K2 Apache Coomba (not the current Coomback)
181 cm long by 135-102-121mm
The Coombas fit right in with K2's Apache series of skis: damp, stiff under foot, with a soft tip and tail.
In both soft and hard snow they feel remarkably like, for example, Apache Recons (78mm under foot), to wit, on hard snow they feel like short, stout planks under foot, with a lot of edge grip. Sorta like crampons. But the soft tip and tail make them easy to turn in soft snow. You can flip Coombas around quickly at any moment. They are quick and forgiving-- good for getting out of tough situations.
Coombas are light for their size and seem to have no metal save the edges. The tip is tall, good for keeping you on the surface of deep snow, but will make the ski jump more when hitting lumps and chopped-up snow.
Turns don't initiate easily on hard snow-- it takes a lot of effort to put them up on edge. On the plus side, the they are stiff enough to feel fine at higher speeds.
Wide, terrifically forgiving, nimble in soft snow and tenacious on hard snow-- what's not to like?
Well I'm not so crazy about how the turns feel on medium and firm snow. Here's the explanation: I like to steer my turns by only tipping the ski on edge. No unweighting, no sliding, no swinging skis around (I don't mean to imply that I'm always able to ski this way in all situations). Some skis are better than others at making this kind of smooth, carved, round turn, hard snow or soft. Yes, the Apache series skis can make quick or wide turns, but they don't have that precise, smooth, power-steering kind of feel in the turns, and it seems to be because of the uneven flex, for all of its other benefits.
Head Joe (actually, last year's Supermojo 105, known this year as the Joe)
181cm long by 130-104-121mm
Joes have an even, soft flex, good edge grip, are damp and quite nimble.
On hard snow they carve almost like a soft slalom ski if you ignore having to make more effort to put them up on edge. Oddly, they're easier to get up on edge than the Coombas which are the same width. Roll the knees and the you get smooth, round short radius turns. But being soft, they don't feel as secure at higher speeds as the Coombas, although their dampness keeps them fairly calm at higher speeds.
On both hard and soft snow, you feel the whole length of the ski engaging the snow, unlike the Coombas where all the bite on hard snow is in the center portion.
In soft snow Joes turn quickly and easily, but one can't flip them around so easily as the Coombas. Having an even, round flex, Joes like to be 'steered' more than Coombas. A 'steered turn', as I call it, is a round, carved turn, even when in soft snow. The middle of the ski follows in the channel made by the tip, and the tail follows the middle through that channel. A ski that likes to turn this way I call 'snaky'-- it's good for making serpentine turns. And it is one of the traits I love about Head Monsters and Peaks, too.
Steered turns feel terrific, but one has to ski more precisely and smoothly to keep in control. So the Joes are a little more demanding than Coombas, but if you're on your game, the reward is being able to make faster, smoother turns in all but the toughest snow.
Joes are also light and without metal. Their tips are low. And the tails match the tips, which I regret, since I don't ski switch.
They're too wide to be considered an all-mountain ski, but their good edge grip and easy turn initiation makes them close to one.