K2 has reigned over the US market for so long its leadership has practically become a cliché. The keys to their sustained success are 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 at least 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 slightly deflated.
Such is K2’s strength that you probably didn’t even realize it just passed through a minor dip in popularity, caused in part by consumer confusion over a line K2 had allowed to grow unchecked. If a company’s biggest problems are the result of its runaway success, they’ll probably manage just fine, as is the case at K2. They’ve already reorganized and pared down their line, setting the stage for even greater sales dominance in the future. One of the key players in K2’s rise to power, Tim Petrick, has returned to steer the ship after a relatively brief tenure cleaning up the mess left in Quicksilver’s wake at Rossignol. Petrick’s return will keep K2 on course for the foreseeable future.
Listing all of K2’s clever moves would take more space than we’re able to devote to the subject, so let’s just stick to three. One, moving production to China was brilliant. They took a lot of flak at the time, but they instantly started making better, and better finished, products. Two, they got out of racing and never looked back. They became the freeride company just when the X Games were starting to push the Olympics as the venue for cutting-edge competition. The phenomenal costs of World Cup engagement went off the balance sheet, and all resources, human and otherwise, went into making better skis for the people who actually buy skis. And three, K2 has kept a sharp focus on two areas other companies haven’t: kids’ skis and most significantly (as no one makes money on kids), women’s skis. No other brand can touch K2’s collection for women for selection and sales.
It’s not surprising that K2, the quintessential American ski brand, still makes America’s favorite skis. They understand, without need of translation, just what the American skier wants and they’re pretty darned good at delivering it.
Brands with an entrenched position don’t normally overhaul the core of their collection for both men and women in the same year, but that’s just what K2 has done for 2016.
We’re not talking some deft tweak, the umpteen iteration of the brand’s signature Mod technology that sucks vibration like Hoovers inhale carpet lint. This is K2’s biggest change in snow feel since the last millennium.
The technical property that underlies the sea change in feel is weight distribution.
The new K2 families, Konic and Pinnacle for men and Luv for women, all move their densest core material and, in the case of the high-end Ti models, a strip of metal, to the ski’s perimeter. This makes the ski lighter without compromising its gripping power.
One trait that hasn’t been diminished in this personality transplant is K2’s ease of operation. The new models aren’t finicky about turn shape, speed or balance point, always happy to change an edge whether from an upright stance or by dropping a hip. Skiing doesn’t get much easier than this.
If we had to pick one ski from the new batch to emerge as the symbol of everything K2 stands for, it would be the Pinnacle 95. We tested in the worst condition for this waist width – boilerplate worthy of northern New Hampshire – and it purred. To perform at a high level when out of its element is one of the benchmark characteristics of a great ski. The Pinnacle 95 is unlikely to encounter terrain it can’t cheerfully manage.
Taken as a whole, the K2 line for next season is cleaner, more focused and more coherent than it’s been in several years. For example, there’s no overlap between the Konic and Pinnacle collections; the fattest iKonic is 85mm underfoot, and the thinnest Pinnacle is the 95.
Expect 2016’s star products to include the Konic 85Ti for men and the OoolaLuv 85Ti for women. This is noteworthy not just because these are both excellent skis, but because at 85mm at the waist, they are relatively narrow skis in today’s fat-obsessed market, a status quo K2 helped to foster.
It’s encouraging to see a major brand, particularly one with the freeride chops of K2, subtly encourage the American public to adopt a narrower ski as their everyday ride. We heartily applaud this emerging trend.
In-depth reviews of 19 models—with key performance ratings ( ? ) and genre model comparisons ( ? ) —are in our member section
♀Luv Machine 74 Ti
Radius: 12.5m @ 160cm
Lengths: 146, 153, 160, 167
Weight: 1550g @ 160cm
K2’s idea of Luv is normally of the lovey-dovey, coddling kind, but the Luv Machine 74Ti is from the tough love end of the emotional scale. Its new, more rounded tip shape will ease the entry to a high edge angle, but it would behoove the pilot to know how to step on that edge once she’s been introduced to it.
