K2 to Rework Entire AT Tele Ski Line — Renames Brand

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This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

This just in from Mike Hattrup, K2′s line director for AT/telemark. In a phone interview, Mike described how they’ll be overhauling their entire AT/telemark product line into one series of skis with less overlap, to be known as “K2 BackSide.” According to Mike, with this change K2′s model choices will be more clearcut for consumers and retailers. Also, K2 will be able to concentrate more on innovative design features such as rocker, which roughly half of the new skis will have (everything over 98 waist).

Hattrup went on to describe how for years he’s skied on hundreds of test planks, and in his opinion specialized telemark skis are almost always better then slapping tele bindings on an alpine or AT ski. Nonetheless, he related, the market has spoken and providing skis designated as “telemark” has become less important, thus making way for backcountry oriented brands (such as Black Diamond) which don’t distinguish telemark from alpine or AT.

One has to wonder if the trend to less tele-specific branding is caused in part by AT and “backcountry” as a style fast becoming a larger force in the overall ski industry, with telemark a viable yet somewhat static subset. Time will tell, but the point we hammered on years ago in Couloir Magazine is perhaps coming to fruition. Point being that backcountry skiing is cool, but you don’t need to tele to enjoy it, and any significant expansion of the backcountry ski industry will come from alpine skiers simply grabbing a favored ski mounted with AT bindings and going for it. Below is Hattrup’s take, condensed and lightly edited from an industry email:

“…Our decision was based on market changes…the majority of shops and consumers don’t make a distinction when it comes to AT and telemark skis. And most sidecountry skiers are simply mounting up alpine skis. We had a lot of overlap when you considered our telemark, alpine touring and alpine collections. As a result of this convergence in the markets, we’ve completely overhauled our line for 09-10.

For next year, we’ve consolidated the line into a collection we’re calling BackSide, which will include both backcountry skis and sidecountry models. You’ll have everything from lightweight, narrow skis that are suitable for long tours, to fat alpine performance skis with backcountry features. The new line will give customers a broader offering when it comes to choosing skis (waist widths will range from 82-128).

Consequently, K2 Telemark will not go forward as a brand. It’s been an emotionally difficult decision for us, as we feel that K2 Telemark played a major role in ushering in the new era of telemarking. Virtually all of the innovations—shaped skis, mid-fats, twin-tips, women’s models, rocker—that we introduced to the telemark world are still viable and thriving today.

Let there be no doubt, our passion for telemark burns as deep and powerful as when we started 13 years ago, and our new BackSide collection is another innovation and evidence of our commitment to the sport. It will broaden the reach of the sport to more consumers and reinvigorate interest in K2. Change is difficult, but crucial to forward progress. With the new collection, telemark skiers will have twice the number of relevant skis to choose from. We’re confident that this is the new direction of the industry and others will soon follow suit.”

Sincerely,

Mike Hattrup
Director, K2 BackSide

(Note, Hattrup will continue to manage the line, and K2′s innovative telemark binding inserts are going away.)

Comments

36 Responses to “K2 to Rework Entire AT Tele Ski Line — Renames Brand”

  1. Randonnee November 19th, 2008 11:05 am

    Fortunately Dynafit never has confusion in regard to the intended use of Dynafit equipment. Randonnee, baby!

    If I do tele a bit this year it will be on my old 78 mm Karhu 10th Mountain and leather, which is what telemarking is to me. Ergo, I am not interested or qualified in regard to the mondo-size tele gear. However, K2 Telemark was a brand with a real statement. (are the hippies distressed at the loss? : )}). With some brands, it is a bit like unisex clothing, e.g. unisex XL scrub tops that I tried for my job, which are not tailored for wide shoulders but are instead tailored for a large bosom thus making the pockets fall to my beltline! Similarly, is it not true that even with the mondo modern tele gear, that the weighting patterns on the skis during the turn is different in tele v. alpine turns?

    As it affects me, my concern is that I continue to be able to buy skis designed specifically for randonnee skiing, meaning no confusion or cross-purpose for the ski design. I am fond of K2 skis, I ski K2 and Dynafit skis. I hope that K2 does not confuse the issue so as to make a ‘Backside” of itself!

