backside collection. These "three-binding" skis will be wonderful for telemarking, randonee, and alpine skiing.
They've been making great ski poles for some time. New for 2012 is a new “dual injection” grip design that is a soft layer molded over a firm layer that gives the grips a comfortable, secure feel. The strap has also been re-engineered to be easier to adjust on the fly. The park and pipe poles are adjustable using a system that is the opposite of the standard adjustment system in that the upper shaft is of a smaller diameter than the lower shaft so the clamp mechanism is hidden below the grip when the pole is short. For Marker Schizo bindings, there’s a new pole with a tip that can be used to adjust the binding fore and aft to go from skiing park to piste. Last but not least is a new patent pending design that integrates a bubble vial inclinometer into the shaft/grip of the pole. The inclinometer comes on three pole models in the Backside collection. Just point the tip of the pole directly up the fall line and read the slope angle below the grip.
An eye-catcher is the Barber Pole, which both looks cool and backs it up with performance. A composite shaft with graphics cleverly integrated into the structure of the pole so they’ll never fade is topped with the dual injection grip and adjustable Velcro straps. This is destined to be a classic.
As I said in the beginning, K2 is a bona fide helmet company. Their line of helmets makes it look like it’s their only business. Doing all the heavy-lifting required of a helmet, these models look incredibly cool on the rack—and kind of cool on just about anyone! Even I, one of the biggest holdouts in the helmet debate mainly because I thought they looked dorky, am now wearing a K2 Rival helmet. I daresay K2 has taken the dorkiness out of helmets! My other objections to wearing a helmet have also been completely quieted by K2 with a fit and weight that make it virtually unnoticeable.
I know there are K2 purists who disagree with business decisions the company has made in its various iterations over the years, but I’ve stuck with them as an area rep since the early ‘80s when their athletes were racers like Phil and Steve Mahre and their skis were made in the USA. Today K2 is one of many companies in a giant conglomerate, the skis are made in China, and the focus is on the recreational skier, not racers. Shane McConkey shook up K2 and made it rocker. By adding rocker profiles to traditional shape skis, they built ease of initiation into every ski while maintaining edge control and stability. The outcome is a line of skis that a wide spectrum of recreational skiers will really enjoy.
All of which explains the busy-ness of the K2 booth at SIA.
Thanks to Wayne Eggum, K2 District Sales Rep, for taking the time to show me what's new with K2 during a hectic SIA Show.