MTT, Phil and Greg,
(discussing the role of K2 four and the first relevant shaped skis):
Guys, generally I fully agree with about 99% of what Phil and Greg post. The remainig 1% probably concers some of what has been said here.
I don´t want to defame the K2 fours. They were great skis at their time and their impact in America was probably as big as you describe. It is also possible that they were the very first to attract and persuade serious American skiers.
Otoh, they were dimension-wise no revolution. There were a lof of more radically shaped skis then and their 98-65-88 were not so far from some most advanced GS skis used or tested (fact is, as we know, that those dimensions are about the GS standard nowadays mostly thanks to FIS).
As early as in a February 1997 WC race I rode the chair with Debby Compagnoni´s serviceman hauling her "Test 3" Dynastars GS. I promptly produced my tape measure I had in my pocket and measured the ski which clearly had more sidecut: 97 mm the tip.
The K2 fours were NOT breakthrough skis in Europe and I doubt the same for "the rest of the world". They were remarkable for the bulb which was a clever idea with a strong marketing impact and for the perfect story behind the piezzo-electric dampening (military technology used in most advanced aircraft) but they were nothing special in terms of shape or performance.
(I have very precise memories. First, I skied even the original K2 fours in the early 70s, and second, I wrote an introductory Czech PR article about them titled "The American Legend", so I had collected material and had even spoken to some Japanese university expert on vibration management who had some contract with K2 back then.)
America has a different ski culture and different skiing preferences. In Europe, a limited but fairly strong and influential "hypercarving faction" appeared in the mid-90s. 1995 the first four companies introduced their shaped skis and 1996 all of them jumped onto the bandwaggon. The "hypercarvers" called "funcarvers" had their climax between 1997 and 1999. Most manufacturers had such skis with radii as small as 9 meters in short lengths and the dimensions of the most radical ones were practically identical with today´s radical SL skis.
Sure, the funcarvers were no race skis but some of them served as "field studies" and they made fast and smooth introduction of later SL skis (Salomon offered the first two 3V race models in September 1998, at least in Europe) possible. An example: Rossi PAC Oversize, a funcarver with about 115-64-104, became the first radical Rossi 9S slalom.
You are right with the Elans 110-62-110. There were Kneissl Ergo GX with similar dimensions as early as 1996 (I think).
1997: very radical Kastle XTZ Pro, the first Heads Cyber Space, the legendary Atomic Betacarv 9:11, or Salomons Axecleaver (108-68-98/11 m/152 cm. (Not to speak about the Elans and Kneissls from 1992.)
Btw, there was the first experimental race-oriented Kneissl Ergo with about 100-66-something as early as 1992...
The funcarvers were no race skis but they had a lot of performance. I know about experiments with retail shaped skis in races even before Bode took the K2 fours in your Junior Olympics.
Bode´s memorable use of K2 might have been sort of breakthrough in America but the importance of the feat was limited. The shaped ski revolution including alpine racing was in progress anyway and there were young racers using more shaped skis in other countries as well. Bode as a no-name young skier back then did not have the image and power to become a real trendsetter worldwide.
You may not like me for saying that but it´s the reality based not on fading memories but on facts, test reports and catalogs.