The Luv Machine shares the shape of the Potion 74 XTi that preceded it, but note the “X” that’s no longer in the name. The old ski had an elaborate superstructure called RoX that sucked up shock and a lot of other sensations. The new Luv dispenses with the RoX and further trims down with the Channel Light Core that removes material from the center of the chassis and concentrates mass over the edge.
However its insides have changed, the constant in this ski’s evolution is its unwavering edge grip, assisted by a traditional camber line and a sidecut that runs uninterrupted into the tip for neck-rein response.
“Really powers through turns,” said an admiring Kayla from Aspen Ski and Board. “Great edge hold. Extremely stable at speed, a super reliable carving ski for the advanced female.”
iKonic 80 Ti
Radius: 15.5m @ 170cm
Weight: 1550g @ 170cm
K2 bet the farm on their new Konic construction that strips away surface structures and moves the bulk of the remaining mass to the ski’s perimeter, over the edge. We’re pleased to report the farm is not in any jeopardy.
In the case of the iKonic 80 Ti, the changes wrought haven’t altered the quintessential K2 property of making life easier for the skier whose skills could still use a little burnishing. Versatility is another K2 traditional family value respected by the iKonic 80 Ti. It lets the skier change style, stance and pressure without ever losing its cool. Mixing turn shapes is easier than changing socks.
Skiers who feel compelled to stomp on the edge would be better served by one of our Power picks, but the less aggro skier who wants a ski that responds to a light touch will be elated to find the iKonic 80 Ti gets some kick out of its camber underfoot. Stephanie Humes from Jan’s, who while highly skilled is the antithesis of hefty, praised the ski for its liveliness, noting, “It has a lot of pop,” and punctuating her remark with a smiley face.
Another of our lighter testers, Pat Parraguirre of Bobo’s, the unofficial mayor of Reno, also admired the iKonic 80 Ti’s “light and lively feeling on your feet. People who ski at lower speeds will like that it requires so little energy to turn.” Matt from Footloose put his finger on it when he wrote, “This ski will make you feel like you’re a better skier than you are.”
The only blemish on this K2’s cards were demerits for how quickly it connects at the top of the turn, not surprising since its slightly tapered tip is also rockered so it will handle a variety of conditions and not just freshly manicured corduroy.
♀Luv Sick 80 Ti
Radius: 14m @ 163cm
Weight: 1650g @ 163cm
Women who bought a pair of Luvs when this nameplate was first adopted by K2 a couple of product generations ago may be scarred by memories of how heavy they were. The old Luvs earned your affections by driving with the stability of a Coupe de Ville, with about the same feel for the road.
K2 heard the collective groans of their countless faithful followers hefting their skis to their shoulder and took decisive action. The new Luvs, like the Luv Sick 80 Ti, have had several operations to improve responsiveness. First, K2 liposuctioned all the dampening goop off the top layer. Then, taking a page from the new Konic technology, they trimmed the Titanal laminate down to a thin strip outlining the ski’s perimeter, to create extra edge bite without extra lbs. Finally, they created the Channel Light Core. Made from aspen, Paulownia and bamboo, the Channel Light Core would be featherweight even it weren’t whittled on, but K2 takes the extra step of milling material out of the ski’s mid-section.
If you elect to mate the Luv Sick 80 Ti with its matching Marker binding, you’ll add $200 to the MSRP but you won’t be adding a lot of extra weight, as K2 has worked with Marker to trim excess fat from the binding, too. The new Markers feature a fresh heel design that improves ease of entry, always a bonus.
The payoff for all this dieting is a ski that flows effortlessly edge-to-edge. The accent still falls on ease, the quintessential K2 trait. The Luv Sick 80 Ti is more concerned about making the ski simple to guide into a slow, controlled, short-radius carve than it is with staying calm beyond the recreational speed range. The Luv Sick 80 Ti has more than enough moxie for the 20-day-per-season skier and best of all, won’t remind her if she’s skipped a few off-season work-outs.
K2 made a bold move this season, changing what had been an insanely popular design for over a decade. The iKonic 85 Ti is expected to fill the big shoes once worn by the venerable Rictor 82 XTi without the ultra-damp, shock-sucking properties of its now mothballed MOD structure. Mission accomplished, with a sensitive snow feel unattainable on earlier editions from K2.
