This article, and distribution, was paid for by K2 and produced in conjunction with POWDER.
Words by Jack Foersterling
Year after year, ski manufacturers across the world are tasked with a nearly impossible task—create not only a new ski, but the perfect ski. While some make small updates and adjustments to previous existing models, others clear the table and start from scratch. It was with the latter in mind that led the designers at K2 to take the reigns and dive into a new project this year, creating skis that they truly wanted to ski. The result? The Mindbender collection.
Starting from the ground up, K2 designers had one ultimate goal when designing their newest lineup of skis: create a ski that is stable enough to charge through hardpack and variable conditions while still offering agility to get ’em sideways to maneuver and shut down speed, or just to earn some style points. Previous skis, however, could only excel at one or the other.
That was until the team at K2 redefined their freeride ethos with what they are calling "Torsion Control Design." Through both their new Titanal Y Beam technology (metal over the edges along the tip, edge-to-edge metal underfoot, with metal tapering off the edge in the tail) as well as their patent-pending Carbon Spectral Braid, K2 was able to independently tune the longitudinal and torsional flexes of the ski, creating the construction for a do-it-all freeride ski.
The full Minbender family includes 12 skis—six men's and six women's (what they're calling their 'Alliance Collection')—ranging from 85 underfoot all the way up to a 116. But fear not lady shredders, the Alliance lineup isn't just a "shrink it and pink it" version of their big brother. K2 worked directly with their female athletes and testers to make sure each ski had exactly what they were looking for. And with the women's 115c being offered in a 179 length, they ain't shrinking anything.
We caught up with K2 Athlete McKenna Peterson, as well as K2's Global Ski Design Manager Jed Yeiser, to learn more about what went into designing the Mindbender collection.
POWDER: When did the idea for the Mindbender first start?
JED: It all started three or four years ago when we were talking about what direction we wanted to take K2 freeride skis. We thought a lot about what we wanted the skis to do and how we wanted them to perform. While our Pinnacle line did a lot of things well, there were also things it didn't do so well. They didn't let people push their own limits without them pushing the limits of the ski. But this line wasn't about finding how we could make the Pinnacle better, it was a complete ground up start. I first put pen to paper about two years ago and we got our first test design on snow down in New Zealand in August of 2017.
POWDER: What makes the Mindbender collection so special?
McKENNA: I had a lot of input on the design of the women's line and dedicated a huge part of last season testing skis and working with the engineers to come up with what we thought was the ideal ski.
POWDER: There's a lot of crazy tech that went into these skis. Can we get a Mindbender tech brief for dummies?
JED: The biggest discovery in the process was what we're calling Torsion Control Design. With both the Y Beam technology as well as the Carbon Spectral Braiding we were able to independently tune the longitudinal flex from the torsional flex. TCD is one of the major drivers in how we were able to get skis that feel so stiff and responsive in the forebody of the ski without having to give up responsiveness while turning.
McKENNA: Just jump on the skis and you'll feel the difference. With both the Y Beam and the Carbon we were able to create a ski that is strong, stable and confident at high speeds, but that still has the ability to get sideways and dump your speed.
POWDER: Do you have a favorite ski in the collection?
McKENNA: That's a hard question, can I have two favorites? The women's 115c is one that I've been helping work on for about four years with a bunch of different prototypes. It's the ideal big mountain ski that can do everything. The 98ti is one of the most fun skinny skis I've ever been on. It skis like it's 110 underfoot in powder but then on groomers it rips like a GS ski. I think for the general consumer, the 98 is going to be a huge hit. If you want one ski to do it all, that's your ski.
JED: Oh man that's a tough one. I think gun to my head I'd have to say the 99ti. It just does so many things well. We were in Whistler for a dealer launch and with fresh snow a lot of people were picking up the 116 and the 108, but people were blown away at how well the 99 could ski off piste and in fresh snow. Coming from a race background, a ski that lets me have fun off piste but still carve around on groomers is a great balance.
POWDER: When it comes to your everyday skier, who do you think will enjoy these skis the most?
JED: I think your directional freerider is going to enjoy them the most. I think one of the cool things we did when approaching the line was that we didn't take one design and then scale it up or down in size. We took each individual ski, looked at what people would be doing on them, and perfected the ski for those conditions and ski styles.
McKENNA: The cool thing about the Mindbenders is any skier can enjoy these skis. They're there and hard charging when you want them to be, but it's still easy to get them on the edge and turn when you need to.
A handful of the skis from the Mindbender lineup are available now at select retailers, with the full 12-ski collection hitting shelves this fall.