  2. Lou November 19th, 2008 11:19 am

    Indeed, I thought “BackSide” to be an interesting name for a company division (grin), but wasn’t going to be the one to bring it up first. But then, K2 has never shied from being rowdy in all sorts of ways. they’ll certainly garner some attention on this move, and it sounds all good to me the rando skier. Tele skiers, time to buy a few pair of your K2 faves?

  3. c crossen November 19th, 2008 11:36 am

    I think it’s interesting that k2 waited this long (as with other companies) to actually formalize this direction. Ski purchases have been trending toward one-ski (AT/tele) for awhile (heck, some of us have never bought “tele” skis, preferring alpine or AT boards for a variety of reasons … you know when your local, dedicated backcountry shop hasn’t been carrying “tele” skis for the past 2-3 seasons, it’s game over for that marketing strategy. K2′s new line seems to be on target and hopefully it will work well for them

  4. Aleks November 19th, 2008 11:43 am

    As tele-skier with no aspirations to lock my heel down, I for one am excited about the kind of offerings that this change might bring about. Yeah, the K2 Telemark line has probably been the most successful “telemark” line of skis out there. I’ll give them that. But with the exception of the the rockered Antipiste, all of K2′s tele-specific skis have been and are rather boring. I think it’s a good idea to get away from the telemark-only label, considering the fact that most expert telemark skiers end up mounting alpine skis with tele bindings anyways.

  5. C. Lowe November 19th, 2008 11:48 am

    I agree, my ski purchases have mostly been from alpine lines and then mounted with tele bindings. The only exception was a pair from Volkl’s tele line that I bought last year. I wonder how long it will be before Volkl gives it up too and goes just for a backcountry line of some sort.

  6. Matt Kinney November 19th, 2008 1:53 pm

    I would bet if you lined up a bunch of modern skiis and masked all the logo’s and colors on the tops sheet that you could not tell a tele from a rondo ski. Even if you took them out and skied them it would still be difficult, I’ve never really taken to the tele-specific skis myth, and even less since skiis got fat and boots got burlier. The issue all comes down to the binding and boot type. I ski the Verdict which is more popular as an AT ski. I wish I had some MegaWatts at times.

    I recall in HS more kids played basketball than wrestled for many of the same reasons that alpine is more popular than telemark. ie…. it is harder, takes more practice and technique to perfect a double-leg takedown than to make a free throw! But when you do execute the perfect double leg………score. And as you may assume, I wrestled….alot.

    Seriously ,it’s all good as long as you got your skins on right. Thanks for the note from “the man” at K2 . Good comments on market trends.

  7. ScottN November 19th, 2008 2:17 pm

    What’s the reason for getting rid of the binding inserts? I think its kinda nice to be able to mount and switch bindings around easily, but honestly, I’ve only done it a couple of times (switched them around that is….). Look forward to their new skis, most of my skis, tele and AT, are all K2 and I love ‘em.

  8. ScottN November 19th, 2008 2:29 pm

    Nevermind, just realized that if they’re not tele-specific then a four hole pattern wouldn’t be necessary. Just wanted to say that before I got scolded.

  9. Colin November 20th, 2008 2:40 am

    C. Lowe: “I wonder how long it will be before Volkl gives it up too and goes just for a backcountry line of some sort.”

    Probably not long, seeing how K2 owns Volkl.

  10. GeorgeT November 20th, 2008 6:47 am

    As a K2 fan (AntiPiste, WorldPiste, PisteStinx) I am not concerned about consolidating the lines, but I hope K2 maintains the “dirtbag” pricing plan.
    How about getting innovative with combined tele and AT inserts/platform so I can switch between tele and AT bindings? I believe my Antipiste would be fun with Dynafit bindings.
    Will K2 add some playboy center fold “backside” graphics to the sticks next year?
    George

  11. marc November 20th, 2008 8:46 am

    The popularity of AT vs. tele is appearant in the classifieds of sites like telemarktips. Fritschis and Dynafits get snatched up rather quick when available, while tele set-ups are a dime a dozen and a harder sell.

