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