Mindbender 89 Ti

Of all the new 2023 skis that are upgrades to existing models, none took a greater leap up in all key averages – Total Score, Power and Finesse – than K2’s Mindbender 89Ti and 99Ti. In the case of the Mindbender 89Ti vis-à-vis the Mindbender 90Ti that it supplants, the new ski blows the doors off its forebear no matter how you slice it. The retiring 90Ti languished near the bottom of our rankings last year; the new iteration ranks near the top, a strong indication that things have improved underfoot.

As indeed they have, for the Titanal Y-Beam that provides the backbone for the 89Ti’s design has been significantly reconfigured. The metal laminate is still shaped like a slingshot, but the yoke in the forebody has been beefed up and the tail section re-shaped to cover a lot more area. The result is a serenity on edge that won’t shake loose under heavy pressure on hard snow.

This quality matters, particularly in a daily driver that will perforce be fed a diet rich in groomers. The Mindbender 89Ti retains a bias for off-trail conditions, as evident in its baseline, sidecut and build, but the extra Titanal in the new edition makes all the difference in the world when the off-trail is iffy. The new Mindbinders are archetypes of the all-terrain, in-resort ski that loves to play around in new snow but can get down to business when the untracked turns packed.

Theron Lee is both a world-class ski mechanic and a technically precise skier accustomed to skiing slalom race models. He spotted the improvement in the Mindbender 89Ti from the first turn. “The ski has a lot of power underneath the foot with the new metal configuration. The tip and tail have a lot more power to them and the ski makes a very round turn, unlike in the past. The ski was a lot of fun to ski and the roundness of the turn and the power of the ski made it made it a complete jam to ski.”

Disruption 78 Ti

As is often the case in the world ski market, K2’s carving collection straddles the Technical/Frontside divide, with the vector models landing on the skinny side (in K2’s case, 71m-74mm waists), and the more versatile, less demanding (and often less expensive) models populating the slightly wider Frontside domain. In the Disruption series, the 78 Ti isn’t a watered-down carver, just a wider one, as it borrows the same construction and almost fully cambered baseline of the flagship Disruption MTi.

Both the power and forgiveness inherent in the Disruption 78 Ti derive from the same source, a single band of Titanal the runs nearly the entire length of the ski in a uniform width that matches the waist dimension. This creates an edge that holds firmly yet softly, as if its aluminum alloy guts were wrapped in velvet. On soft groomers, it feels like the edge is cushioned yet never loses contact, thanks in large part to a baseline that has zero tail elevation and only a smidgeon of early rise at the tip.

While the Disruption 78 Ti is a departure from K2’s twin obsessions with Freeride and Freestyle designs, it’s pure K2 in its emphasis on ease of use. You don’t have to have perfect timing or Navy Seal fitness, just point, tip, repeat, and look Ma!, you’re carving! Okay, it’s not quite that simple, but damn near. Anyone buying his/her first pair of skis who anticipates staying on groomers for the foreseeable future will discover that the Disruption 78Ti encourages proper edging skills without requiring them.

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 most Frontside Power skis, it’s easier to throw into a drift and it won’t buck when introduced to ungroomed terrain.

The less transparent reason pertains to how it’s built: the Ti I-Beam that gives the Disruption 82 Ti its bite is only as wide as its midsection. This gives the edge elsewhere a subtle flexibility that’s ideal for anything but boilerplate or frozen ridges of spring corduroy. In softer snow, the less critical edge won’t try to dig its way to China the way a super-charged Power ski may. On mid-winter, early AM groomers, it’s delicious.

While it’s definitely a carver of the kinder, gentler variety, beneath its easy-going veneer it’s still a trench-digger at heart. The widest model in the Disruption clan, the 82 Ti is predisposed to a medium-radius arc that it can reel off without much effort on the pilot’s part. It stays connected in part because the Ti I-Beam runs tip to tail and in part because its baseline has only a teensy bit of tip rocker that doesn’t prevent the low-to-the-snow shovel from finding the edge at the top of the turn.

Mindbender 99 Ti

Of all the new models introduced this season, K2’s Mindbender 99 Ti took by far the greatest leap up in our standings, all the way to the top of our Finesse Favorites. But it wasn’t its Finesse properties per se that drove its across-the-board improvement, but the new Mindbender 99 Ti’s vastly enhanced Power properties. When a ski is calmer on edge on hard snow, it improves the overall impression of forgiveness and ease as the skier doesn’t have to struggle to stay in balance. So, the new Mindbender 99 Ti comes off as a kinder, gentler ski precisely because it’s a much better Power ski than its predecessor.

Driving the 2023 Mindbender 99 Ti’s ascension to the top rung of the Finesse ladder is a re-design of the ski’s signature feature, Titanal Y-Beam. It’s still shaped like a futuristic slingshot, with the forks of the yoke running up each side of the forebody, a wall-to-wall stretch underfoot and a centered tail section. K2 fiddled with the size and shape of the forward forks so the ski hooks up earlier and with more authority, but it’s the transformation of the Y-Beam’s tail design that contributes the most to the Mindbender 99 Ti’s newfound tranquility on edge.

Not many skiers lose sleep thinking about the effects of tail design on turning accuracy, especially in a nation where carving a full turn is a dying art, but the palpable improvement created by a more supportive tail in the Mindbender 99 Ti proves that everything that goes into a ski – from tip to tail – affects the total result. The new model earned higher marks in every single criterion, not just turn finish or stability at speed, which one would expect to be enhanced by a beefier tail. On average, its Finesse scores were even higher than its boffo Power scores, indicating that the new Mindbender 99 Ti not only has a higher ceiling than any K2 AMW model in recent memory, it also manages to have a lower floor.

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 as 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 hard to miss. The shape of the 184cm is identical save for a tip that’s 3mm wider on the Reckoner, giving it a marginally (.7m) snugger sidecut radius. Both Shreditor and Reckoner rely on braided fibers to control flex and torsion, with the Shreditor using a Triaxial braid of fiberglass and the Reckoner using Spectral Braid spun from carbon. Both vintages use Aspen in the core, although the Shreditor complemented it with featherweight Paulownia while the Reckoner uses Aspen in concert with denser fir. Both have relatively low camber underfoot, use a reinforced sidewall for added resistance to ski-on-ski damage and both, of course, are twin-tips.

Mercifully, the Reckoner 102, like the Shreditor before it, doesn’t need to be skied upside down and backwards to be enjoyed. If you like a ski that’s playful, poppy and super simple to drift, it can serve as an all-mountain ski for someone who is aerially inclined. If you want to take your Pipe & Park skills to the sidecountry, the Reckoner 102 wants to come with you.