  12. Lou November 20th, 2008 9:20 am

    I’ve seen used telemark skis/bindings stacked like cordwood at some of the used gear stores around here, but I think most of the reason for that is that tele bindings are undergoing huge design changes and people who want the latest/greatest are trying to unload their legacy gear. That used to happen a bit with AT gear, but now most AT bindings seem to have incredible staying power in terms of performance, so used ones do get snatched up quicker as far as I can tell.

  13. ScottP November 20th, 2008 10:14 am

    I’m sad to see their dedicated tele mounting system go. I was hoping to see that expanded into the realm of AT bindings (like with Dynafit’s skis, but even more so). Why should the snowboarders have all the advantage when it comes to mounting and remounting their boards?

  14. H2O JOE November 20th, 2008 2:42 pm

    As a rando guy I’ve never paid attention to labels (tele/AT/alpine) on skis and just looked at the characteristics of the ski (dimensions, weight, sidecut, etc) and chose based on my intended use. I have always wanted the tele inserts to make it to the Fritschi/Dynafit user (I have both). Maybe it’s a good thing. I would have bought many more pairs of skis if I didn’t have to buy new bindings for each pair.

  15. Magnus November 20th, 2008 4:55 pm

    It seemed to me that the tele-specific K2s’ was way heavier than alpine skis of the same size. I always accredited that to the tele-inserts. I never did a real comparison though.

  16. Lou November 20th, 2008 6:13 pm

    Magnus, one thing about tele is it’s caused makers to use very beefy binding mount plates in the skis. These add weight. One reason the Dynafit Manaslu is so light is it doesn’t have the mega plate, but rather a very light Titanal reinforced area and plastic inserts.

    People are still pulling tele bindings out of skis by the screws, because the bindings can place an immense amount of force on the screws in even normal use. And in a fall without a binding release system, it’s even less pretty. Something has to give in those situations. Sometimes it’s human parts, sometimes the foot pops out of the binding, and sometimes the binding gets yanked off the ski.

    Just speaking reality. In my view this is one advantage of having tele specific skis, that they can be built with super beefy plates. And to be fair, if there are tele specific skis then we get to have non-tele skis that are lighter because they don’t need the mounting plate beef. K2 and others who sell “backcountry skis” that are not tele specific have to build the stronger plate into all their skis, thus adding weight even for those of us who don’t need it. Oh well, it’s an imperfect world, I guess I’ll drill a few more holes in my boots to compensate (grin).

  17. Randonnee November 20th, 2008 7:36 pm

    Aye, Lou, those are my concerns, along with non-optimal flex patterns. You are correct, I have lived it, pulling tele-binding screws out. I would hope that K2 does not diminish the excellent K2 Alpine Touring skis by adding weight (plate) or messing with the flex to make the ski unisex= tele or alpine. In my opinion, flex pattern is everything and having mostly telemarked bc 14 years and then mostly randonnee skied for 16 years I believe that there is a need for a different flexing ski for the different disciplines. ‘BackSide’ is disappointing to me since I have enjoyed working and randonnee skiing on K2 alpine skis, I have ski toured the Shuksan and now the Chogori, and have been recommending the Shuksan to my wife and friends as the standard all-around ski (although with my weight I prefer the Seven Summit over the Shuksan). Perhaps ‘BackSide’ is the thing for now, but I see it as a dilution of a good thing.

  18. Dan5280 November 21st, 2008 11:55 am

    I’ve felt like this would be the industry move since I made the switch from tele to AT following a Haute Route trip in 99. The next year I mounted a pair of Heli Stinx with Dynafit bindings and suffered with floppy performance. Since then, I’ve used various Volkl skis, mostly old G3′s and G4′s and more recently Mantras, starting with my Dynafits, and now with Fritche’s. Seriously, all the rest of my backcountry gear has become so lightweight, I can do a fully personally supplied 4 day trip with a sub 30lb pack. If we’re talking about an extra pound or two underfoot for exponential performance, it’s worth taking. If I have a light pack and serious power underfoot, I’m happy.
    So what I’m getting at, when I think of a ski designed purely for AT or Tele, it has the instant stigma of being too light and flimsy, even if that’s not the case. I would imagine that in the mindset of typical alpine skiers who are thinking of making the convert, this is the same thing they think. Backside skis should be great all around skis designed with flatter tails (for sticking upright easily in the snow when making the change) and clip areas for secure skin attachment.

