An Expert Guide to K2 Skis

K2 Skis is a brand widely recognized by skiers all over the world! Ski Expert Luke Hinz breaks down the company's history and their main skis!

A skier jumping in the air. The bottom of his skis have the K2 symbol on them.

Photo by Melvin Wahlin

When it comes to the most well-known skis in the world, Europe seems to have a monopoly on the market. Volkl, Fischer, Blizzard, Rossignol—all of these storied brands trace their roots back to the European Alps in some way or another, and all of them are still producing their skis in Europe. But there is one brand that has quickly grown over the years to rival the European companies, and it is strictly American, both in culture and location—and that is the ski brand of K2 Skis. In this article, we delve into what makes K2 so unique as a company, and we take a deep dive into their most well-known and well-loved skis currently on the market.

Humble Beginnings

K2 began in 1962, at the Kirschner Manufacturing plant on Vashon Island outside Seattle, Washington. At the time, the company was producing high-quality research cages, but Bill Kirschner, on a whim, decided to see if he could build a pair of skis entirely out of fiberglass. Turned out, it worked, and after an initial release, Bill separated the ski department from the rest of the company in 1967 and renamed it K2. This was not only in honor of the second-highest mountain in the world but also in recognition of the two owners: Bill and Don Kirschner.

Over the coming decades, the K2 brand would grow by leaps and bounds. The first big jump came when K2 entered the racing world and sponsored the twin American phenoms, Steve and Phil Mahre. The Mahre brothers thoroughly dominated the World Cup racing circuit during the early 1980s, and K2 sales spiked after the Mahre brothers swept the 1984 Olympic Slalom event, with Phil taking the gold medal and Steve taking the silver.

In the 1990s and 2000s, K2 dove headfirst into the quickly evolving freeride world, signing rebellious and new-age athletes such as Glen Plake and Seth Morrison, who made a name for themselves skiing extreme terrain in some of the wildest parts of the globe (the infamous photo of Glen Plake strapped to a pair of K2 skis while hitched to a roof rack on a speeding car lived in every ski shop from Coast to Coast). As skiing exploded in popularity even further with the advent of “freeskiing,” new athletes such as Sean Petit pushed the limits of big mountain skiing, throwing daredevil-style tricks into advanced technical terrain, all while skiing on K2 skis.

At the same time, K2 continued to push the boundaries of what was possible when it came to ski construction. Some of K2’s past skis still live on in infamy, like the K2 Pontoon, a crazy wide powder ski that was developed in league with legendary freerider Shane McConkey, or the venerated Coomback, one of the first backcountry-specific skis designed by and for the late Doug Coombs. These skis still grace walls and garages in many a mountain town, and their designs have shaped future skis long after their demise.

In recent years, K2 has revamped its ski lineup to adapt to the desires of skiers wanting a dependable and stable ski in a lighter, more approachable package. And in 2016, K2 stepped further outside its box and started designing and producing its own lines of ski boots. Today, K2 aims to build skis for the burgeoning beginner to the grizzled veteran skier.

The K2 2022 / 2023 Lineup

K2’s newest offerings use many of the same names from past seasons for the new winter season, with some skis unchanged, but others with major overhauls. Below, we outline the major skis and what makes them tick!

Mindbender

The Mindbender series is the flagship of the K2 line. They are built to be highly versatile all-mountain skis, from appealing to the ambitious beginner, to the aggressive groomer skier, to the most expert pro athletes searching for the steepest and deepest lines. As a rule, all of the Mindbender skis are built with regular camber underfoot to give the ski carving ability and edge grip as well as rocker in the tip and tail to allow the ski to turn easily and also be playful and surf in soft snow and deep powder.

The Mindbender 85 Skis.

The Mindbender 85

The Mindbender 85 and 85 Women’s are the entry-level Mindbenders; with an 85mm waist, they are easy to turn, and they can also tackle conditions off-trail. They are ideal for beginner skiers wanting to advance their ski skills off of the groomed runs, but they are also great skis for intermediates to advanced skiers who simply want to cruise.

The Women's Mindbender 90C Skis.

The Women's Mindbender 90C

The Mindbender 90C, in both men’s and women’s styles, is built to be a bit stiffer and more demanding ski than the 85 version. The C stands for carbon, which is overlaid with the wood core of the ski. This gives the ski a stiffer flex and more torsional rigidity but also without adding substantial weight. The 90C is aimed at intermediate to advanced skiers who want a bit more demanding ski that won’t add the weight of a ski with metal in the construction.

The Mindbender Ti series is K2’s answer for skiers looking for an all-mountain freeride ski that can both rip on the groomers but also excel off-piste as well. Ti stands for Titanal metal, and all of the Ti skis have metal laid over a wood core, which increases the torsional stiffness of the ski and increases stiffness. However, K2 wanted to make their skis damp and stable with the addition of metal, but they wanted to do it without the weight. Enter K2’s Titanal Y-Beam design. The Titanal is cut into the shape of a Y and then placed over the wood core.

The result is metal prongs laid over the front edges of the ski that meet under the binding to reach fully from edge to edge and then taper into the tail. This makes the ski incredibly strong and stable on the front and midsection. But it also allows for a bit softer tail in order to allow the ski to smear and pivot easily, as well as make tight turns in powder and tight environments, like trees.

The The Mindbender 89Ti Skis.

