K2 once reigned over the US market for so long its leadership practically became a cliché. The keys to its sustained success were manifold, but from a product standpoint it’s not hard to summarize: K2’s are easy to ski. Regardless of your skill level, your terrain preferences or your gender, there’s a K2 for you and chances are you’ll love it. Given K2’s longstanding preeminence, just about every American with 20 years on the snow has owned a K2 at some point, creating a groundswell of skier-to-skier endorsements that has kept the K2 ball rolling even when, on occasion, it’s been deflated.
It’s been roughly a year since the investment group Kohlberg & Company acquired K2 (along with a fistful of other ski brands). That’s too short a time period to measure the impact of new ownership on R&D, as whatever materializes this year by necessity was set in motion months ago. Aside from adopting some new naming conventions and the obligatory new graphics, K2’s unisex ski collection barely budged, with a new (all wood) core in the Pinnacle 88 Ti the sole nouveauté.
The women’s market has always been vitally important to K2 – 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the K2 Alliance – so the profusion of new women’s models compared to men’s feels less out of whack and more like standard operating procedure. All of K2’s 2019 women’s skis are beneficiaries of BIOkonic technology, which factors in sidecut, flex pattern and mass/material distribution to match a woman’s requirements for balance. This results in a more forward mounting position relative to a unisex ski, but harmonized with the other design BIOkonic specs. Maintaining BIOkonic equilibrium across all sizes means that shorter lengths won’t stiffen as they shrink.
All the myriad new Luv skis for 2019 (see details below) are independent BIOkonic babes, made in their own molds without a men’s model to support them. The reason the new Frontside Luv family is so extensive is it covers the gamut of price points and skier types. The returning off-trail Luv collection is more focused and less women-specific, adopting unisex tooling for the four-model family.
It’s impossible to invest in all categories at once, and K2 made a capital-intensive push forward in the boot market this year. The splurge on women’s models should help shore up a franchise category. The bulk of the unisex collection was spruced up only a year ago, so it’s not as if the brand has hit the Pause button. But new ownership naturally engenders a sense of expectation, and when the brand involved is one of our industry’s most iconic, the interest level is penthouse high.