  19. Magnus November 21st, 2008 6:16 pm

    Hail to the ‘skinclip area for secure skin attachment’!

    I was struggling with my Rossi T4′s for years due to the round tail! Should think I’d have the sense to buy a square tailed ski next time… but no, I bought some ANTs and I’m still hearing from the guy behind that my tail-clip has come loose.

  20. ScottP November 21st, 2008 7:07 pm

    Thd 800 lb gorilla here, and what has yet to be mentioned, is the fact that distribution now goes to the K2 alpine reps. Now all K2 alpine shops will have access to the same skis that have only been supported through the years by dedicated backcountry and telemark dealers. Although the skis will sell in the end (backside, get it), the small shops now have to try and compete with the bigger alpine shops that have much more buying power. Call your local K2 telemark dealer and ask them how they really feel about this “rebranding”- K2 obviously didn’t. RIP K2 Telemark and AT. Life goes on.

  21. Lou November 21st, 2008 8:09 pm

    Scott, I try to stay away from business “back side” operational stuff in my main blogs (not sure it’s the gorilla, in other words), but good to get things such as this in the comments. Have you got some kind of bone to pick with K2? You seem kinda negative…

  22. ScottP November 21st, 2008 9:19 pm

    I did not mean to sound negative, just bringing to light the feelings of a few supporters who nurtured the telemark culture over the last decade or so. Please keep up the great reviews and thank you. See you on the backside. Whoops. I meant flipside.

  23. Zack November 24th, 2008 11:29 pm

    But what will happen to the snarky t-shirts distributed at tele-fests across the continent with statements like “French for can’t tele” and that other one about snowboarding?

  24. Lou November 25th, 2008 3:38 pm

    Zack, it is our fervent hope they are replaced with WildSnow T’s (grin).

  25. Rick November 26th, 2008 11:15 pm

    Backside? This must be a joke.. Just call it “Assplanks” instead.

  26. GeorgeT November 27th, 2008 8:57 am

    2009 Backside LineUp (Rumored): Based upon Playboy shots from the 1970s.

    Backside Blonde: Graphics: Long blond hair draped over very nice buttocks; Skis easy with small waist and very big tips.

    Backside Black: Queen Latifah graphics and dimensions same as Pontoon.

    Backside Brunette: Graphics: Big brown ski for every day use. This is the steady readily available unit with a waist of 95 and solid on ice, chop and powder.

    Backside Bald: Graphics: Sinead O’Connor head shot with skinny backshot which fits completely on the ski. The superlight ski for touring or rando racing.

    Backside Red: Wild red ski with a nice stiff tail for power and big red tips for busting out. This ski takes a firm hand to control, not for the timid and should not be left alone in the ski rack, she tends to wander.

  27. Lou November 27th, 2008 9:58 am

    LOL

  28. Kent January 30th, 2009 9:43 pm

    A little off subject perhaps, but has anyone mounted Dynafits on the old K2 Super Stinx. I’ve seen the setup around before, on a surprising number of occasions, but don’t actually know anyone that’s used it. I still have a pair of Super Stinx around from my old tele days. I thought they were fun tele skis and I have a spare pair of TLT Classics so I thought I’d give them a try. I’m not quite sure where to locate the bndings since they don’t have boot center marked.

  29. Steve February 6th, 2009 11:24 am

    Hi Lou,

    Wondering if the new K2 line has a replacement for the baker sl and the womens ShuksAnne with comparable weights? I guess my question is if the new backside ski line is something to wait for or should I look around to get this years model? Any thoughts?

    Thanks
    Steve

  30. Lou February 6th, 2009 11:33 am

    Steve, go either way depending on prices and such, Baker SL will be the WayBack, but it’s the same ski.