The Mindbender 89Ti

The 89Ti version is the narrowest of the Ti skis, built mainly for intermediate to advanced skiers wanting a strong ski for carving up groomers or bouncing through moguls but still wanting some off-road capability when the time arises. This is an ideal all-mountain ski for the days when fresh snow is in short supply.

The Mindbender 99Ti Skis.

The Mindbender 99Ti

The 99Ti version is arguably the most versatile of the Ti lineup. With a 99mm waist, the ski can float in all but the deepest of deep days, yet it can still go fast on groomed runs and navigate through trees. It is a bit slower edge to edge than the 89 version, and it requires a bit higher speeds to get the ski to flex. But this is an awesome everyday driver ski that can do it all!

The Mindbender 108Ti Skis.

The Mindbender 108Ti

Lastly, the 108Ti is the widest of the lineup and is built for expert skiers wanting the ultimate powder tool but one that will still perform on the ice and hardpack. The 108 is a stiff and demanding ski that requires a competent pilot, but it has virtually no speed limit and can float with the best of them on deep days. If you like your powder ski built like a race ski, it's hard to beat the Mindbender 108Ti!

The Women's Mindbender 106C Skis.

The Women's Mindbender 106C

Finally, there is the Mindbender 106C Women’s and the Mindbender 116C. Much like the 90C version, these skis also shun metal in favor of carbon, but they do so in a much wider package. These skis are designed to be a more playful and lightweight powder ski for the days when you need a snorkel because the snow is so deep.

The Mindbender line is incredibly versatile, and it is designed to fit a wide range of skiers.

Reckoner

The Reckoner 102 Skis.

The Reckoner 102

The Reckoner is a direct descendent of more playful and energetic old-school K2 skis, like the Obsethed and the Public Enemy. Compared to the Mindbender line, the Reckoner skis have quite a bit more rocker in the tip and tail, making them much easier to turn and providing more float in soft snow, as well as a twin-tip design so that they can play in the park. They don’t hold as strong of an edge on groomed runs, but the Reckoners aren’t really built for that. Instead, the Reckoners are built to be skied either in the park or taken off-trail for a powder day. K2 made the ski lighter by ditching any metal and using the Carbon Spectral Braid to stiffen the ski without adding weight.

The Reckoner comes in various sizes, with the Reckoner 92 being an entry-level park, freestyle ski aimed at younger skiers or new skiers looking to get into the park. The Reckoner 102 is a more versatile powder ski that can also get tricky in the park, while the 112 version can be both a freestyle ski or just a much softer powder day–only ski. The Reckoner lineup is ideal for skiers looking for a softer, more playful ski that can easily play off-trail.

Disruption

The The K2 Disruption 76 Skis.

The K2 Disruption 76

The Disruption line from K2 is designed to be a line of frontside and on-piste skis only. They sport a much narrower waist, with all of them being slimmer than 90mm at the waist, as well as having a much more progressive sidecut on the ski. The K2 Disruption 76 is aimed at new skiers looking for an easygoing and forgiving ski that they can confidently build their skills on at their own pace. On the other end of the Disruption spectrum is the 78Ti, which is a much stiffer, more demanding carving ski aimed at advanced to expert skiers. It is at its best when performing high-G slalom turns on groomed runs.

Wayback

The Wayback 106 Skis.

The Wayback 106

The Wayback series from K2 is their lightweight touring-specific ski. K2 revolutionized backcountry skiing with the original Coomback skis, and the Wayback is a direct descendant of those. They combine a lightweight Paulownia wood core with a thin metal laminate to increase the ski’s strength and stability. The Waybacks are the perfect ski to pair with a tech binding and a lightweight touring boot and take you deep beyond the boundaries of the ski resort!

Poacher, Sight & Midnight

With the increasing rise in popularity of freestyle skiing, K2 jumped into the park scene many years ago. The newest park offerings from K2 include the Poacher, the Sight, and the Midnight.

The K2 Poacher Skis.

The Poachers

With a 96mm waist and built with K2’s Carbon Boost, the Poacher is designed to be a hybrid all-mountain/park ski. It is a twin tip designed for hitting the features and doing spins, but it is one of the stiffer park skis on the market. It also has a reputation for being one of the most durable park skis on the market; when other skis start to fall apart from abuse, the Poachers just keep on trucking.

The K2 Sight skis.

The Sights

The Sight is a narrower, more park-oriented ski, with an 88mm waist and a twin-tip design, but it is a highly affordable ski and is great for both new skiers or skiers wanting to rip in the park without breaking the bank.

The K2 Midnight skis.

The Midnights

The K2 Midnight is a women’s-specific park ski, sporting much of the same construction and profile of the Poacher, but in a slimmer package with different graphics.

As evident above, K2 produces a varied array of skis designed to fit every type of skier out there, from the burgeoning beginner, to the experienced and ambitious intermediate, to the professional skiers searching out new lines in far-off mountains. With this many skis, there’s a good chance there is a K2 ski that matches perfectly with your skiing style, so if you need any help finding that ski for you, please reach out to me or my fellow Curated Ski Experts!

Ski Expert Luke Hinz
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Luke Hinz
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If my parents could have foreseen how deep my obession for skiing would become, they might never have put me on skis. I've been fortunate enough to experience the entire spectrum of skiing; from growing up racing on icy Midwest slopes, to exploring every nook and cranny of the Wasatch Range backcoun...

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