The big news from K2 is the new line of rivetless boots for men and women that will be available this fall. At the Ski Industries of America (SIA) Show in Denver the other day, we interviewed the head of product development for K2, Aaron Ambuske, to learn more about them. K2 decided to get into ski boots because it's one of the biggest components in the ski equipment system, but they didn't want to just do a boot. Their goal was to start from scratch and design an all mountain ski boot that would integrate better with modern ski designs, which require a more upright stance than traditional cambered skis, and that would address the problem of turbulence in ungroomed conditions, where these skis are designed to be used.
The men's series is called the Spyne and the women's is called the Spyre. There's also a unisex AT/Freeride boot called the Pinnacle, all using the same innovative technology that incorporates three proprietary features: the energy interlock, the powerfuse spyne, and the Fitlogix liner. You can see through the shells to the graphics on the liner underneath, so a person could actually put together a completely matching outfit -- boots, skis, poles, bindings, helmet, goggles, clothing. Though Ambuske said this was not the designer's intent, it brings new meaning to integrating your equipment.
Here's a photo of the back of the Spyne 130 boot, highlighting the trademarked Energy Interlock and Powerfuse Spyne.
The spine of the boot has no rivets attaching the cuff to the shell. Instead, the Energy Interlock holds the cuff to the shell in the same manner as my fingers hook together in the photo to the right. This design allows the boot to flex fore and aft without any metal pieces interrupting the smooth movement of entirely plastic materials.
The Powerfuse Spyne, the black y-shaped dealio on the rear of the boot, is of a co-injected material that adds strength and power to the Energy Interlock by increasing lateral stability for better performance and optimizing fore-aft flex for maximum responsiveness in all mountain conditions. This completely new technology creates a boot that flexes fore/aft efficiently and smoothly and is quite stiff laterally. Additionally, the Spyne design made it possible to use materials that can store energy rather than transmitting it, making skiing in rough terrain far less disruptive and unpleasant. The design also made it possible to use a softer shell material making the boots easier to get on and off, especially on colder days.
FitLogix liners come in three styles and lasts to customize the fit of the boots, and are completely moldable. The design is proprietary to K2 and uses Intuition lowers to customize the fit with a traditional foam upper that is reinforced with a Power Collar made of a composite material that adds stiffness and power. The tongue, which is also moldable, has an asymmetrical design to accommodate the contours of the leg and increase comfort.
The boots all have their specifications on the shell so one can readily see that this boot, for example, is 130 flex in a 97 last.
The soles of the boots can be removed for canting and can be replaced when they get worn, which increases the lifetime of the boots. The Power Wedge shim can be removed, taking the forward lean from 14 degrees down to 12 degrees for those who prefer a more upright stance. The boot shaft can be adjusted outward or inward to match the legs and you can take the boot apart by removing these rivets, if the need arises.
At the show I ran into my friend Keith Dustrud from Missoula, who is the buyer for the Bob Ward's Sporting Goods chain and a PSIA Level III instructor. I asked Keith what he thought of the new boot design and he said, "I think it works: the boot really does flex without hitting a wall." Keith is a big guy and a powerful skier, so that's solid information.
K2 calls the new Freeride Pinnacle Series its "Game Changer Boot" because of the Energy Interlock system, which enables the boot to be a comfortable walking boot when the Energy Interlock is disengaged without sacrificing any of its performance when going downhill, because the system is fully functional when engaged. This nicely solves the performance/comfort dichotomy that has affected the AT boot since its inception.
The following photo shows the walk mechanism on the Pinnacle 130 boot, which incidentally won the 2013 ISPO award for best in its class. There's also a Pinnacle 110 for the smaller skier (e.g., women).
Walk mode is not exclusive to K2's Freeride boots. Walking can be challenging for recreational resort skiers too, so K2 has built boots with this feature for them also. Below is a photo showing the walk mechanism on one of the women's recreational models that also showcases the nifty see-through shell with a patterned liner.
Here is an in-depth interview with Mike Hattrup and Michael Rosen of K2 about the K2 boot conducted at the SIA Show by Philpug and filmed by Trekchick.
Edited by nolo - 2/12/13 at 3:33pm