    See http://www.wildsnow.com/1671/outdoor-retailer-show/

  31. Denis February 24th, 2009 10:10 pm

    Kent, I’m in the midst of mounting Dynafit Verticals on my SuperStinx.

    K2, how about a patterned-based mid-fat ski, like the Guide in AT?

    Dynafits on Super Stinx — Thus far I know it takes a (Voile) mounting plate to match the binding to the screw inserts. Or you can drill the ski. I’m waiting for the bindings to arrive from REI.

    I’m thinking of this as an interim step. I’m coming from tele (black diamond runs on K2 Supers, 7tm Power Tours, Scarpa T2′s). I’ll try this Dynafit setup for spring backcountry skiing. We’ll see about new boards next fall. (They’ll be fatter.)

    Note: The mounting plate says it does not work with Classics, so you have some research to do there. Or get out the drill. I’ve read that a jig makes the installation job much easier. Pro shops have it. Might be worth the charge to have them mounted.

  32. Brian March 10th, 2009 3:18 pm

    I had the opportunity to demo a pair of ’09/10 K2 BackUps at the Crystal Mtn Vertfest. The K2 rep indicated they were the narrowest waisted ski in K2′s line up for next year. I had been skiing (and that day, racing) on my Super Stinx (sorry, I’m still old school tele)…I am looking for a “lighter” tele ski for Vert races, and these didn’t seem any lighter than my Super Stinx and were not even in the same class skiing the piste…not sure I thought they were too great in our off piste conditions on this day either, about 6-8″ of cut up two day old new on top of rock hard base. Certainly didn’t have as much energy as my Supers..

  33. John October 19th, 2009 10:34 pm

    New to conversation here… I am seriously psyched with K2′s new line-up ‘Backside’ I HATE twin-tips and quasi twin tips… My most recent favorite ski was the Baker Super light… I was a climber first and moved to Jackson Hole where snowshoes are as useless as twin tips except for the JH Terrain Park… and that ain’t me. Went Tele first and then Alpine because they are just faster uphill. Except for Dynafit (their non flare tails are too skinny at the waist for Teton snowpack) and K2, it’s pretty hard to find a flat tail these days. K2′s latest move makes it pretty easy to find what you need… I was sad about the departure of the MT baker SL… then I checked out the Wayback (same ski, different name/graphic) totally psyched now. Here’s my current Quiver:

    Vokl AC1 170s for hardpack groomer days at JHMR, Snow King etc..
    Mt Baker SL 174 w/Naxo NX21 for JHMR Headwall, backside etc…
    Wayback 174 w/Dynafit speed lites for the Pass, GTNP, randonee races etc…

    I’m not the Super Hardcore skier who has to do Corbet’s, Huck Cliffs or straight line 8 ft wide 60 degree chutes, but I do enjoy fresh powder and ski a lot of variable crap. The Baker’s have treated me well and though they don’t quite have the punch that some of the Resort Demos I went through to get where I am now they solved these issues:

    1.) I don’t totally smoked on the skin up
    2.) I am still riding a ‘real’ ski on the way down as opposed to hking boots attached to 160 cm Katana swords through variable spring crap…

  34. Lou October 20th, 2009 7:01 am

    Wayback is indeed the Baker SL and it’s a very good ski for human powered vert. It’s probably the ski I’ll be taking to Denali, in a 167. It’s not quite as good on ice as the Backlash (used to be Mount Baker), but if I keep my speed down it’ll work fine in my estimation. Then again, I might just haul a pair of Backlash up there. Will have to skium all this winter! Carpe Skium :angel:

  35. manu_fun December 22nd, 2009 5:06 am

    Hi Lou, you’re website is great ;) I’ve just purchased a pair of K2 Payback, 92mm under foot (woman version of Backlash I think) 153cm long.. mounted with tlt speed. Do you think this setup it’s too heavy for 1000-1500 meters trips? K2 baker superlight would be great but I can’t find them in short measures (i’m 155 tall). Thanks in advance and compliments again for your great blog ;)

    Manu_fun

  36. Lou December 22nd, 2009 6:46 am

    Manu, with TLT on there, weight shouldn’t be a problem. Thanks for visiting WildSnow.com!

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