Where the old AMP Rictor series had the secure if ponderous quality of a 1990’s Cadillac, the iKonic 85 Ti has the more nimble reactions and feel for the road of the Detroit icon’s more recent incarnations. “Smooth yet responsive,” coos Bobo’s proprietor Steve Sheehan. “More customers will like this one.”
Ease of turn initiation has been a K2 signature trait since the brand’s inception, a tradition the iKonic 85 Ti keeps intact. The biggest change in snow feel between the two generations of K2’s is the sensation of lightness in the new arrivals, without any loss of edge grip, even on hard snow. “Not at all demanding, yet when pressured could hold its own,” confirmed one impressed tester.
Despite the significant departure represented by the Konic design, the 85 Ti retains three behaviors that are intrinsically K2: readily disposition to change turn shape, a balance point that’s easy to find and facility at off-piste conditions. In the how-can-you-make-all-mountain-skiing-easier sweepstakes, K2 has another winner.
Radius: 21m @ 184cm
Weight: 2025g @ 184cm
If you can't change direction without suffering a minor panic attack, take 2 Shreditor 92’s and call us in the morning. Firm enough underfoot to inspire trust, the blunt, tapered tip and tail sections offer no interference with a swiveled turn, so even if technique is not your forte, you’ll still be able to get out of your own way.
Absurdly facile even in conditions like chalky crud that can make a more traditional baseline balk, the new Shreditor 92 will open up terrain vistas for skiers who have spent too much of their lives on manicured slopes. Descended from a line that goes up to the 136mm-waisted Powabunga, the 92 retains the distillate of a Big Mountain ski in its bones, with a surfy personality that’s in no great rush to get to the edge but calm enough once it gets there.
Realskiers’ test methodology puts an emphasis on precision, so we don’t normally award high scores to skis with this surfy an attitude. The Shreditor 92 overcomes this handicap by being so easy to ski off-piste that it just can’t be ignored. If moguls are a regular part of your daily diet, the Shreditor 92 is as easy to steer through the rubble of a bump field as any ski this wide.
♀OoolaLuv 85 Ti
Radius: 14m @ 163cm
Weight: 1686g @ 163cm
The massive makeover that K2 applied to their cornerstone men’s models they’ve also implemented across their all-mountain women’s collection. The OoolaLuv 85 Ti is the standard bearer for the new K2’s, representing the best the re-designed line has to offer.
In keeping with the new Konic design in the men’s line, the new Luv series trims mass away from the center line by cutting channels out of its lightweight wood core. The OoolaLuv also concentrates more of its metal laminate over the edge so it feels as solid as a rock without weighing more than a pebble.
Shirley from Footloose said, “Unbelievable light skiing with all the smoothness and stability you could want. Forgiving with a lot of performance.” Steph from Jan’s found that even in short lengths it packed a punch. “The 156 was way too short for me BUT wow, it delivered,” she wrote. “I pushed it more than I should have for its length, but it took it and was stable. It loved fast, medium-radius turns.”
Women who loved everything about their old K2 Luvs but their heft will find the OoolaLuv has removed the "but.” The OoolaLuv delivers a double dose of confidence building so women with a skill set from so-so to splendid will feel ready to face whatever the mountain has on the menu.
Radius: 17m @ 184cm
Weight: 1850g @ 184cm
K2’s new Konic technology represents a seismic shift in design philosophy, moving away from super damp structures to a lighter chassis with clearer snow feel. The intent is to raise the performance ante so their flagship skis feel more powerful and precise than the comfy carriages of yore.
The new Pinnacle 95 is definitely lighter and more agile than the Annex 98, its closest kin in the 2015 collection. But it’s still a K2 through and through, focused on making the off-piste experience as easy as possible. K2 never forgets why they made wider skis and rockered baselines in the first place: to simplify access to new terrain. With a tapered tip and tail and All-Terrain Rocker, the Pinnacle 95 presents a shorter edge to the snow so it offers less resistance to pivoting and smearing in the off-trail conditions where it excels.
