When K2 waltzed into the boot market eight years ago, part of the story heralding its arrival was that its team required only 18 months to create a better boot line. There was a whiff of hubris to the claim, as if the marketing juggernaut was predestined to seize a sizable share of the arguably already over-served boot market.
K2 soon learned that no matter how attractive a marketing package it presented – the launch was accompanied by a whimsical ad campaign, a pledge of no Internet sales, and an appealing product story about its new shells and not-quite-as new liners – if you consistently lose the point-of-sale cage match against a competitor’s product, your success is going to be more limited than your expectations. In other words, what really matters happens in the first ten seconds of skier/boot contact.
K2 proved it got the message when it debuted its BFC collection of 4-buckle models that put an unabashed premium on first fit impressions. Its flexible shell and cushy liner allowed for “hands-free” entry and exit, without the writhing and acrobatics associated with high performance boots. The BFC’s won the instant-comfort face-off and sales ensued.
The lessons learned about positive first impressions carried over into the development of K2’s next performance series, Recon, and its feminized companion, née Luv, since rechristened as Anthem. While Recon and Anthem were in development, two other market forces commanded K2’s attention: the global trend to lighter weight, and the ski-market-specific demand for heat customization of both liner and shell at the time of sale.
The key to the Recon/Anthem “resort” series and the Mindbender Alpine/BC hybrids lies in the Powerlite shell’s material and how it’s molded. Four different densities of TPU (all PU used in ski boots is thermoplastic, but never mind) form shell walls of varying thicknesses, opting for thinner/lighter wherever possible. At only 1650g in a 26.5 Recon 130, the Powerlite construction is in the welterweight class of backcountry boots but it also works for the all-terrain, in-resort skier.
As it’s made from TPU, the Powerlite shell is eminently heat-moldable except in its most rigid zones in the spine and sole. The Ultralon liners are meant to be molded, but don’t need to be in order to impart an initial sensation of “ahhh” instead of “ow”.
K2 teamed with Thermic to create the heated Recon 120 Heat, the Anthem 100 MV Heat, BFC 100 Heat and BFC W 90 Heat. For folks with chronically cold feet, having the heat option integrated into the boot design improves ease of operation and eliminates the pain of installation.
The Mindbenders are the extension of the Recon concept into the white-hot backcountry genre. The Powerlite chassis assures that the Mindbenders will be as light as chiffon, with a hike mode that delivers 50 degrees range of motion for climbing. All the MB’s – 3 for men, 2 for women – come with GripWalk soles pre-installed. The Mindbender 130 and 120 use a low-volume last (98mm), while the MB 100 uses a generous, medium (100mm) last.
New for the 2021 season are two new standard-bearers for the brand, the Recon Pro for men and Anthem Pro for women. The Recon Pro boasts a burly 140 flex index, and while one can argue whether the Recon Pro is a “true” race boot, it’s definitely a cut above the rest of the Recon clan. Similarly, the Anthem Pro sports a 120 flex, on par with the stiffest boots made for recreational women and the firmest flex in K2’s female fit firmament.