Overview

K2 once reigned over the US market for so long, its sales 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 have always been 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 several years since the investment group Kohlberg & Company acquired K2 (along with a fistful of other ski brands).  It’s impossible to effect much change in year one, so it was no surprise the ski collection didn’t move much in 2019. But while the Pinnacle design limped to the finish line two years ago, R&D was preparing a sweeping overhaul of K2’s men’s and women’s core collections.  The limited quantity of the new Mindbender series available in the spring of 2019 were snapped up by eager consumers, auguring well for a brand rebound.

The women’s market has always been vitally important to K2 – 2019 marked the 20th anniversary of the K2 Alliance – and the current collection shows admirable gender balance.  For every unisex Mindbender, there’s a Mindbender Alliance model to match.  The ladder of women’s Mindbenders extends from the Mindbender Alliance 85, pitched to the intermediate market, all the way to the Mindbender 115C Alliance, one of the fattest made-for-women models you can find. All but the lowest price point models use women’s specific cores and tooling.

The ski line overhaul that began with the Mindbenders continued in 2021 with an all-new Technical/Frontside series dubbed Disruption and the return of a twin-tipped collection named Reckoner. The headliners of the Disruption series are 5 Technical models – an arena where K2 has been all but invisible – 3 for men and 2 Alliance models for women. The signature technology for the Titanal models is a tip-to-tail band called Ti I-Beam; full length carbon stringers energize the non-Ti Disruptions. Completing the Disruption field are 5 unisex Frontside models serving the full spectrum of skiers who inhabit groomed terrain.

Twintips have always found a home in the K2 collection, but they haven’t had a family to call their own since the Shreditors. Enter the 2021 Reckoners, playful, carbon-powered twins in 102mm, 112mm and 122mm waist widths.  If the mountain looks like a series of linked launch pads to you, the Reckoners are ready to send you into orbit.

The 2022 Season

To all appearances, such as digital catalogs and price sheets, the only new kids on the K2 block are a distinctly ill-matched threesome, the Reckoner 92 and Reckoner 92 Alliance, twin-tip pipe, park and pow models in a slimmed-down silhouette meant to sell at $299, and a new flagship for the Disruption series, the Disruption Ti2, with an MSRP of $1,300.

But beneath this placid exterior, K2 has been stirring the design pot. There are at least three new models in the wings, if by “in the wings” one means, “available on-line.”  When Jonny Moseley skied with the Peter Glenn crew at Squaw last spring, he was sporting a pair of new, olive-green Mindbenders, so I know they’re not a mirage.

Of course, I can’t say what K2 has in mind, but a Disruption Ti2 USA originally priced online at $1,749 – I kid you not – and now mercifully discounted down to $1,224.30, seems at best optimistic for a brand that doesn’t make a single race ski and hasn’t for over a decade.  My guess is that K2 would love its Advanced Resource Collective – the cited source of the latest Mindbenders and Disruptions – to evolve into an e-commerce platform to serve our sport’s more gilded participants. K2 has already signaled that it won’t share the spoils of its online sales with its specialty retailers, which suggests which direction the only important American brand feels the market is heading.

Disruption MTi

Not only is the Disruption MTi a graceful carver, its slightly softer edge gives it a forgiving quality that’s a K2 hallmark. The main reason the Disruption MTi feels different on edge from, say, an e-Magnum, is because its Ti I-Beam metal laminate is only as wide as the thinnest section of the ski. As the ski widens at tip and tail, a gap grows between the Ti sheet and the edge. This allows the …READ MORE

Disruption MTi Alliance

K2 has always had a strong presence in the Women’s Frontside field, a tradition it’s reasserting with the Disruption Alliance series it inaugurated last year. The Disruption MTi Alliance uses the same trifecta of key features – Dark Matter Damping, Ti I-Beam and Powerwall – as the unisex Disruption MTi, in a modified flex, shape and size range. This year, there are five new Disruption Alliance models, taking over all duties in the Frontside genre …READ MORE

