K2 Darkside (2006)

If the Sidestash (left) is built for a modicum of variable-snow versatility, the massive Darkside prefers powdery chutes and north faces. This year’s version is rockered from just in front of the toepiece forward and cambered from there back. It’s metal-free for lightness and ultra-wide for flotation (No. 2). It barely tolerates hard snow and lacks quickness for typical inbounds conditions, but it’s surprisingly forgiving (No. 3) in deep powder. Like other big, rockered skis, it’s both a game-improvement tool for powder novices and an accomplished expert’s big mountain slayer. “Super sturdy, but skis easier than you expect,” said Preston.
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2011 K2 Darkside

Rating: / 5
Price: $1000.00
Year: 2006
Level: 2
Gender: Male
Waist Width:
Tip/Tail/Waist: 156/128/144
Lengths: 174

Stability at speed: 3.80 / 5
Hard snow performance: 2.53 / 5
Crud performance: 3.84 / 5
Forgiveness: 3.80 / 5

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2011 K2 Sidestash

K2 Sidestash (2011)

The tip and tail notches are for climbing skins—not required, but you get the idea. The Sidestash is built for adventure in the kind of snow you might find beyond the ropes, with or without a short-to-medium hike. Rockered in the forebody and traditionally cambered underfoot, it tolerates hardpack, but greatly prefers soft snow and deep powder. If your snow is typically somewhere in between the two, you’re in luck: Testers ranked the Sidestash No. 2 in Crud. More important: It ranks among the top three in Overall Impression. “Blends big-ski float with user-friendly agility; surprisingly forgiving.” said Gleason.

K2 Aftershock

K2 After Shock (2011)

K2 goes deep with rocker. Almost every ski in the line gets some, from huge helpings in powder skis to subtle tip rocker that makes hard-snow skis easier for skidders to pivot. In an all-mountain ski like the After Shock, a 15-cm section of tip rocker gives it float in powder, smooth shock-absorption and quickness in bumps and crud, and forgiving maneuverability on hard snow. That left our 174 cm test length with about 160 cm of traditional camber—plus two sheets of metal—with which to carve trenches as deep as we cared to. “Fun, lively, quick and easy. A true one-ski-quiver ski,” said Garrett.

2011 K2 Rictor

K2 Rictor (2011)

Where the After Shock (see No. 5) features K2’s “all-terrain” rocker, its little brother the Rictor gets “speed rocker.” Just the forward 10 percent is rockered—the rest is traditionally cambered. K2 pairs that profile with a huge tip and aggressive sidecut for an 80-mm ski that carves with enthusiasm but never talks back. It gets excellent marks in Forgiveness—truly an everyday frontside ski and a worthy successor to the late, great Apache Recon. “The tip rocker loosens up the front of the ski, making it just plain easy to turn and more versatile off–piste for such a narrow ski,” said Elling.

2011 K2 Free Luv

K2 Free Luv (2011)

For years we’ve been saying nothing smears better in powder than rocker, but get on groomed and, well, good luck steering around those lift towers. So imagine our curiosity about K2’s new line, in which every ski—even carvers—incorporates reverse camber. The verdict? K2 wins—again. The Free Luv’s elevated tip effortlessly scouts lines through variable snow. It initiates and releases with ease, earning it No. 1 in Forgiveness. Testers admired its versatility, but found it to be a standout in no one criterion. Racer types will want more grip. “Perfect meat-of-the-market ski; forgiving and easy,” said Shultz.

2011 Watea

Fischer Watea 114 (2006)

Fischer’s widest ski features a subtly rockered forebody this year, along with Powder Hull Technology—a tip shaped like a boat prow, the better to part the snow in its path. Given the 114’s size, it still lacks quickness, but that’s not a problem at speed in bottomless powder, where it thrives with a loose, smeary feel. The rocker adds a dose of maneuverability, and powerful skiers will love its beefiness. The construction is a surprising blend of power in a lightweight frame—wood core, metal-free, but with carbon-beam reinforcement. “Solid, stable and purposeful, with nice flotation,” said Gleason.

2011 K2 6th Sense

Dynastar 6th Sense Huge (2006)

It’s still a lot of ski, but tip-and-tail rocker and twin tips give the Huge a welcome measure of quickness and forgiveness. Testers preferred it over the Legend 115, a non-twin Dynastar of comparable shape but with a more demanding, unrockered tail. The Huge was snappier than testers expected for a ski with so much rocker. That’s a function of Dynastar’s interesting leaf spring core profile (stiff underfoot, progressively more supple tip and tail). In powder, it’s predictably fun and surfy. “Stiff and dynamic; light and floaty; a burly ski that doesn’t forget how to have fun,” said Malone.

2011 K2 Burnin' Luv

K2 Burnin' Luv (2011)

Interesting: Testers liked K2’s lower performing ski, the Free Luv (see left), better than the Burnin’, an expert ski layered with metal laminates. Perhaps with a waist of 70 mm—the narrowest in the test—it got penalized for not being as versatile as others. As you’d expect, though, it was one of the quickest sticks—its edge-to-edge rhythm is as automatic as a metronome’s. But it insisted on short turns, and some felt the new “speed rocker” tip—a slight rise to ease initiation and transition—took some getting used to. “Best suited for an Easterner who wants to carve, carve, carve,” said Wilde.

2011 K2 Got Back

K2 Got Back (2011)

Some skis are like good party guests: strong personalities that light up a room, but too much to handle in a long-term relationship. The new rocker-tipped Got Back—female counterpart to the Coomback—is life-partner material: easygoing, dependable and forgiving (No. 1) of even major mistakes. It’s not beefy enough to bust through thick crud, but its lightweight feel is easy on the thighs—and ideal for earning your turns, if you’re into that kind of thing (K2 skins clip into holes in the tip and tail). Intermediates, this is your mentor. Experts, relax and enjoy the ride. “Any skier will love it,” said Beale.