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.