Disruption 78 Ti

As befits the brand that made “rocker” an enduring entry in the ski design lexicon, K2 hasn’t paid much attention to the ski market below an 80mm waist width – where cambered baselines still dwell – since the brand lost interest in racing around the turn of the millennium. In 20/21, K2 error corrected with a vengeance by launching the 10-model Disruption series of carving skis. As is often the case in the world ski …READ MORE

Disruption 82 Ti

K2 has always placed Forgiveness at or near the top of its hierarchy of desirable ski qualities. True to this heritage, the Disruption 82 Ti earned its highest marks for Forgiveness/Ease, which helped make it one of the few Finesse skis in a horde of Power-crazed carvers. The most obvious reason why the Disruption 82 Ti comes across as easier to ski is its width; at 82mm underfoot, and with a less radical sidecut than …READ MORE

Mindbender 88Ti Alliance

Big mountain competitor and coach Emma Whiteland was part of the K2 Alliance test team throughout the Mindbender 88Ti Alliance’s development. Here’s a digest of her report on helping create the single ski that can handle whatever is thrown in its path. “Titanal Y-Beam construction evolved through the process of developing the desired weight and stiffness for the women’s 88Ti. Titanal is laid over the ski in a ‘Y’ shape creating the flex profile, producing …READ MORE

Mindbender 90 Ti

K2 completely changed every core model in its 19/20 line, without straying one centimeter from its core values. True, the Mindbenders were built differently than the Pinnacles that preceded them, using all wood cores in their Ti incarnations (saying ta-ta to Nano-tech), and more Titanal in the tail section to increase rear support compared to the passé Pinnacles. Even though the Mindbender Ti series, of which the 90 Ti is the narrowest, aims for a …READ MORE

Mindbender 90C Alliance

K2’s Mindbender series manages to cover all of its bases with just two principal constructions, Ti Y-Beam and Spectral Braid. Substituting the cross-hatched fibers of Spectral Braid for a sculpted sheet of Titanal saves both weight and money, bringing the MB 90C Alliance price down to an economical $499. The Mindbender 90C Alliance probably isn’t the right choice for all experts, but for someone whose off-trail skill set is still in its formative stages, it’s …READ MORE

Mindbender 98Ti Alliance

Last season, K2 athlete McKenna Peterson shared this glimpse behind the ski development curtain at K2: The creation of the Mindbender line was an opportunity for K2 to completely revamp its women’s freeride skis. We started with a conference call between K2 engineers, product managers, K2’s female athletes and K2’s women’s test team. We each stated what our ‘ideal’ line of skis would look like and the engineers started innovating. Throughout that winter, the women’s …READ MORE

Mindbender 99 Ti

The personality profile of the Mindbender 99 Ti can be traced directly to the Ti Y-Beam, its principal structural component. As if often the case, Titanal laminates have such a profound effect on torsional rigidity and vibration damping that both its presence and its absence are palpably evident. In the Mindbender 99 Ti, wherever the Ti goes, Power properties follow; where it’s excised, Finesse facility blooms in its absence. The forward prongs of the Y-Beam …READ MORE

Mindbender 106C Alliance

The Mindbender 106C Alliance ties together several strands of K2’s DNA. One strand is K2’s pioneering history of women’s models; since K2 introduced its first women’s ski, I dare say they’ve marketed more women’s models than any other brand. Another spiral of its genetic make-up is K2’s early adoption of rocker, giving it a wealth of experience in mastering flotation and ease of operation in deep snow. The baseline of the Mindbender 106C uses a …READ MORE

Mindbender 108Ti

The entire Big Mountain genre owes K2 a debt of gratitude for championing the concept of rocker with such fervor that it was soon adopted as an essential design element for any ski over 100mm underfoot. As an early adopter of double-rockered baselines, K2 has a lot of institutional expertise at making a very wide ski that’s very easy to steer. The Mindbender 108 Ti continues this tradition of simplifying off-trail skiing with just the …READ MORE

Reckoner 102

One of my favorite bump skis that wasn’t intended to be a bump ski was the K2 Shreditor 102 (circa 2015). Of course, it couldn’t be as quick a real mogul ski edge to edge, so it did most of its navigation by slarving through the troughs and slinking around the lumpy bits. The new Reckoner 102 is in several respects the same ski, albeit embellished in ways its ancestor was not. The similarities are …READ MORE