Monday, August 8, 2011

Gear Review: 2010/2011 K2 Backlash (Now I See)

I swear I didn't plan this shot.  Really.
It’s really hard to find bad reviews of backcountry products online. When was the last time you ever heard someone tell you that the item they tested was a piece of garbage? 

Maybe bad reviews get buried.  Maybe people are a bunch of liars.  Maybe when there’s nothing nice to say, people don’t say anything at all.   Personally, I think there’s a tendency to rationalize or justify a purchase: especially with large ticket items.

So let me readily admit that my earlier ski reviews are total bullshit.  I was blind and now I see.   I can thank the folks at K2 for my new perspective.

Okay, so maybe it’s a little extreme to say that my previous backcountry ski reviews are “bullshit”.  Most of us realize that we have to give up skiing stability to get a light-weight ski.  But when you’ve been skiing backcountry skis exclusively you forget what you might be missing.  You lose a little perspective.

Anti-Rastaman technology
is the secret.
Most of the last two years I’ve skied on backcountry skis, ranging from Rudy and Whitesnake, to the more popular Black Diamond Machines, Voodoos, and Gurus.  With the exception of the foam filled Whitesnake, all of these skis are wood cored and lack the weight adding metal top-sheet of a downhill ripper.  Essentially they rely on a mix of resin, wood layers, and complicated engineering to dampen the vibration that occurs when you skid across an icy piste or plow your way through chunky day-old ski tracks.  The reliance on wood and resin versus metal reduces the weight, but also lessens the dampening ability of the ski.

When I purchased the K2 Backlash, I was thinking of one place: Mt. Washington in New HampshireWith relatively short tours up to the skiable ravines, weight isn’t as much a concern as the variable terrain up top. 

A mid-January trip to Whiteface, NY, had lessened my confidence in the Voodoos and Machines when I found myself rubber-banding across some of the wind scoured upper-mountain trails.  Similar conditions were likely to greet me up high on Mt. Washington, and I wanted a ski that I could trust.  In addition to cutting into ice, they would have to float, as wind polished hard pack lies only yards from deep powder up there

                           Video of me getting pushed around in the crud at Whiteface on my Machines.

The Backlash is about a pound heaver per pair versus my other similarly sized go-to ski: The Black Diamond Voodoo.  The difference in performance, however, is simply amazing.

I spent my first weekend on the Backlashes at Burke, and was instantly in love with them.

The first day, Justin and I had a legendary run down eight inches of untouched fresh powder on Upper Willoughby.  The Backlashes floated effortlessly on top.  Lower on the mountain, where we skied through semi-consolidated tracks set the previous afternoon, they vibrantly displayed their dampening abilities.  Where the Machines would have been thrown around, the Backlash sliced through the crud giving a smooth ride.  As if to underscore the silky smooth silent ride, I (accidentally) snuck-up on and skied right over a grouse that was nestled in the snow.   

The second day they really shined.  A warm afternoon sun had baked the snow on the first afternoon, and by morning it had frozen into an icy hardpack.  The Backlashes latched onto the ice as I cut across the steeps at speed.  They were VERY smooth, and didn’t flutter when I opened the throttle.  They also turned extremely well on the bumps and in the glades.

Confident in their abilities, I took them with me to the Gulf of Slides where I faced another snow condition test: corn.  Again, they performed extremely well.  I was able to turn quickly and had excellent stability and control.

I would like to chalk up my positive review simply to the fact that I was skiing a heavier ski than I usually ride, however I spent a week in February on piste-specific skis in Utah and didn’t have the same epiphany.  Simply put, there is something special about the Backlash.

So if you were hoping to read your first negative backcountry equipment review, I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you: the K2 Backlash kicks ass.  

Or maybe I'm just a self-rationalizing liar.  You make the call. 

Cutting turns on the Backlashes at the Gulf of Slides.

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