Level: High 8/Low 9, 28 years on skis, relaxed most of the time aggressive when I want to be
Mountain: Alta, UT
Terrain: High Traverse, Alf’s High Rustler, Greeley Bowl, Vail Ridge, Crooked Mile
Conditions: 12-18 inches of light fresh, cut-up, crud, big powder bumps, soft groomers
Demo Runs: 4 on each ski
Demo Center: Alta Sports, Albion Base
The Recon and Outlaw are two skis that I really have been wanting to demo. Sunday February 5th I got my chance at Alta in 12-18 inches of light fresh powder. I made four runs on each ski late in the afternoon after skiing all day on my trusty Axis X. I have included it in the review as a comparison. Major props go to the folks at Alta Sports. I have never been in this shop but stopped there on a whim to see if they had any K2s as the other on mountain demo shops do not carry them. The staff were very friendly, helpful, and willing to oblige and listen to a tourist talk shop like it was the first time they had heard any comments. The skis were all freshly tuned.
Axis X 181cm 107/70/97: This is a 2001-2002 model and my everyday ski for the past 5 seasons. I believe the newer Apache X will have the same feel and characteristics but will be a little quicker under foot, have better edge grip, and have a slightly tighter turning radius.
I love this ski. It is a true 50/50 off-piste vs. piste ski. It is fairly soft and damp but the only time I ever notice any slight chatter is when it’s pushed hard and breaks free on firm snow. The two areas where it does not shine are at the far end of the conditions’ spectrum: heavy deep and crusty snow off-piste and really hard snow on the groomed. The ski is perfect on those days when the entire mountain is packed out and it has not snowed for several days or more. I have always loved the bumps and used to ski them daily on 200cm SL skis. This ski is the best and most versatile ski for the bumps that I have ever been on. I have no problems skiing in light powder up to two feet on this ski at moderate speed. More than likely I will hit bottom so I’d say the ski has low floating ability but it will rise to the top at turn transition. Soft groomed snow is easily carved at moderately high speed at any shaped turn desired. Blasting through the crud and cut-up is easy but at higher speeds or heavier snow I do feel as if the ski is getting knocked around. The ski came with a factory tuned 1 degree side and base bevel. At the beginning of the season I went to a 2 degree side bevel, tip to tail, to put some East Coast edge bite in them and it seems to have worked a little on the late afternoon scraped off groomers at Deer Valley. I did not go to a three degree bevel as I did not want the ski to feel grabby off-piste. Besides, on really firm days I’ll break out the Atomic SL:9s which grip the ice nearly as well as my hockey skates. In very tough conditions off-piste, the ski can be a lot of work. I think the ski would be fine if I skied more often in those conditions. When I do find myself in the tough stuff, like the heavy mank skied Friday at the Gathering at Snowbasin, I find myself wanting a little more girth under foot. Overall, a great ski but I’m looking for something slightly wider and a little stiffer to add to the quiver for those really great or really bad off-piste days while out West.
Recon 181cm 119/78/105: I first jumped on this ski and took it up for a run off the Sunny Side lift of all places. Why? Because Vail Ridge was the only place left on the mountain that was open and held fresh tracks, at least what I knew about. I kept the speed up, dropped in under the lift, and found some nice relatively untouched lines. I would describe the ski’s float as moderate, which is what I am looking for in my next ski. The ski will allow those who are looking to ski in the snow as opposed to on top of it the ability to do so. The ski turned very well and made nice short radius turns. I then cruised down the rather flat crooked mile to see what it could do on groomers. Placing it on edge was very easy but doing so is a little slower than my Axis X. Also, this ski seemed to like medium to longer radius turns while carving. While driving it hard I felt like I could crank out shorter radius turns with ease. The ski had a very similar feel to the Axis X and I believe the turning radiuses are the same, or very close, but it did seem a little snappier and definitely stiffer. Still, it’s your typical damp K2. It did feel heavier but I suspect the Salomon demo bindings have more to do with that than the added metal sheets. Skating with this ski along the transfer tow was easy but felt heavy, again, likely do to the demo bindings. Tackling the High Traverse on these skis was easy. The ski seemed to suck up all the bumps and stay in contact with the snow at all times due to its dampness. I must add that the High T was the best I have ever seen it but it was still rutted enough in spots to give problems to some. Making turns in the big powder bumps, skiing the fall line, and arcing some medium turns through the cut-up on High Rustler was a blast. I felt very comfortable on this ski even though it was only my second run on them. It’s not as quick in the bumps as the Axis X but it is pretty close. In really firm and rutted bumps I would still prefer the X. Hitting the cut-up and crud at moderate to moderately fast speeds in Greeley Bowl can best be described as confidence inspiring. This ski blasts through crud and I never felt like it was getting knocked around. Straight-line ripper it probably is not but big fast arcs are not a problem. I suspect that this ski will perform much better than my Axis X in the deep heavy and crusty snow. I skied with Nolo’s husband on Friday at Snowbasin and he handled the heavy and set-up snow with ease on this ski. Although, I suspect that had much more to do with his excellent skills. This is a great ski and may very likely be my next purchase. I would best describe the ski as a 75/25 off-piste vs. piste everyday West Coast ski.
Outlaw 181cm 124/88/111: I skied the same terrain on this ski but hit High Boy up first, Greeley, and then Vail Ridge. Riding out on the High T, the skis felt very similar to the Recon. Skiing the big bumps the skis felt much slower getting around and the tails felt like they were a little in the way. I believe a 174cm would help in this area. Still, a very capable ski for that late afternoon’s conditions. The cut-up and crud in Greeley were plowed through with ease at much higher speeds than I am comfortable with on my Axis X. This ski is a tank! Big and burly. It is pretty stiff but, like the other K2s, uses Mod Technology that ends up absorbing much of the pop and return energy when transitioning out of a turn. I found the ski had more float in the powder than the Recon as I never seemed to be hitting bottom. Probably even more than my old first generation Volant Chubbs, 110/90/100. Because of that, it can make short radius turns as easily as long turns in the deep stuff. On the groomed the ski performs like a tank as well. Yes, it is very capable of carving but it is slow edge to edge and likes longer radius turns. This ski would be a great ski for those who like to rip out a few powder turns up top, straight-line bomb the crud in the middle, and mach past the tourists on the groomers at the bottom while doing laps. Or, perfect for those of us who want to keep up with our local friends on a powder day. I would think this ski would really shine in the deep fluff over two feet, and very difficult heavy off-piste conditions. I skied with Steve, a friend of Ben Lomond, over in the John Paul area of Snowbasin on Friday and he absolutely ripped up the mank that was mostly found while on a pair of Outlaws. Again, I suspect it had more to do with his excellent skills than the ski. If I lived out West, skied deep and/or heavy snow, and liked to straight-line my way to the lift line on a regular basis, I would strongly consider this ski in a 181. The 174 will probably offer a little more versatility in the bumps and trees or for those inclined to make short radius turns and lighter skiers. I would best describe this ski as a 90/10 off-piste vs. piste ski and it would definitely be a quiver ski brought out when the conditions warranted.
It was a great trip to Utah with good company and fantastic conditions. I’m glad I had the opportunity to try out some skis that I have heard a lot about at the place I love the most. I have always been a big fan of K2 and their all mountain philosophy. I know many do not care for them but I like the way their damp skis feel and perform while skiing off-piste. I’ll save the really stiff and lively boards for the groomers.