While the Pinnacle 95 has a penchant for the off-piste, it’s not like it wilts when confronted with corduroy. “It has a light swing weight, but it’s still stable at speed,” wrote one impressed tester. “Best in show,” exulted another, adding, “Holds edge through crud but remains playful and can change direction in an instant. Loved it.”
The reason K2 has succeeded at making a ski that smears on demand yet holds an accurate edge when given the proper input is because everything about the Pinnacle’s make-up, particularly in the forebody, assists the skier in tilting the ski up on edge. This is a significant difference from many other skis in this genre, particularly the more torsionally stiff models that measure 100mm underfoot, and the main reason why the Pinnacle 95 feels so fun, so friendly, so utterly easy to ski.
In sum, the Pinnacle 95 should thrill K2’s army of fans and recruit a few new ones to their fan club.
Radius: 19m @ 184cm
Weight: 1875g @ 184cm
How fitting that the reviews of our favorite Big Mountain Finesse skis should end as they began, with the very ski Matt Finnigan lamented (in the introduction) would be punished for its virtues. Matt should feel vindicated, for the Pinnacle 105’s performance scores indeed don’t do it justice.
K2 employs a strip of metal around the Pinnacle 105’s perimeter, bolstering its crud-busting cred without adding the heft that would inhibit fast reflexes. “Blends a light feeling ski with big ski power,” confirms The Boot Doctors’ Gleason. “Ease of use is superb. It’ll bring a novice to new levels yet surprise the accomplished expert with its precision.”
The Pinnacle 105 spans such a broad ability range because it can be steered lackadaisically from an upright posture or leaned into from a laid-over stance. As is the case with so many K2’s, both past and present, the Pinnacle 105 doesn’t much care where you go or how well you ski, although like any wide ski it longs for powder.
As did our test corps. “Wish I could ski some broken snow with this,” said the wistful Van Osgood of Footloose, “it has a really good feel to it.”
Radius: 20m @ 179cm
Weight: 2150g @ 179cm
When someone descends a daring run with particular aplomb, we say the skier slayed it; when that someone is aboard a Shreditor 112, he kills it with kindness. That’s because the Shreditor 112 is an amiable, agile, surfy and surprisingly agile companion for a day of ripping up a big mountain that’s been over-served with a fresh coat of nature’s frosting.
The Shreditor 112 didn’t earn our Recommended laurel by possessing electric reactions but with its “chill out, dude!” equanimity. It will change direction on a dime and it doesn’t really care how you do it, so skiers with an ambiguous skill set can get away with tossing their Shreditors around with impunity.
A true twin-tip in that it will travel with relative ease in reverse, the Shreditor 112 is a gas even if you are, poor thing, merely a directional skier. While it takes a lot of talent to ski powder while looking over one’s shoulder, it takes almost no prior powder experience to develop proficiency promptly with the Shreditor 112 as your tutor.
Pinnacle 118 (Seth)
Radius: 23m @ 184cm
Weight: 2330g @ 184cm
There are precious few skis in this category that show any inclination to hook into a turn; in fact, the brochure copy on many Powder models points out that the tip and tail are “hook free.” No wonder they’re a little scary to ski on groomers.
The K2 Pinnacle 118, Seth Morrison’s pro model, has the long, spatulate tip that’s become essential equipment on a Powder ski and of course it has tip and tail rocker, but it still grasps the concept of rolling up on edge, where it holds quite nicely. This is abnormal behavior for most pow skis that count on banking into a big, soft pile of powder for deflecting them onto a new course.
Scott Sahr of Aspen Ski and Board had the opportunity to take the Pinnacle 118 into varied terrain and filed this report: “Wow!! This 118 skis like a 105, extremely fast edge-to-edge, phenomenal stability and so playful at the same time. It can float the deepest of pow, trench on ice, jib off anything.”
To put the same sentiment another way, no other ski in this genre does as good a job of just letting the skier go ski, without having to adopt a new style or technique. It makes skiing off-trail easy without making it stupid easy, if you catch my drift.