Expert Review: K2 Wayback Skis · 2022
This review is my own honest opinion of the skis, which I bought with my own money in January 2021.
About this Review: This review is my own honest opinion of the skis, which I bought with my own money in January 2021.
Geared toward expert skiers, the K2 Wayback 106 Skis are lightweight yet hard-charging backcountry skis that will go the distance. The Waybacks are light enough to keep legs fresh on long backcountry days yet have the stability and confidence to tackle almost any terrain.
About the gear
- Model: K2 Wayback 106
- Size: 186cm
- Height: 6ft 2in
- Weight: 200lb
- Experience: 25+ years
- When I bought these: January 2021
- Days tested: 100+
- Mount position: Traditional
- Boots: 2022 Dynafit Hoji Free 130 & 2021 Fischer Ranger Free 130
- Boot Size: 29.5
- Bindings: 2021 Salomon MTN Bindings
- Where I’ve used them: Utah, Wyoming, Nevada, Alaska
- Terrain: Advanced and expert terrain in both backcountry, trees, couloirs, steeps, and powder
How they perform
What I was looking for
I am constantly on the hunt for the unicorn backcountry ski: a ski that is light enough to allow me to tour for hours on end without destroying my legs, but is stable and damp enough to allow me to ski fast and aggressively. In short, I was looking for something to bridge the gap between a heavy resort ski and an ultra-lightweight touring ski.
Why I chose this gear
After years of spurning K2 skis, I bought a pair of K2 Mindbender 108Ti skis as a resort setup. I ended up liking the Mindbender so much, I decided to give K2’s touring skis, the Wayback, a chance as well.
I had also considered the Blizzard Zero G 105, but I knew they had recently changed the construction of that ski, making it softer and less aggressive. I decided on the K2 Wayback for something new that I trusted would perform in powder, but also be light enough to tour with.
What I love about them
- Speed: Because the Wayback is first and foremost a backcountry ski, I don’t necessarily ski it like a resort ski, meaning, I tend to dial it back a bit when I’m out in the backcountry to reduce the risk of injuring myself. That said, the Wayback boasts a burly 22m turn radius, allowing skiers to rip some big GS turns with speed if they want to go there. However, because it lacks a full Titanal layer like its Mindbender cousin, the Wayback does feel a bit more squirrelly at higher speeds. The tip, specifically, can chatter more than I like at high speeds through variable snow.
- Edge hold: Although we’d all like to think we will only take our skis out in two feet of powder, reality is very different. More often than not, powder can turn into ice, and that’s when it's most important to be rocking a strong, effective edge. Despite its lightweight construction, the Wayback has surprised me by holding a strong edge in some of the most precarious terrain. The Y-beam Titanal insert keeps the ski torsionally stiff, meaning I can confidently jump into a steep, icy Alaska line and trust that my edge will hold.
- Turns: Despite having a large turn radius, the Wayback is in fact a forgiving ski that can lay down both quick, short radius turns with relative ease, or long, high-speed turns as well. In more variable snow, I have found the Waybacks to be very intuitive and quick to initiate a turn. In fact, some of my most satisfying moments on these skis have come on harder, more carvable snow, where the ski tracks quickly from edge to edge. In powder, the 106mm underfoot and the progressive sidecut allow me to lay out longer and lazier turns at higher speeds.
- Powder: This is where the Wayback 106 really shines. The rocker in the tip and tail gives the ski a smeary and surfy feel in the deep stuff, but the camber underfoot along with the Titanal insert and carbon overlay keep the ski smooth and on track. Basically, it allows me to ski the way I want to, which is a very attractive factor in any ski.
- Trees: The Wayback’s light construction and edge-to-edge quickness make it a top performer in the trees. Some of my favorite days on this ski have been powder days in the trees.
- Backcountry: The Wayback is K2’s dedicated backcountry ski, and it performs valiantly as such. Backcountry skis are notorious for being lighter than resort skis in order to spend longer hours on the skintrack, but this often results in a ski that does not perform as well on the downhill. With the Wayback, K2 succeeded in building a lightweight ski that can also rip hard on the downhill. The Wayback has allowed me to ski confidently and aggressively in steep terrain from Utah all the way to Alaska.
- Weight: At a ridiculous 1655g (3lb 10oz) per ski, the Wayback is very easy on my legs, which, let’s face it, are doing all the work. I can spend all day in the mountains on these skis and still have enough energy to ski strongly and confidently on the way down.
Issues I’ve encountered
- Groomers: Being both a dedicated backcountry ski, but also a powder ski, the Wayback would not be my first choice for groomers. It can chatter at higher speeds, and because it is so wide underfoot, it cannot bang out quick turns as well as dedicated groomer skis.
- Moguls: This is another area where the Wayback’s lightweight construction is a detriment. These skis are built for walking far and long to explore new zones: I advise staying away from moguls while on them.
- Park: These skis are not designed to be in the park whatsoever.
- Durability: If there is one serious gripe I have about the Wayback 106, it is the durability. I use and abuse all of my equipment, and some hold up to my abuse while others do not. The Wayback is definitely in the latter category. I have crushed more than one edge while skiing in expert terrain, and this often leads to further delamination of the ski’s construction. In fact, I had to return my first pair under warranty (which K2 duly and quickly honored, to their credit). This wouldn’t be such an issue if many of my past skis had also not stood up to my abuse, but they all have, except for the Waybacks.
Favorite moment with this gear
One of the highlights of my time skiing on the Wayback 106 was during a two-week glacier ski trip to the Alaska Range. For 14 days, I explored a vast, largely untapped corner of the range. Every day meant climbing new lines, many of which may have never been skied. Throughout this adventure, the Wayback was light enough to walk on for up to eight hours a day–-and sometimes more–for multiple days in a row.
At the same time, the Wayback allowed me to confidently ski some of the steepest lines I had ever encountered. Most importantly, conditions never mattered; some of the lines were powder, some were variable, and some were sheets of ice. Regardless, the Wayback was sturdy and reliable, and I can’t wait to take it to other off-the-grid locales in the future.
Value for the money vs. other options
The K2 Wayback is an excellent value option for any backcountry skier. They are on the low end price-wise of most backcountry skis, but I would argue they perform much better than many of the other options out there. Most backcountry skis tend to get more expensive the lighter they are built, but the Wayback bucks that trend. As far as comparable skis, the Blizzard Zero G 105 and Fischer Hannibal 106 fill the same niche as the Wayback, but are more expensive.
Whether a skier is a burgeoning new backcountry enthusiast or a grizzled, ski-mountaineering veteran, the K2 Wayback Skis are an excellent option as lightweight skis built to explore the mountain on both the up and the down. While they will never perform quite as well as resort skis, they come closest to that confident and stable feeling while still allowing a skier to walk for miles and miles through their favorite mountains with hardly another soul in sight.